Roc Marciano’s “Wee III” opens with a sample taken from Michael Mann’s first feature film, a Chicago crime drama called Thief. In the film, James Caan plays Frank, an unrepentant thief embedded in the city’s gang life. Without stretching too far, Roc Marciano’s sophomore LP “Reloaded”is an aesthetic kin of Mann’s Thief. Both portray a period that has past for most viewers/listeners, the crack infested streets of 1980’s New York for Marciano and 1950’s gangland Chicago for Mann. Both works are character studies in a sense, although neither succeeds at relaying any sort of moralistic outlook. Most of all, Frank and Marci are unremittingly individualistic, 100% originals in an era that rewards groupthink. Neither work has a happy ending, although Marciano’s “The Man” exudes a triumphant confidence that could be interpreted by some as exultant in an intoxicatingly vacant sense.
Tenuous cinematic comparisons aside, “Reloaded” sees Marciano’s artistic vision in its most unadulterated form, replete with dense multisyllabic verses and often beat-less funk loops. It’s hard to say what exactly makes “Reloaded” so much better than 2010’s “Marcberg”, although a move to Los Angeles and newfound recognition for the longtime Strong Island hustler have something to do with it. Boiled down to its simplest form, “Reloaded” is a distinctly New York rap album, full of gritty, clairvoyant street tales. Marciano plays roll of remorseless hustler, as quick with his tongue as he is with the glock. It’s braggadocian struggle rap so visceral that the audience is forced to admire the master storyteller, regardless of whether they can relate or not.
Marciano’s subject matter, mainly cocaine, robbery and high profile pimping, isn’t in the least bit refreshing, but when told in his invective snarl, sounds as fresh as the mink coat he’s peddling snow in. He wants to let you know that he could effortlessly dispose of you in a swamp somewhere in Miami or turn a knife in your kidney, but he’d rather take a dip in the Atlantic with a bad bitch swinging in a hammock nearby (see: “Thread Count”). It’s not as if Marci is above gun wielding, he’s just the crime ambassador at this point and can’t be bothered with petty nonsense. The references Marciano makes throughout “Reloaded” are delightfully outdated and nerdy, from the obscure NBA punchlines to Rick James pageantry. A respectful student of Kool Keith and Raekwon, Marciano is New York’s principal counterpoint to ASAP Mob’s fashionista rap and Joey Badass’ faux nostalgia.
Stream: Roc Marciano – Thread Count (Decon)
Like “Marcberg”, “Reloaded” inhabits a space outside of any existing hip-hop production paradigm. It’s about as far from Hit-Boy and Mike Will’s bombastic explorations as you can get, but doesn’t fit any sort of boom bap structure either. Marciano’s closest sonic kin is Alchemist, who appears on the album, but even they seem to draw from entirely different sample sources. A self-described digger (as opposed to a “person that sit in the crib and make beats”), Marciano’s percussion is understated to say the least and often non-existent. Dark funk and psych rock samples ride out as unsyncopated drums hiss and crackle in the background. Unlike “Marcberg”, “Reloaded” features an array of production features from longtime collaborators Arch Druids and Ray West, as well as heavy hitters Q-Tip and the aforementioned Alchemist.
Stream: Roc Marciano – Nine Spray Feat. Ka (Decon)
If you are long-time fan of Marciano (Flipmode anyone?), we guarantee you will take “Reloaded” as your own, carry it with you like a proud parent and gleefully present it to your friends. If you’re not so hot on Marci for whatever reason, then “Reloaded” will probably leave a sour taste in your mouth. This is a fact that the Strong Island native understands and embraces. It allows him to continue to perfect his own narrative, his own flow and his own production acumen. Marciano will never make a “party” or “club” record, preferring street realism and privately exulting in the wealth he has amassed. The singular vision he pushes is what makes him so effective and if you don’t like it then he might just knock your newborn out of the high chair.
Roc Marciano’s Reloaded is available now.