FREEMUSICEMPIRE MVP OF 2018 IS ROC MARCIANO
I was sitting with a table of people I respect. All involved are my age within five years. We were talking about music this year and they launched into how great Eminem is and his beef with MGK. It was difficult to find the words to explain why Eminem is not, in fact, great anymore. Why someone less lyrical like Kodie Shane is a better emcee. He is technically great, no one knows more words and can blow out a show stopping 16 like Em but that’s not what makes a great rapper.
An artist is responsible for not just great brushstrokes but vision. The artist masterminds the color scheme the physical position of characters the looks on their faces. The artist is in charge of what all of that means and adds up to. So what is the sum total of those songs? What do any of his last few albums mean… in Shady’s case very little. Roc Marciano is a study in the opposite direction.
Our newly crowned FME MVP of 2018 released three albums this year. Each handled with a curators eye; three albums with a total of 36 songs which averages to 12 songs per album. Each one shading his story a different hue, taking a step further in creating a full landscape while maintaining a two fisted approach to punch lines that would have made prized pugilist Rocky Marciano proud. Once the landscape was built the album was over and the promise of another was only a few months away. The process is a much better one than the massive data dump of artists like Post Malone/Fetty Wop where the album never ends and doesn’t really feel like it began.
I am the first one to admit I don’t have an objective view of the scene Roc exists in. My favorite lyricist in the world of rap is Ka who is Roc’s right hand man. I still remember Roc’s voice escalating when Combat Jack (R.I.P. the podcast god) told him he didn’t really get Ka. He was passionate about how dope Ka is about as passionate as I am in selling Ka to those around me who have not heard him. I think of Ka as the only emcee Roc views as adequate competition and seeks to surpass. This year he did it.
His resume: blew Busta Rhymes off a track, did multiple songs with Black Thought and held his own, impressed Royce Da 5’9 so much with his feature that he drew very specific praise from him on social media. Royce talked about his ability to use space, letting the track breathe for a few beats only to swagger back in. In boxing terms Royce has incredible hand speed he never stops throwing meaningful shots. Roc is Sugar Ray Robinson with all-time powerful lines but he comes in close unloads in combinations and gets out; he has a rhythm that keeps you off your toes at all times. That isn’t just flow it’s release schedule pricing and merchandise. You never what is coming from Roc. In 2018 great artists wanted to be on songs to see how real this was in their presence.
Attached to this review will be my list of the 38 flyest things Roc said in 2018 (You will notice songs having multiple entries that is not me being weird Roc is a damn beast). The #1 entry is from the song Wild Oats (off of the collaboration album Kaos he did with the great DJ Muggs) and I think it explains in two sentences the central meaning of his year. “I used to think School was for chumps. Now I’m in Bermuda by the pool with the trunks, books by the bunch, just to think I was a crook once.” Roc Marciano’s process has been a long form explanation of the things he has gone through that lots of his peers didn’t of the bitter determination he uses to overcome adversity but also of the beaming gratitude underneath that bitterness. As the sun shines on his face and he runs his hand over the hardcover of a book he’s reading. It is the gratitude that makes him want to dig for the wildest turn of phrase to boast that growth in his next rhyme. This isn’t a chain or watch brag it’s the maturation of someone who could have been dead or unknown by now. 2018 was Roc Marciano’s best year and for his audience it was a gift. The secret of it all is that he sees it the same way.
