New York’s music scene can look like a lot of different things whether you’re a hard-hitting rapper from the Bronx, a bilingual singer-guitarist from the suburbs of New Jersey, or an artist and DJ transplant from the Pacific Northwest looking for greater opportunity. But even if the final product varies greatly, there is still some form of cohesive New York identity created by the singular and occasionally overwhelming experience of living in America’s most populous city.
“The things that you do to survive here become their own artistic practice, and that’s something that just develops in you,” says duendita, who hails from Queens and is highly active in the city’s DIY scene. “I think when I was growing up in New York, I was super excited to know that I was a part of a bigger fabric, and I’m still excited to know that now.”
Beyond those similarities though, music in New York is changing as much as anywhere, simultaneously threatening the existence and affirming the importance of entities like house shows and open mics. The city remains vibrant and eclectic, but it’s not above the influence of the internet, which makes regional sounds go global as soon as they catch any momentum.
“I can’t really hear distinctive differences between the boroughs, or that much between any region in hip-hop anymore. Not saying that’s a good or a bad thing, but I think with the internet being the main way to listen to music now, there’s no difference between whether an artist is from Kansas or five-minutes walking distance from you, you’re going to be influenced the same,” says Kemba, the aforementioned Bronx MC.
Still, artists continue to flock to and remain in the city for a myriad of reasons, and their collective experiences are fueling some of the most captivating and vital music we have. We spoke to seven New York artists—a mix of locals and people who chose the city as their home—about what it’s like to live and create there in 2019.