Nieuw Amsterdam was originally intended to be the title track for the album that is now SOONY. The song Nieuw Amsterdam is the story of New York’s history told from the perspective of a being who has lived multiple lives. During each reincarnation he either lived a portion of, or his entire life in current day New York. The story that is being told in the song was not intended to be in perfect alignment with the seven time periods that I decided to study for the actual Nieuw Amsterdam research project because it was written before I decided to study the history of Nieuw Amsterdam.
The reincarnations, relevant time periods, and verses in which they are highlighted on this song are as follows:
Jan Rodriguez - 1620’s | Pre European settlement: The first documented person of African descent to live on the island of Mannahatta. He was an Afro-Portuguese sailor who arrived at Mannahatta on a Dutch trading ship. Due to a dispute on the vessel, he was abandoned by his fellow ship mates. He became fluent in the local dialect and ultimately served as a liaison for trade between the indigenous people of Mannahatta
and the European traders/explorers who continued to travel to the coveted island.
Unknown Slave - 1660’s | British settlement of Nieuw Amsterdam: When the British arrived to Nieuw Amsterdam in 1664, they seized control of the island from Dutch director Peter Stuyvesant. In seizing control, they changed the name to New York (named after the Duke of York) and inherited not only the land, but the workforce which included African men and women.
Black Soldier in the War of 1812 | 1812: Blacks were not initially allowed to fight for America during the War of 1812, as was the case with many of America’s wars prior to the emancipation of slavery. However, 15% of America’s armed troops were of African descent.
Black Resident of the 5 Points area in lower Manhattan- | 1860’s: 5 Points was a desolate place often associated with poverty, violence, crowding, and subpar living conditions. The only people willing to live there were the newly emancipated blacks, Irish (some of which already lived in the area and others who immigrated during the Potato Famine of 1845) and other immigrant populations.
Artist - Early 20th Century | Harlem Renaissance: To this day, Harlem is revered for the literary, activist, musical and artistic revolutions that developed during the early 20th century.
Debutant - Early 20th Century - Harlem Renaissance: During America’s prohibition period from 1920-1933, businesses called speakeasies provided secret spaces where alcohol and entertainment were easily accessible. For blacks and whites alike, speakeasies did just that during pre-segregation America.
Bystander - Present Day: The reincarnation in its present day form.
My city is run by straight gangstas
Old money from slavery the new bankers
Mob bosses who speak the streets language
You claim to hold the block down, nigga you’re just an anchor
My city is run by real criminals
The white collar crooks the supplies who they get it through
The blue blood are the true thugs to get at you
I been around town both pre and post, transatlantic^slavers^
before^and^after^The^Dutch used boats, to bring slaves in
before Wall Street was the market to cop chains with
Slaves attached to em^smoked^hookah^with, the Natives
We watched as they docked on the dock and didn't say shit
never figured they were delivering devastation
defecation, I encourage you to be patient
four centuries of life I've seen changes
When the British came to take, over the slaves
New Amsterdam became New York, the, the name
of the Duke whose troop fucked shit up quick,
erupted the Duchess, with one goal mass consumption
What I came to see is that my, my only function
as a trapped Black was to make something out of nothing
I'm rambling, forgive me, it's getting blurry
short term memory from such long journeys you heard me still
How about some `hardcore
I fought for, and by whites in these star wars
I sacrificed, for starred spangled banners
encore, 1812, I fought sword and fist
to make sure we wouldn’t talk like this (British accent)
Fast forward before the Irish arrived in NY
it was either fly or die like left eye
I resided in the 5 Points rested side by side
inside a bed of lies
Until the draft riots, suddenly they tried to supply my demise
they became pigs together they formed the biggest battalion in NY
2nd to mafioso Italians
Let’s ride the IRT, before the MTA can’t buy a car cheap
the trains were my get away to uptown
where I composed many an art piece
and smooth jazz from rough sounds yet still
American gangsta, I wanna thank ya
before Blue Magic you roomed booze in tankers
when prohibition hit you shipped spirits, whisky, gin and rum
fueled my artistry and made the ladies frisky
My best work was made when brandy made me tipsy
I never let them Italians take shit from me
During the Harlem Renaissance
I had the best speakeasy, they tried to extort me a black debutant
I was even there on that night
before the white housing owners forced mass black flight^
t’was a bit before Hip-Hop started to sprout
and just like Hip-Hop I now live in the south
But every once and awhile, I still visit the South Bronx
the housing projects where we used to get down
I been around before Hudson, up and down the Hudson
Survived the ups and downs the big apple should be called something out of nothing
from SOONY (Sound Of Old New York),
released November 28, 2016
Lyrics By: James “SoSoon” Gantt
Year Written: 2009
Producer: Marvin “S.K.” Sannon
Time Period: Starts before the 1st 11 African captives arrived on the island of Mannahatta.