Album Review: Roc Marciano – Rosebudd’s Revenge 2: The Bitter Dose

by Rajin

KDCdYyq

8.5/10

I’ve said it before, but it needs to be stated at any given opportunity. Roc Marciano is the most influential underground rapper of this era. With 2010’s Marcberg, he created an entirely new style, which he later perfected on Reloaded. Since then, we have seen rappers popping up all over the underground, drawing inspiration from Roc, particularly over the last couple of years.

Around this time last year, Roc released Rosebudd’s Revenge, one of my favorite albums of 2017. It offered the streetwise lyrics, spoken-word delivery, and minimal, sample-heavy production that listeners have come to expect and love. Overall, he stuck to his guns; he stripped the production back further, but otherwise we got what we expected. Shortly afterwards Roc announced that there would be a sequel, subtitled The Bitter Dose, which was released late last month.

It seems like the story told over both Rosebudd’s Revenge records is a before/after story. The first was littered with tales of hustling, selling drugs, and pimping; the second comes off as Roc’s life after he’s attained the wealth and power he so desired. It feels like he’s rapping from the perspective of an incredibly successful hustler after retiring and buying himself an island, living in a massive villa with money, cocaine, and a different woman in every room.

While the first installment of this series was more or less predictable (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing), The Bitter Dose is anything but. Listening to it for the first time was a fun but very confusing experience. The production (courtesy of Arch Druids, Element, and Roc himself) is drastically different from anything we’ve heard on a Roc Marciano project thus far. It’s even more stripped back than normal, which actually adds to the luxurious feeling of the album. The tone is far less cold and gritty than that of Roc’s other projects, as well. Soul samples are still the driving force behind the production, but instead of creating the typical backing for grimy street tales, Roc and co. flipped the script and used them for a sound that felt almost tropical. It felt like a jazz/soul club at a hotel resort. The samples were adapted to create a vibe that was a lot sunnier and more celebratory than I’m accustomed to – even going back to the early ‘90s, I can’t think of another instance where they’ve been utilized like this.

Given the change in tone, there are fewer chances for Roc to write the vivid stories that he’s so good at. That’s not to say he doesn’t; “Power” essentially serves as this album’s “Pray For Me” and “Kill You” is as chilling as anything he’s penned. However, he takes this chance explore his wit as a writer differently. The character he plays here allows him to write braggadocious rhymes and luxurious punchlines on a level he hasn’t done so before. This is brag rap at its peak. There’s no other album on which “Bed Spring King,” a hysterical and ridiculous yet still catchy track, could exist and still make sense to its overall narrative.

Like usual, Roc opts to keep the guest appearances to a minimum. We see longtime collaborator and friend Knowledge the Pirate, whose contributions just fuel the desire for a solo album, and Action Bronson, who drops a fairly hilarious verse. Overall, Roc’s rapping stays true to his signature style. Surprisingly, there are actually a few moments where he tries new flows out. For instance, the way he rides the beat on “The Sauce” is entirely unlike any flow he’s used thus far. While he is normally laid-back, on this track, Roc picks up the pace a bit to match the frenetic energy of the production. It’s interesting to see him adapt his style to rap a bit differently than we’re used to hearing.

If there was anything to criticize about this album, it would have to be regarding the production at some points. There are a few songs that really just consist of a 4-bar loop with nothing else going into them. Sometimes doing that works, but of course it makes the beats too repetitive at other points, such as on “Bohemian Grove.” In addition, Roc’s albums tend to have a few stellar, standout tracks each, and this album didn’t really have anything like that. To be fair, though, there were no unnecessary tracks here either, unlike his previous albums, which have a bit of filler on each. As such, in a lot of ways this is his tightest and most consistent album thus far.

This album displays Roc Marciano at his most ambitious. While it still doesn’t quite match Reloaded, arguably is magnum opus, it is without a doubt his most innovative work since Marcberg. He stuck to his strengths while doing a great job at finding a new approach to his style, now that a huge portion of the underground scene has been built around it. For that reason, it’s an exciting listen, and it’s another great entry in Roc’s already impressive catalog.