38 Fly things Roc Marciano said in 2018
- “I used to think School was for chumps. Now I’m in Bermuda by the pool with the trunks, books by the bunch, just to think I was a crook once.”—Wild Oats
- “I’m like Huey Newton sitting in the king’s wicker chair with the pistol near. My face is chiseled into silverware with care.”—-Amethyst
- “My B__ like Tracy Ellis Ross, don’t ever sell yourself short.” —Dolph Lundgren
- “Don’t be a dick you know I’m sensitive. Don’t let me catch you talkin’ shit about my mamma biscuits bitch!” —-The Sauce
- “Why you sweatin’ me then and questionin’ who I’m in bed with? For the record, your breathe stink.”—-The Sauce
- “Might need a hot air balloon to get a real view of my hairdo.” —-Aunt Bonnie
- “Shit I ain’t playin’. I sit down and eat at P.F. Chang’s then leave without payin’.” —-Consigliere
- “Who else since Prince can fit my Trench?”—White Dirt
- “The Mercedes ain’t rented. B— I was saving up to get it.” —-CVS
- “I rap with my nose up with my tux and my glass of mimosa ‘oh you think you know so much'” —Kill You (laughs afterward)
- “Watching Harlem Nights on Chartered flights.”—White Dirt
- “My shining bright might turn the night into day. I’m a Viking I might bite your face.”—Bohemian Grove
- “You n_’s just follow we changed the business model.”—-White Dirt
- “Fox fur on my evening coat. I gave these heathens hope.” —Respected
- “I prefer shrimp and lobster, my posture like Kevin Costner…”—Wormhole
- “You came when the culture was dead. I shocked the game so it rose from the bed. Frankenstein with the bolts in his neck.” —CVS
- “My shine still flow from behind a blindfold.”—Shit I’m On
- “I was clean when Max B was singing off key.” —-The Sauce
- “Every half a bar is worth a Jaguar.” —Aunt Bonnie
- “I blast the chrome all you see is ass and elbows.” —Bohemian Grove
- “I leave ya pockets with Bugs Bunny ears.”—Happy Endings
- “I’m with that white girl I’m in that sunken place.” —Bohemian Grove
- “If I was you and mad at me I would be too. “—Sampson & Delilah
- “The Bentley mint green I need a pinky ring.” —Rolls Royce Rug
- “Life is a jungle not a jungle gym.”—Wild Oats
- “You was never sturdy a little birdy told me this. I said you can’t compare goldfish to Moby Dick.”—The Sauce
- “…speak for the voiceless. I spent last weekend eating with lawyers the cheese ain’t good enough reason to be exploited.” —-Sampson & Delilah
- “Always had a scheme to get by in the crème Fila.” —-Amethyst
- “My tall thing like Lena Horne in a leotard.” —Wild Oats
- “All my shit is tailored all your shit is whatever.” —Dolph Lundgren
- “Lookin’ self-absorbed in the Porsche, Fire lines they thought I wrote these lines with a welding torch.”—Wild Oats
- “They gentrified the game, that’s when the god came.” —Aunt Bonnie
- “You see my neck we could never be neck and neck.” —Wormhole
- “No matter the platform the ho’s gon’ clap for ’em.” —Rolls Royce Rugs
- “Listen Sugar Tits, just choose a pimp.”—Wormhole
- “…but still this shit is not by force it’s by choice.” —Rolls Royce Rugs
- “For what a Phantom costs I’ll blam at your thoughts.” —Shit I’m On
- “Prior to my first release they said the East was done.” —Kill You
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Tagged Behold A Dark Horse, Black Thought, Busta Rhymes, DJ Muggs, Freemusicempire MVP 2018, Ka, Kaos, MVP, New York Hip Hop, Roc Marciano, Royce Da 5'9, RR2: The Bitter Dose
Song Review-Marksmen by Roc Marciano featuring Ka produced by Arch Druids
I don’t think any song on the new Joey Bada$$ album (All-Amerikkkan Bada$$) is as important as him going to Hot 97 and telling them NY radio hasn’t grown. He was correct but I would have changed the ageism laced in his argument. The problem is not that Funkmaster Flex is old it’s that his ear is old. Roc Marciano is only ten years younger than the 48 year old Flex and Ka is only four years younger but they are both a vital part of the character of NY hip hop rebuilding itself in 2017.
