This is Roc Marciano’s 2nd album in 2 years – a feverous pace by his standards. Roc is aware of the rarity of the situation because, until this weekend, RR2 was only available for download direct from his website for $30, per his tweet ‘artists don’t eat off streams’. Not a lot of musicians could get away with a statement like that, never mind justifying a price so at-odds with market value. In saying that, Roc is no ordinary artist, the level of detail he consistently exhibits makes an output of 30 songs in 12 months all the more impressive.
Album opener ‘Respected’ is not only a great introduction to the album, it could function as a fitting introduction to the Roc Marciano catalogue in general. In contrast to frequent collaborator Action Bronson, Roc’s best punchlines are deceptively simple, “Ya’ll grew up in houses/We grew up in housing”. When Action shows up on ‘Corniche’ his best line- “Two guns just for symmetry”- is really an outlier, the only purpose the verse serves is to amplify Roc’s prowess. With Roc’s lyrical ability, it’s easy to forget how good he is at turning a sample. ‘Saks Fifth’ shows real confidence in this area, allowing a sparse synthesised bass and steel drums to grapple with a persona that proclaims “Shit I’m doodling with the pen/Cause the room to get humid”.
The world of Roc Marciano is escapism. He embodies a character so driven and confident, making the lyrical dexterity inevitable. If this is gangsta rap, it’s some form of evocative and romanticised Hollywood version. On ‘Muse’ triumphant horns and the soft-spoken lilt of a movie narrator accompany Roc in a contemplative mood, “This can’t be it/Fancy ambience/We family men”. His elder-statesman, gatekeeper attitude extends into ‘Power’, warning the “corny” kids coming up that his elevated status is impregnable.
The closing 4 tracks are all Roc Marciano beats, and it’s the most cohesive passage on the album. Escaping into Roc’s world is far easier when he’s in command of every element. If the album’s shortcoming is its lost potential, the room this leaves for improvement makes the next release all the more enticing.
CT Rating: 6.5/10
Niall O’Shaughnessy – Music Writer