Review Summary: Progressive regression.
Just when I thought I was getting my album of the year list sorted out, Roc Marciano had go and drop this. The fact that his new album will end up high on my list isn't surprising, mind you. Basically I had just lost track of the fact that this was due to release this year. His debut album, Marcberg
, was one of my favorite releases of 2010, a slice of throwback New York hip-hop. This sound was nothing new at the time (or now, really), but what differentiated Marcberg
from other releases of its ilk was that, instead of sounding like a modern album trying to ape a retro sound, it legitimately sounded like some long-lost tape from 1995 that someone discovered in a gutter somewhere and released in 2010. But where exactly does one go from there?
Well, in the case of Reloaded
, it's by building on an established sound and moving it in new directions--some obvious, others not-so-obvious. The first four tracks are business as usual, albeit with cleaner production. It's very much in the vein of the mid-90s New York sound, with "Flash Gordon" legitimately sounding just like something that may have been leftover from Mobb Deep's Hell On Earth
sessions. Still, even when sticking to this well-worn style, it never feels like he's treading water, because he's talented enough to remind us of why people have clung to that sound for so long. However, once "Thug's Prayer Pt. 2" begins, the growth shown between albums becomes apparent. The opening half has a beat indebted to, no kidding, psychedelic rock before the mournful sound of the second half kicks in to close the song out. Following track "76" is an album highlight, with Marciano lightening things up (to an extent) for the first time in his career. The beat contains no griminess, and borders on being something one could describe as "delicate".
From that point forward, the album moves fluidly between backward-looking tracks like "We Ill" and "Thread Count" and forward-thinking tracks like "Peru" and "Deeper". One thread that connects the album is the lyrical content. Marciano paints vivid pictures full of gangster-rap imagery, rapping about things like guns, weed, and women. However, his unique semi-mush-mouthed, monotone delivery and ability with wordplay keep the lyrics from ever seeming tired. The only guest verses on this album come from (the always solid) Ka, who appears on two tracks. Which means this album is Marciano's show, and he makes the most of it. I've always believed he deserves more recognition, and while nothing on here is going to crossover to the mainstream (nor is anything trying) it should help earn him a legion of new fans who keep their eyes on the underground, and that's good enough.