Roc Marciano’s album Rosebudd’s Revenge is bigger denser and more fun(as well as experimental) than any project he’s released before. He collaborates with Ka on Marksmen which is a cannon ball sailing at rappers doing throw away music. The interview sample at the beginning about getting better and better is more than a guiding principal it could be a commandment. In this song Roc Marci says “you hit the notes flat, my whistle blow and make the crystal crack” and Ka starts off the song with “To our production, much destruction for our appetite. With steel fist if meal missed wasn’t for lack of might.” Is anyone as careful with each word as these two? Every song they step on together is two artists of a like mind discovering a higher level.
Younger important NY hip hop artists like Your Old Droog and Westside Gunn are ten or fifteen years younger than Ka & Marciano but are painting with the same colors. Age isn’t the problem it is art. Ka and Marciano are artists who create pieces not hustlers making lifestyle music (no shots, I love fun ad-libs). It feels like NY radio (and the magazines) were so wrapped up in the pettiness loop that they forgot about the artistic standard the music is held to. They were calling somebodies flow trash or fire without looking at the song like you look at a completed painting or poem. Their context is trash. Each song these two make hangs in the gallery of their discography and should be reviewed that way. It’s not a movie, it’s a landscape you have to keep looking at to find all the detail in the background that indicates the skill involved, the patience, and the vision.
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Tagged Art, Brownsville Ka, funkmaster flex, Joey Bada$$, Ka, Marksmen, NY Hip Hop, Roc Marciano, Rosebudd's Revenge, song reviews, Westside Gunn, Your Old Droog
Bandcampgold-Packs by Your Old Droog
The most important thing to note when you hit play on Your Old Droog’s new album Packs is that this is not a freak occurrence. As special as the album is and as gifted as Droog’s flow is…New York has been bubbling for a while and now it is to be reckoned with.
Droog is clearly a part of the new three dimensional NY goon rap scene; stylistically a mixture of Ruff Ryder Anthem toughness and Purple Haze era Killa Cam. Roc Marciano is an example of this with his winding wordplay and unflappable screw face. Westside Gunn has a voice and content horrifyingly & intensely engaging (doesn’t release bad songs EVER).
Droog is actually way less crazy than some of the other names mentioned. He’s a Ukranian-American kid from Brooklyn who loves hip hop more than anything. He sounds like early early Nas, in love with storytelling (see My Girl is a Boy) with a flow so smooth that Packs might be the most listenable rap album of 2017.
Most artists want their full length debut to act as a call to arms for their audience but if you press play on the last song, Winston Red, it gives you a road map to the kind of album this is. Droog doesn’t even feel he should have to do that. He imagines his audience as intelligent with pre-existing high standards. On Winston Red Droog casually tosses off “…won’t put it out till it’s some sh_t we really want to hear.” Even when he trips down memories of poverty and declares he “went from welfare to wealth everywhere” he does it in pocket, voice locked in like early Nasir. Not a hint of desperation. He is the kind of MC that doesn’t reach for lines he just goes and feels like he could keep blowing as long as you need him too.
The element of Droog’s music I find most relevant is the complete lack of sarcasm or irony. Packs is one of the few albums you’ll hear a 3rd Bass namecheck next to a Nas namecheck and not as a mean joke. Droog really lives the art. Hip hop is full of too much wink wink nudge nudge faux gangsta imagery closer to Riff Raff than G Rap. Droog never says anything that isn’t in pursuit of the best verse for his street music. He jokes and namechecks but he’s not playing you. Listen to Grandma’s Hips and you’ll understand the earnestness, and witness one of the only times Danny Brown didn’t murder someone on their track. Rapman is another highlight with a great beat by 88 Keys. I would love to ask him about referring to Lyor Cohen in the song as Lex Lyor, this no doubt has to do with Lyor’s creation of the 360 deal. The production throughout is as smooth and jagged as the orator and Droog has his hands in the mix.
Droog seems like one important feature verse on a superstar track away from being everyone’s new favorite rapper.
