MUSIC

The Revisit: A Love Letter to Mack Wilds’ ‘New York: A Love Story’

Six years later and I still find a reason to fall in love with this album all over again.

“My first question to you is: what is love?” – Art of Fallin’

Do you remember that album you played for the first time that left you speechless? Can you recall all the emotions you felt when you fell in love with it? Only a handful of albums have made me feel the emotions of “love at first sight” and New York: A Love Story is definitely one of them. 

For an album that means so much to me, I wish everyone could cherish it the way I do. The romance-driven lyrics are sung so sweet it gives me chills up my spine. The extraordinary production that brought New York to life is so genius that Salaam Remi got it down to a science. It’s safe to say, Mack Wilds’ debut album is truly one of a kind.

Very few albums have earned the reputation of being ageless records that can be considered classics, but New York: A Love Story is well deserving of this merit. As a personal ode to New York City from the Staten Island native himself, Mack Wilds’ debut album painted a picture of perfection of the birthplace of Hip-Hop. Together, him and superstar producer Salaam Remi made the dream team that found the perfect balance of gritty Hip-Hop and gentle sounds of R&B to create an updated, yet nostalgic recollection of that classic New York sound. As an ode to the concrete jungle, Wilds and Remi sought out to create a project that paid homage to the great city but ended up doing so much more. The Grammy-nominated album not only proved that New York reigned supreme when it came to music, but it created an unforgettable moment in time.

This body of work matched the pulse of New York exactly, the only place on Earth where the essence of the landscape can be captured in the rhythm of music. The entire album is a throwback jam of samples and inspiration that pays tribute to New York legends like Wu-Tang Clan, Jay-Z, Mobb Deep, Eric B. & Rakim, and A Tribe Called Quest. Wilds used his soulful stylings to combat the signature  “boom-bap” sounds with his heavenly vocals.

“For me, this album is a hip-hop album with melody. It’s very based in an urban, dirty, gritty, but very beautiful sonically, New York place. That’s where the music is coming from. There’s no music that you hear that sounds like the landscape — and I guess the soundscape — of New York City. You don’t hear anything that feels like the train stations or the cobblestone streets or even playing basketball at Rucker Park. You don’t hear nothing like that.” Mack Wilds – NPR

Any album I’ve ever fallen in love with has had a profound impact on my life, from The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill to Voyage to India. I never go searching, but the love always happens to find me – and that’s exactly what happened when I discovered New York: A Love Story. I remember it like it was yesterday. Fall of 2014, my junior year of high school and like any other morning while I’m getting ready to head out I had MTV Jams blasting on my TV. This one particular morning the video for a song called “Own It” began to play and immediately the instrumentals had me hypnotized. By the end of the song, the only thing I could ask is, “Who is this?” Naturally, I googled the track and made a mental note to download it to my phone right after school. Unbeknownst to me, the track was the lead single off Mack Wilds’ debut album, and my first glimpse of what the young crooner had to offer.

From the moment I played the first track off the album I knew it was something special. Off the rip I was completely hooked, looping the album over and over again because I couldn’t get enough of it. From then on the album became a vital part of my daily rotation and naturally earned a spot in my favorites within my musical library. New York: A Love Story has easily become a part of the soundtrack of my life, a gem I hold very dear to my heart. I’ve only come across a few albums in this lifetime that I can truly say have changed my life, but New York: A Love Story holds a special place in my heart. If you’ve listened to this album front to back, back to front, you can hear the love and passion that were poured into it. Wilds attempt on this album wasn’t just making an album people would enjoy, he created a moment in music. Specifically for New York, this album paid homage to the golden era of the 90s and brought it back to life. The beauty of this album is no matter where you are or when you play it, you’ll get that same feeling every time. 

New York: A Love Story is just that – 13 tracks that take you through a journey a love, in relationships and in your roots. It’s hard to describe any track as standout when the entire album plays smooth like butter, but for me the falsetto in “Don’t Turn Me Down” touches me deep in my soul like no other, the same way “This Woman’s Work” still brings everybody to their knees. In my opinion, the most underrated part of this album is how Wilds switches from singing to rapping so effortlessly on tracks like “Wild Things” and “Duck Sauce.” If you pay attention you can catch the small inspiration he takes away from Lauryn Hill off her debut album as well, but he applied the formula and tailored it to his style. His choice to let his artistry shine through is what makes this album so unique and so real.

Artists like Mack Wilds are hard to come by. His passion and creativity are out of this world not to mention the love he has for his hometown. His sensational vocals coupled with Salaam Remi’s genius production was a match made in heaven. The album is New York City through and through, capturing the essence of the city in each and every song. Even still, the takeaways from the album can be applied universally to the lessons you learn from your own hometown. Your roots say a lot about who you are and Mack Wilds certainly made a case for that with this album. You can feel the tenderness catered to each and every track. Everything about this album proved that true artistry isn’t dead. This album sounds like love. It sounds like home. 

To Mack, thank you for creating this beautiful masterpiece and thank you for speaking to my soul. If you ask me what this album truly means to me, I’d say when I play this record it’s like nothing in the world really matters. To put all my feelings into words feels nearly impossible, if you listen to the music then you’ll get it – “you just feel it.”