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Album Review: Fatt Father – Veteran’s Day

by Apu

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8/10

Last week was a weird goddamn week. Without going into politics too much because a lot of people seem to get more offended by other people’s political views than they do at an insult directed towards their family, a lot happened in a pretty short amount of time, most of which I don’t think a large portion of the population were actually seriously prepared for. Considering this, it should go without saying that getting some new music at the end of the week was a welcome respite from the Mr. Krabs meme of a week that the country had to deal with. I was personally most interested in A Tribe Called Quest’s new album, We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service and Fatt Father’s Veterans Day, which is the album I’m here to talk about.


Veteran’s Day is Fatt Father’s first solo release since 2012’s Fatherhood, a release where I felt like Fatts was starting to establish who he was as an artist. Veterans Day, released on the holiday it’s named after, only serves to further that feeling. Fatt Father came into his own on this release, displaying better than ever who he is as an emcee, as well as the person behind the mic.

The album’s production is handled entirely by D.R.U.G.S. Beats, who you may recognize as a producer on Dr. Dre’s last album, Compton (he produced the “Gone” half of “Darkside/Gone”). Being that he is technically a Dr. Dre-approved producer, this album’s beats are very well done throughout. A pretty big portion of the beats, including “Come On,” “Just Listen,” and “The Greatest” among others, cause involuntary head-nodding, and others like “Shabazz’s Gospel” and “Keep Ya Head Up” create a very tangible mood that draws you in even without having to hear Fatt’s verses. D.R.U.G.S. did a great job at capturing Fatt’s style; the production brings out the best of his distinctive, deep voice, and allows him to explore slightly different deliveries that he hasn’t used as often in the past. The end product is an underground street rap album with production that sounds more professional and sonically pleasing than I’ve found on most projects of its ilk.

Veteran’s Day opens up with a speech by someone who seems to be a war vet, detailing emotions that could be construed as something that’s almost like PTSD. That transitions to the first song, “Shabazz’s Gospel,” a song where Fatt Father, a bit like the vet from the intro, goes into detail about the traumas he faced in his past, from the separation of his parents to the deaths of his brother and his close friend Big Cobb. From there, Fatts goes into topics such as his childhood, love and women’s insecurities, police brutality, loss, and his life in current times.

Crack fiend, crack house, 8 ball, quarter ounce,
Death toll moving up, decent folk moving out,
Lost souls searching for boss roles to shoot it out,
Heart cold, traveling dark roads to move about,
Homicide, gather the yellow tape, spool it out,
Mama’s tears falling on cotton blends in huge amounts.
(Mama’s Words)

What I found to be the biggest strength on this project, as I alluded to earlier on, is Fatt Father’s delivery. He’s always had a voice that stood out; it’s deep and it cuts through a record in a very unique way. He sort of reminds me of a mix of Biggie and Scarface in some ways, the latter having a delivery that very much falls under the description I just gave. But on this album, Fatt Father started to adapt it a bit. He really let his emotion, whether positive or negative, bleed through his vocals on this album. It made the emotional songs hit harder, and the lighter songs like “K.A.M.M.H.” and “Come On” much more fun to listen to. It boils down to Fatt Father’s range as an artist expanding. He was always more willing to explore different topics and styles as a member of the Fat Killahz, but as a solo artist he always kept it gutter as shit. He does that on this album too, but he seems more flexible with what he’s willing to talk about and do.

Of course, as with any album, there’s music that are a little less content-heavy, and more for just vibing to. Some serve as great pump-up songs, such as “Just Listen,” “K.A.M.M.H.” with Ro Spit (this one’s my favorite song off the album), and “The Greatest” featuring killer verses from Fatt Father and Kuniva, and a fairly good verse from Royce da 5’9” that I felt fell a bit short of the energy that was coming from the rest of the track. Then there are songs like “Everybody” and “Never Die” featuring strong verses from Fat Killahz members Marv Won, Bang Belushi, and a too-over-the-top-for-me verse from King Gordy, both of which (besides Gordy’s verse) you can just chill to, listening to some nice verses and smooth beats that would sound awesome on a car stereo system. There is a nice display at diversity while keeping to a general sound on this album.

