Chronicles: Retch – Finesse The World

We usually shutter to ascertain authenticity in music, but Retch’s rap is such that his ability to seamlessly integrate his incriminating extra-curriculars into it makes it most tantalizing as a square outsider looking in. Among the preeminent rappers actively occupying the classically-oriented street narrative stratum, like the more popular Roc Marciano, Black Milk, and Meyhem Lauren, Retch’s stock is steeply rising as a story teller and his trajectory from East Coast upstart to West Coast-based Action Bronson- and Ab-Soul-collaborator can be traced from tape to tape. There’s certainly proof in Retch’s pudding, and those who follow him on social media (for what that’s worth) can attest to how empirical his persona is. Further, what makes his music even more alluring is the vivid first-person perspective he habitually offers up about a geography we really haven’t been able to learn much about through hip-hop, not that it ends up being much different from what we’ve heard since Mobb Deep at their most disgruntled. We find Retch better because of that.

It’s easy to classify the Hackensack, New Jersey bred artist when he’s at his best: loop-based, boombap imagery. He’d argue for his stylistic dexterity across his three major projects to date, and he wouldn’t necessarily be obtuse in doing so. One would find anything from hook-predicated hi-hat turn-ups to geographically-influenced, Ferg-esque syllabic shapes on his first notable project, 2013’s home-brewed Delinquents & Degenerates. Aside from that, historically, Retch has come off as New York as you can get, down to the eighth note hi-hat and animated couplets that Ghostface (and, by extension, Action Bronson) may have considered at one point. With this supposed geographically induced method in mind, a watershed moment for the rapper occurred when he released Polo Sporting Goods jointly with Thelonious Martin, the Chicago based producer who also called New Jersey home and whose crackling, Madlib-channeling beats had an equal part in making the mixtape the attention-calling project it became shortly after its release earlier last year. Finesse The World is here now, and what the elusive articulator does with verbs and nouns is much less “Porsche cruising in fall weather” and more “have ‘em do you for like 50 percs and like 10 valiums”.

With Finesse, Retch’s knack for animated story telling acts as a jumping-off point from his most high-profile material (most of which is encompassed by Polo Sporting Goods), though what we get here from the rapper – who has lazily been labeled as New Jersey’s Joey Bada$$ – is yet another exhibition of his resistance to being boxed in. It becomes clear from the album opener that he pulls it off once more, this time round by toning down his mischievous color and instead espousing the straight-up cement-textured gully that is admittedly missing from the aforementioned milieu of artists who have at one point been placed in the vicinity of Retch in our theoretical East Coast venn diagram. Who he has surrounded himself with for production duties (H.N.I.C., A$AP P On The Boards, a grimmer Thelonious Martin) seems to have also been a conscious decision for the sake of embellishing what he does lyrically. What’s more obvious is the snarling timbre that he takes up for the entirety of Finesse; it’s a strenuously angry delivery that virtually leaves the listener wiping spit off their face after every phrase. It’s almost as if these verses provided some catharsis for Retch – insofar as they are ultra-incriminating. As such, tracks are predicated on personal recaps of how he has been able to eek his way through the underground devoid of much of a rap cheque and how his fast money covenant that he relies on has proven to be sustaining. The possibility of double-crossers or jail time notwithstanding.

Finesse The World is out now on FastMoney.

Michael Scala