Bandcamp link below:
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Tagged #BandcampGold, 88 keys, Cam'ron, Fat Beats, Killa Cam, Lyor Cohen, Nas, Packs, Roc Marciano, Westside Gunn, Your Old Droog
Song Review-Dudley Boyz by Westside Gunn featuring Action Bronson produced by Alchemist
Have I told you how much I love Westside Gunn’s Flygod album? It has the same crushing sense of hardcore content with a twist of dark humor that Sean Price was so great at creating. In addition, it features production by Alchemist, Statik Selektah, & Roc Marciano while the album is mostly produced by Daringer (10 out of 18 tracks) and it all sounds magnificently consistent. Flygod sounds like the attentive child of peak-Havoc Mobb Deep production. I have no idea who Daringer is but he lays these beats cold scary and twisted (examples: Shower Shoe Lords & Free Chapo).
This is a perfect sonic landscape for Alchemist to drop into. He plays the optical illusion of the very simple beat that feels enormous while Bronson goes nuts yelling “I’m all suede! Everything a spaceship!” Not to be outdone Westside Gunn bops into the song with his off-kilter flow and declares “grenade launcher lookin’ like Manute Bol, lookin’ for loopholes fell asleep in the law library, me and Larusso.” As convincingly in-your-face violent as Gunn gets (rolling dead bodies in rugs, AK in the backseat) he’s still having fun and smiling at you through these references. No one who makes a Manute Bol grenade launcher reference is without humor. In the song 55 & A Half he talks about having “visions of Sean Price” and while he’s not the most technical master of ceremonies (some of these rhymes come a mile away) I’m just so happy to have a New York movement (no matter how mainstream it gets or doesn’t) with a mission to keep this hardcore NY sound so icy you can see your breath with headphones on. Between Gunn, Marciano, Bronson, Smoke Dza, & Ka something really nice is developing. It might remind you of the good old days but it’s a little sillier if you catch the jokes.
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Tagged Action Bronson, Alchemist, Daringer, Flygod, New York Hip Hop, NY Hip Hop, Roc Marciano, Sean Price, Song Review, Statik Selektah, Westside Gunn
Mixtape Review-Stay Black 2 by Black Dave
NY radio personalities disingenuously perpetually ponder the state of NY hip hop and its difficulties. If the 5 Boroughs have a problem at all it’s this over thinking. When a new artist with talent comes out of NY his talent isn’t even that exciting the local question becomes does he represent the proper style? Is he new school NY trap like A$AP Rocky or French Montana? Is he old school like Joey Bada$$ or Roc Marciano? In other words, the style of the artist becomes more important than the content. That corrodes the core of any music scene.
Enter Black Dave; a slick radio friendly hook and chorus five star general who reps the Apple without getting trapped in it. On his new mixtape Stay Black 2 he enlists top producers like Statik Selektah and Cookin’ Soul to hop all over the map. If you want that head knocking classic NY sound you can turn None Of That From Me all the way up in your car. The Million Man March remix and the horror movie violin on Two Things might feel like they fit perfectly on an A$AP Mob compilation or a Flatbush Zombies track. Rollin’ carries a distinct Brick Squad influence. None of this is to say Black Dave is some kind of biter. This is just a smart dude who loves good music. Instead of living in a NY hip hop bubble Black Dave exists in the real world where he carries the torch but takes it interesting places.
While he does enlist different sounds Dave raps. Stay Black 2 is not a mixtape full of posse tracks with important people lifting him up. Gino Marley is the most known guest feature and at least nine of the sixteen tracks feature Dave solo. He seems to be very aware that he’s getting better and making an effort to clear the space to grow into his growth.
