Zilla Rocca doesn’t believe in perfect idols but he believes in surviving the right way. If you go back to 2018’s Hard Boiled ep he phrases it very concisely “We’ve all given half to the hand in our face. We’ve all taken stones from the holiest place.(Run Rabbit Run)” The world runs schemes on us but that doesn’t mean we aren’t a part of it. That doesn’t mean we can’t rise above it or be swallowed by it. The first song being a theme for Marvel’s defender of the night, Moon Knight, fits the scumbag world of his new album Midnight Sons. When Zilla says “People say you look like Batman on crack. That’s aiight it’s a cold life of loaded dice.(Marc Spector’s Theme)” He’s not lying. During Marvel crossover events the other superheroes stay distant from Marc Spector. They have what they view as pure motivation, dead uncles to make proud, and Spector is a mercenary in commune with an Egyptian God or out of his mind.
I can’t go any further without talking production. Any review of Midnight Sons without mention of J-Zone on drums is useless. The core 9 songs (non-instrumental) have J-Zone playing on all but the first and eighth track. Why is this so important? DJ Chong Wizard produced this and along with Zilla (who is also a great producer) understand that building the beat texture from horror sounds and sharp strings is not impossible. In fact, some of the best rap albums of our time have been spooky in this same way (See Ka and Preservation’s Days With Dr. Yen Lo). Those spooky albums sacrifice drums in favor of more ambiance. What makes this album sonically in its own class? The glorious punch and flavor of these drums serving alongside Japanese horror sounds and Hitchcock strings. You always have the drums to hold onto and not just drums. On Honest Living| Crooked Killing you not only have J Zone crisp and rolling but Katie Jacoby on violin and viola. The fullness of the music means he can invite others to play and everyone knows the beat. You feel the beat. So Billy Woods kicks off the track like he understands every facet of the mission and Lord Juco ends it carrying that groove into the chorus/outro. It sounds like Kool G Rap and David Lynch got a rap label going.
As an emcee, Zilla is the condiment you always reach for. The last two songs really engage with his love of hip hop in fuzzy-Kangol-house-party sense. Lucky Break with PremRock and Denmark Vessey is two minutes and twenty two seconds of pure joyful smacktalk. Vigilante Breakfast really capitalizes on Wrecking Crew strengths as Castro remains Fred Astaire of the hook, and Alaska works himself into his most satisfyingly threatening verse of the year (fav part: “focus on the backdoor, your expectin’ brute force. Already in your foyer with my feet up and my boots off.) I could fill lots of space discussing the guests; Malik B savages Killadelphia, Nature sounds utterly reborn on Millionaire Grammar.
You know the condiment you always reach for. It just always fits. In that way Zilla is inventive while completely distasteful of overcomplicating things (see Millionaire Grammar “I had that millionaire grammar while these socialists are arguing. SHUT THE F_ UP because ten years ago you had some gold teeth and pimp cup. Lick the nuts, acting like you wouldn’t snatch a bag off that Brinks truck. You fake woke cause you always been broke, you fake deep cause you don’t even read.”) and he can see people other rappers don’t. He can see Republican’s slapping strippers, good journalists doing listicles for 30 bucks, mayor city councilmen and unions crooked as any gangster. It makes a lot of sense that the song Killadelphia is based on the incredible Image Comic of the same name. A book as beautifully drawn as any in the world. Full of characters who fail as fathers, sons, partners, politicians, presidents, husbands and vampires. Out of that world of failure Philly scrapes itself off the ground and it’s epic. By the second issue it’s a must read. Put your Midnight Sons vinyl or art print right on the shelf next to it.
Stream then purchase Midnight Sons below: