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Overlooked: Roc Marciano’s “Reloaded” (Album Review)Posted by Dharmic X on 11/19/12 | Filed under Opinion, Album Reviews, Overlooked, Roc Marciano
Roc Marciano’s story is pretty well-known for those who have been paying attention: the Hempstead, Long Island native emerged from relative obscurity for years as a part of Busta Rhymes’s Flipmode Squad and the UN to smack the rap game upside its head in 2010 with the release of his debut album, "Marcberg". The album was self-released, self-produced, and 100% dope, with its sample-driven boom-bap sound meshing well and Roc’s breezy, stream-of-consciousness street talk painting vivid pictures. The lone feature off "Marcberg", Brownsville’s own Ka, turned out to enjoy a significant buzz which he parlayed into his own successful project release, "Grief Pedigree".
As I said in the opening sentence of this article, most of you who are reading this review are likely familiar with this narrative, but it’s worth summarizing because a dig through the RefinedHype vault reveals that there has yet to be a single Roc Marc track featured on this site (features and references don’t count). It’s especially incredible considering the amount of hype he was able to generate in the last four-six weeks as he started to release banger after banger that would not be featured on his follow up album, "Reloaded". So I thought it made perfect sense to review the album, released via Decon Records last Tuesday, for the Overlooked series.
One easily discernable difference between "Reloaded" and "Marcberg" is the production, and that is to be expected considering the announcement that Q-Tip was putting his stamp on the project as an executive producer. With a few more producers in tow, including The Alchemist and Ray West, it is clear from the jump that Marc and Q-Tip are going for a sound that is perhaps more polished and yet equally as boom-bap as its predecessor. Armed with lush samples, often laced with horn or key sections, the beats are more rich and yet simultaneously more sinister. The beats feel cinematic, really matching the theme of the project. And more importantly, the beats still provide ample space for Roc Marc to pull off his unique “stop-n-go” flow with precision.
The “Pimpstead” MC sounds right at home on the records supplied by other beat-makers, especially the Archdruids who are responsible for a highlight on the project, the lead single “Emeralds.” As for the Q-Tip collaboration, titled “Thread Count,” Roc sums it up best, “Kamaal hit me, I sit up in the 4-50, shifty, this is raw n*gga history.” But at the same time, ten of the beats on the fifteen track album are handled by Roc himself, and he does them justice, whether it be the somber “Thug’s Prayer pt. 2” or the haunting backdrop for “76,” my favorite track on the project.
When it comes to the lyrics, there’s no denying Roc Marciano’s sharp voice and unique flow pattern, but it’s some of the smaller details that make him the proficient MC that he is. The strength of his stream-of-consciousness style is his ability to paint pictures with minimal verbiage, pausing often enough to let the imagery sink in. The strong sense of setting starts from the opening bars off of opener, “Tek to a Mack,” where Marc proclaims “Style’s wavy, lazy eye Tracy McGrady, delivered like an 80-pound baby.” Later, on “Thug’s Prayer pt. 2,” he says “piss on the city from a skyscraper,” as real of a visual as one will ever get. He enhances the descriptions with his witty one-liners, dropping gems such as, “Push your afro back to ‘76” (“76”) and “Speak your mind like telekinesis” (“Emeralds).
The subject matter for "Reloaded" would definitely be considered “gangsta rap,” but this is gritty, unlike some of the more commercial “gangsta rap” albums that have come out in recent years. There is some braggadocio, but it is done with the same type of wit that is vintage Roc Marc, to the point of being entertaining. For example, on “Flash Gordon,” he claims that “the palace is like the Camelot.” At the same time, there is a balance to the music, unlike the pure unadulterated glorification of hustling as displayed by Rick Ross. This comes across in records such as “Thug’s Prayer pt. 2,” where Roc opens his verse by mourning fallen comrades out in the field. The lifestyle Roc describes definitely seems kinda cool, but there is a reason he points out that he “pass the mack-10 to my apprentice, while I get a pen and pad to print this.”
Once again, the features are very reserved on "Reloaded". Ka returns, this time on two tracks, and he is further accompanied by Knowledge the Pirate on “Not Told,” which definitely comes together well. Roc might have worked with everyone in the past year ranging from Crooked I to Action Bronson, Double AB to Himanshu (of Das Racist), but for his own solo project, he is extremely precise in choosing who fits with the theme and concept of a body of work that comes together damn near perfectly.
So... I’m sure the question in the minds of many is: which album is better, "Marcberg" or "Reloaded". Ultimately, it will come down to a matter of preference for the individual listener to determine (for me, the answer is Reloaded). That said, Reloaded is one of the best albums to drop in 2012, and for those ogling over Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, a comparison between the two is certainly fitting. After all, much like Kendrick is successful in bringing listeners far and wide to his hometown of Compton in a brilliantly conceived audio experience, Roc Marciano accomplishes a similar feat with this album. This was one project in 2012 that definitely lived up to the immense hype and anticipation.
See Also: Overlooked: Saigon’s “Greatest Story Never Told 2” (Album Review)