From the swamps of South Florida comes rapper Robb Bank$ with his second solo mixtape Tha City. Over a year after the Tumblr-fever of his debut Calendars has died down, Bank$ returns with a dark mixtape firing shots at all posers, exes, and cliches. With a library of references that cover Breaking Bad to Norman Bates to Naruto, Tha City is a unique mixtape in hip-hop of 2013.
An oddity about Robb that’s been revealed since Calendars release is the fact that he is the son of Shaggy. Yes, you read right, he is the kin of the man who brought us such classics as “It Wasn’t Me” and “Angel”. Robb is 19 now, and while he may be Shaggy’s son, there’s nothing pop about Robb Bank$. His bloodline was a topic previously avoided by Bank$ but on Tha City, we hear him speak on the matters that have been subject to some controversy for the young rapper. Previously, the connection to his father was taboo in the rap game where up-and-coming rappers are always subject to credibility checks. As pictures circulated the web of him has a kid with Shaggy after the release of Calendars, he decided to address the “elephant in the room” and does so defiantly here on opening track “Flex”: “Speaking of the elephant that’s in the room, me and my daddy been talking about shit/Actual conversations about my sisters and my kids, sometimes I just think we keep the peace just for them“
Bank$ has been cultivating a web presence since 2011 when he was in high school rapping in the now-defunct group Tuesday Thru Sunday. TTS was an interesting project that saw Robb trading bars with his friend-at-the-time Matt Meyer Lansky. They’d take beats by Nosaj Thing and other airy producers to compile their 9-track mixtape released in 2011. One of the best introductions to Robb Bank$ and his style can be heard on Tuesday Thru Sunday’s song “We (Friday)” with lines relating to relationships like “She said she wanted something more than just us/ And moaning that loud ain’t doing me no justice”over Nosaj’s song “Voices”. A year later, Tuesday Thru Sunday disbanded and Robb released his first solo mixtape, Calendars. On this release, he took the same formula of TTS (rapping over established beats) while making it his own courtesy of his deep tone and absurd allusions. While riding a little too close to A$AP Rocky’s aesthetic at the time, Robb managed to provide a great introductory piece courtesy of Calendars viral hit “Counting”, in which he raps over Clams Casino’s “Gorilla” beat. In the video for the song, he wears a gold grill as he smokes cigarettes and mixes a dirty Sprite while playing with Pokemon cards. A motif throughout Calendars is the sample from TV show Skins of one of its characters stating “I think I might be happy“; reflecting Robb’s state of mind after a recent break-up when recording the mixtape.
Stream: Robb Bank$ – I’m That Nigga (Ruff Mix)
Robb admitted in a recent interview he can’t listen to Calendars anymore because “it sounds too juvenile”. This may explain the gunshots following the intro on “Counted” off Tha City, which starts off with the recognizable roar of “Counting” when gunshots fire off, cutting the sound of his hit song off and signaling the end of the old Robb Bank$ and an introduction to a new beast in the process. In the time between Calendars’s release and 2013, he dropped a slew of singles– including the impressive feature on Denzel Curry’s “Threatz” which saw airplay from MTV–that piled anticipation for his next proper release. In May 2012, he released the song “Look Like Basquiat” which was produced by 4AD’s SpaceGhostPurrp. A fellow South Floridian, SGP is a perfect collaborator for Robb’s 90’s nostalgia and dark aesthetic. The partnership with Purrp continued to flourish throughout 2012, leading up to this 2013 release.
Rappers should be jealous of Bank$’s crop of beats on Tha City. He’s always had an ear for production, but it’s hard for me to think of another tape with such consistently bold and great production as this. The atmosphere and tone is remarkably polished. The self-admitted 40 to Robb’s Drake, Nuri really shines on Tha City and SpaceGhostPurrp’s influence is noted. Overall, there’s a real sense of menace in the beats as Robb’s Southern drawl creeps across the eerie synths and reverb-heavy drum patterns. Opening track “Flex” starts out with a synth that sounds like it was ripped straight from a horror movie composed by The Haxan Cloak or Forest Swords as a sample of “Flexin” (a recently-released song left off of The City featuring Nevabitch, SpaceghostPurrp and fellow Truants-featured Yung Lean) develops. Some songs are grandly gothic, like lead single “On Me”. Then there’s a couple oriental, cloud-rap influenced songs like “All the Way Live” that sound like they easily could’ve ended up on a Main Attrakionz tape. And you can’t sleep on the Zaytoven-produced “That Sound” because, well, it’s Zaytoven.
Robb has always been an exciting lyricist. His stories are often drug-influenced and finely detailed; whether he’s rapping about the intricacies of a love interest’s body or the obscurity of a Naruto reference. There’s something for everybody here as he throws punchlines so casually. Sometimes his rhymes are contradictory but regardless of sensibility, these songs stay cohesive with the bravado of Bank$. And while it’s unclear who started the “lil bitch” ad lib, Bank$’s sounds more effective and authentic than Big Sean ever has. The South Florida rapper spits with the same tenacity of the alligators stalking his state’s lands. At times, his delivery is low and patient but when the snares arrives he’s attacking and tearing the beat to shreds with an intense and declarative prowess.
Stream: Robb Bank$ – On Me
In comparison to the “I think I might be happy” motif of Calendars, a new motif arises out of Tha City from the 2012 horror film V/H/S in which Bank$ threads the sample of a female creature repeating the phrase “I like you”. In the film, she is a deceptively violent girl who’s beautiful yet shy at first. As the story goes, she turns into something monstrously volatile with fangs and wings as she tears through the men of the narrative. Perhaps this is a representation of Robb’s new fame from Calendars as more fans clamor around his output…as he is easy to “like”. Nevertheless, it’s clear Robb Bank$ is doing something right and a rapper to look out for.