Don’t expect to listen to Stay Black 2 and get bowled over. It’s not full of rewindable double entendres; he doesn’t have a crazy growl or especially satisfying ad-lib. This is a technician with a lot of patience knocking out great song after great song nearly every one getting better and stronger with each listen. He’s not the only one in NY doing this by the way. That description pretty well fits Vado and Troy Ave as well. The difference is compared to those two Black Dave is a rookie but a rookie who knows when to snarl and menace ( see: Heard Of Me) and when to dial down into conversational slow flow (see: Daevon Willis). That kind of composure usually takes a few failures to find. This kid stepped into the mixtape universe with it and he’s just getting more assured with better resources. Maybe the future will be full of NY artists brave enough to copy Black Dave and just focus on the music. It’s the only thing an artist can really control.
stream or download Stay Black 2 below:
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Tagged Black Dave, Cookin' Soul, French Montana, Gino Marley, Joey Bada$$, mixtape review, NY Hip Hop, NY old schoo, NY radio, NY trap, Roc Marciano, Statik Selektah, Stay Black 2
Sunday School 2 mixtape review
When Tree dropped Sunday School it proved to be the debut of a completely unique artist. He followed that by producing a compilation with himself featuring Chicago artists that didn’t get talked about nearly enough. So now that Tree has followed his MTV-approved Sunday School with a sequel, what is he out to prove this time? The answer, in my estimation, is that he asserts aggressively the difference between himself and everyone else.
It’s interesting to see big names like Danny Brown and Roc Marciano come into Tree’s world of church organs and stop on a dime samples but it works. It’s partially because those two artists, as big as their buzz is, are still oddities and all outsiders are welcome on Sunday School 2. From the first line of the first track (Safe To Say) he establishes an underdog mentality “From throwing rocks off the roof as a lil N, to being known in the city as an ill N.” His calling card is not bragging about front row seats or friendships with NBA players instead its how much unlike everyone he is. Whenever a shout out is given it’s not a rapper it’s a friend like Jay rock who got into medical school. Tree has a stubborn resolve not to become “industry”. He’s not simple trap. He doesn’t force a ceaseless hardcore D-boy persona. He takes the soul part of his soul trap sound very seriously. A song like FAME that’s less than two minutes long showcases a lot of his at times feuding facets: the grunting elasticity of his voice, a gleefully appreciative attitude towards success, and an intimate knowledge of gang life. Every time Tree seems like he’s going left he makes a hard turn in the other direction. Sunday School 2 feels harder to pin down than anything he’s done before and as everything is with Tree, it’s purposeful.
At first I was concerned about the presence of other producers. Sunday School had a herky jerky raw feel that seemed like a master plan only Tree could figure out. He’s still at least partially credited with producing more than half of the sequel but the addition of people like Frank Dukes, Tye Hill(also BINK! I love BINK!) and Bobby Johnson expand the sound just a little bit, giving variation to what a Tree song sounds like. The Elvis sample on The King has Tree’s fingerprints all over it and the declarative imagery of him flying over everyone else in rap only looking himself in the mirror is the first half of this tapes lasting impression.
This is not to ignore the heart Sunday School 2 shows beyond the narrators own journey. Beyond the lyrics Tree has the ability to craft music with natural warmth like the song Most Successful that manages to feels like it’s about all of our personal successes. Tree still takes advantage of his raspy singing voice to drop jewels like So Bad and Devotion which end up a guitar riff away from modern day Lil Walter. Its solid Chicago blues/hip hop and all the songs carry at least pieces of that. Tree is also trap but freely admits that he never sold coke, just weed. He makes trap music in the pure sense that it carries a sorrowful, agitated longing to escape the depths of poverty and violence while being fun to listen too. It doesn’t have to connect to hard or soft white. Sometimes it does, the point is that he doesn’t let you settle into a groove. For every triumphant Most Successful or meditative Hurt we get a tongue out nasty sex jam like No Faces or bass rippling hedonistic White Girls.
Being honest I don’t know if the sequel is as good as the original but that’s not the point. I now have three Tree mixtapes and none of them suck, none of them are even ignorable. They all demonstrate a comprehensive vision and this one more than any of the others outright disgust. He shouts down fakes while waving the flag for soul trap, explaining clearer than he ever has that you cannot get this anywhere else by anyone else. He’s not talking about the trap, you can get trap on any mixtape website. He’s talking about the soul.
Stream or download Sunday School 2 below: