Quanny and Johnny

A tale of two nights.

Quanny and Johnny. Edit by Tyler Farmer.

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MANO: Rap’s Rookie of the Year and Yelp’s Rookie of the Year, live in New York, the same night at the same time. I can only pick one, so I go to see OT7 Quanny. Sold-out show at Gramercy Theatre. How the hell did that happen?

OT7 Quanny has dropped 13 songs over the past 3 years. There’s a bunch more leaks. There are 650 fans here. One came all the way from Boston. Another looks a bit like if Napoleon Dynamite had no swag; he claims to be Quanny’s cousin. The hip-hop police are wearing horrid jackets.

Inside the venue, Quanny’s team is selling shirts with his face on them for $80. The big room where Quanny will perform is stifling, brimming with heads doing the same zombie emotes, ripping backwoods and firing off pics on Snapchat.

Never have I seen so many people so still and zooted in a room blaring rap music. It is honestly kind of beautiful. An army of statues tinted blue by the beams of light, surrounded by clouds of smoke, totally unmoved by “Mo Bamba” and A Boogie and Veeze and Anycia. Pre-Quanny, the most animated they get is when the music stops due to fans being thrown out. “No Music!” chants start. A fire alarm briefly goes off mid Uzi DAMNNNNNN. They love Lil Baby. There’s lots of Lil Baby.

OT7 Quanny.

When Quanny finally comes out around 10:30, he brings an entourage including Philly rappers Poundside Pop and NR Boor, ascendant Bronx drill rapper DThang, and several kids, one of whom proudly puts up an upside down thumb. The communal energy is so riveting on stage that when Quanny periodically dips into the crowd mid-set to interact with his fans, you barely notice.

Quanny’s music is slow and thick, like magma, rooted in blood-curdling basslines that felt titanic in Gramercy. This is all extremely #hiphop: very little movement, fans gathered in circles rapping back songs word for word.  A kid in a silver puffer in front of me is pushed into a frenzy every time the first notes of the next song ring out. Such rituals are too human to ever disappear. 

Quanny takes requests. He does “unreleased” tracks like “Bora Bora” and “Chicken Little;” a fan upload of the latter from a few months back has 2.5 million plays on YouTube. He somehow performs for 80 minutes, breaking up the set with a brief turn from DThang. Then the show is over and the zombies scatter. No time to linger; I’ve got a Yelpie to see.

MILLAN: “How many people do you know who have a Tony?” he asks her.


“How many do you know who have a Yelpie?”


“That’s what I thought.”

A cop walks on the subway car and looks dead at me while I’m sipping a red Budweiser. I am not prosecuted. On the walk to the bar through the East Village I see dozens of 20-somethings wearing frog onesies. Must be some atheist fetish party I think. “Leap Day” – get it? – I’m later told.

I ask the bouncer when the cold is going to end. “Another month, at least.” He looks at my ID. “Oh, you from GEORGIA! You ain’t ready for this!” Lord.

There it is on the table. Johnny Novo’s hardware: the Yelpie for 2023 Rookie of the Year. The make is of lower quality than an elementary school chess award but Novo sports $10k on his body regardless – it’s a celebration, act like it. 400+ Yelp reviews and dozens of ALL-CAPS messages to the NYC Yelp community ambassador later, and he finally has something to show for it. Millions of people submit Yelp reviews. Only one is the Rookie of the Year, only one is the Explorer of the Year runner-up. 

Ten people who know Johnny from different walks of life are seated on benches at the candle lit bar. His roommate (former USC basketball star), his girlfriend (who is Jax, Florida born & raised–DUUUUVAALLLL!), a Broadway actress he met at a hostel in San Juan, PR (the Tony winner), and a handful of the “Big Bros” he so often mentions in his reviews. Everyone is proud of the boy. 

Pink shots, mezcal potions with spicy salt stuck to the glass – this must be what L.A. is like. Some people come some people go, the Yelpie remains. (If you had one shot, one opportunity…

What’s next for Mr. Novo?

“The New York Times, prolly.”

They’d be foolish not to oblige.

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