Overall, I’m very happy with Veteran’s Day. I love to see an artist who’s sort of an underdog the way Fatt Father is make an album that displays the sort of effort that a lot of so-called top artists don’t have in their music. Hearing a rapper older than most of the kids coming out make an album that displays hunger that they can’t muster up is just so satisfying to me, and reminds me that even though sometimes bullshit (from both the mainstream and underground) may get frustrating to always have to hear, good music will always be made because there will always be someone who cares. This album just solidifies why I place Fatt Father in my list of rappers who I take a personal responsibility for when it comes to spreading their music.

Why it Was Good: A History of Violence, by Kuniva

by Apu

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On December 16, 2014, Kuniva released his official debut studio project, A History of Violence. It followed a long stream of mixtapes (Retribution, the Midwest Marauders series, and the Lost Gold mixtape). Unlike the music that was on the mixtapes, Kuniva used all original production (primarily handled by Block Symfany, a production team composed of Rio Da Ghost and T.Boyd out of Michigan), and made actual fleshed-out songs, rather than just long verses and freestyles. Overall, it’s a very solid solo offering. It set the stage for him to grow and dig deeper in his later material.

The best part of this project to me is how Kuniva put it together. It sort of sounds like he sequenced the album very deliberately. The first 4 tracks seem like they’re from the perspective of a younger, more rowdy Kuniva. Those tracks tend to celebrate the street life. It opens up with the posse cut “Michiganish”, featuring Aftermath artist Jon Connor, Mass Appeal’s Boldy James, and Detroit legend Guilty Simpson. It starts things off fairly simply, being a competitive cypher of sorts. The following few songs, “Born Like This”, “Where I’m From”, and “Baileys In Bangkok,” all have a similar sort of vibe. They’re cocky and rowdy. They sound a little ironic and tongue in cheek, almost as though Kuniva was trying to rap the way a younger kid would rap. The content and the way it’s done makes me think he was talking about the street life, from the perspective of a kid living it, rather than someone reflecting on it.

Then comes “Derty Headz”, which is a very powerful song dedicated to fans of his and D-12. It has an anthemic hook and verses that drop all sorts of history about his career. He talks about Proof recruiting him for the group, the beef they’ve had, and the adversity they’ve faced from within since Proof passed. This song is the major turning point in almost every way. Here, flashes of reflection and maturity start to show up. From track 6 onwards, it seems to shift to his perspective now as a man nearly 40 years old after having seen massive success with his group, mournfully reflecting on the hard times in life but looking ahead with a drive to keep moving now that he’s out. “Light Work” and “Where The Hoes @?”, both offer fiery production and strong verses delivered with the hunger and confidence of a man who has seen his fair share of hardship. The title track, which is quite possibly the most personal and poetic song Kuniva has ever released, has him speaking on his past up to the point when Proof was murdered in chilling, almost uncomfortably rich detail, his voice oozing pain over him reflecting on it, and the album ends on “Shoutout”, which sounds like where he’s at now, looking forward into the future with hope after everything he’s been through.

The music on this project is good. There’s no denying that Kuniva is a strong rapper and has been doing nothing but improving since D-12 World. His delivery has become a lot more convincing and his writing has gotten sharper. The production is great too. Block Symfany (and Enrichment, on the title track) were able to provide Kuniva with a backdrop that deviated from the typical D-12 sound. It gave Kuniva the chance to step out of that style and develop his own identity, which is something that he hasn’t had the chance to really do much in the past outside of his Retribution mixtape. I think the first half of the album is a little shaky and unfocused at points, but every song from “Derty Headz” onwards is great. The title track might be one of my favorites of the entire year of 2014, period.

However, what really makes the album good is how it lives up to its name of being a “history”. Kuniva put the album together to actually make it almost like a song-by-song history of his life, from rapping competitively at the Hip-Hop Shop and living in the streets, to when D-12 were at their peak, and ending it with an adult perspective on life. It’s really special, because oftentimes artists don’t do that kind of thing when putting their projects together. You generally hear about Kendrick and the like putting their albums together in a manner like that, but honestly, Kuniva managed to pull off an album concept as well as anybody else. Even if it wasn’t fully intentional, he still clearly had an idea of progressing the sound and content of the project in a way that made sense, as opposed to putting the songs together in an arbitrary order and releasing it onto iTunes. That, to me, is what really makes it good, and not just another hip hop album.