27 December, 2013@5:55 pm
With the state of New York rap in flux, Roc Marciano has carved out a nice little niche for himself, with a unique brand of what we like to call “post-boom bap”. The sound of Roc Marciano, as well as like-minded individual, Ka, is that of raw, minimalist, sampled-based production, which is heavy on loops and light on drums. Usually accompanied by stream-of-conscious street tales, this is a splinter cell of the classic sound the city was built upon.
Roc surprised us at the end of this year by releasing two back-to-back projects. First he delivered a free conceptual mixtape, The Pimpire Strikes Back, built around the american hustle; then followed towards the end of the year with a new retail album, Marci Beaucoup, boasting an impressive guest list. So how do they fare?
Roc set the stage perfectly with The Pimpire Strikes Back mixtape, which is strangely the stronger half of this pair of releases. The mixtape is stronger in nearly every aspect, from sample selection and overall production to the execution of a tightly knit concept.
Each of the producers involved with the project brought out the best in vintage samples, providing the perfect backdrops for Roc’s pimp tales. Madlib opens things up with the “The Sacrifice”, while Evidence drops blunted soul on “Take Me Over”. The Alchemist produced “Sincerly Antique”, featuring Action Bronson, will literally melt your speakers, as it’s the best track on the album, with bittersweet doo-wop vibes.
The doo-wop and 70′s soul sounds are heavily employed on the record, and it fits perfectly with the vintage sound that runs through the course of the record. Roc’s own production fits in nicely with the rest of the guest producers, as tracks like “Slingers” and the off-kilter “I.D.K.” mesh perfectly with the rest of the album. Er… mixtape.
Which brings us to the album, Marci Beaucoup. While the mixtape was a more tightly knit project that placed Roc center stage, the album is problematic. Much of Marciano’s shine is taken by the extensive guest list, whom appear on every track. Case in point is the opening track, “Love Means”, in which the first voice we hear on the album is Evidence’s. Followed by “Squeeze”, which starts with Ka and follows with Guilty Simpson, and “456″ that starts off with Action Bronson, Marci Beaucoup very quickly starts to sound like a compilation. And that’s pretty much what this is – a record that spotlight’s Roc’s production, and puts his rhymes second. Its essentially the yin to Pimpire’s yang.
That would be all fine and good if the record was balanced out as well as The Pimpire Strikes Back. Truthfully, Roc’s production can get monotonous at times, and the abundance of guest artists never really gets the album on the right track. Coupled with a few tracks that are just downright bad, such as the awkward “Didn’t Know” or “Willie Manchester”, featuring a painful verse from Brit-hop artist S.A.S., there’s definitely a decline in quality here.
Perhaps the biggest mystery here is why Roc marketed one release as a mixtape, and the other the album, when clearly their roles should be reversed. The Pimpire Strikes Back is an incredibly produced, airtight concept album that gives Roc his deserved time to shine, and continues the legacy built by the artist thus far. Marci Beaucoup, on the other hand, may have fared better if it was billed as a “Roc Marciano Presents” type of compilation record, offering only glimpses of Roc at the end of each song. Sadly, in this day and age, when most are downloading both releases for free anyway, what difference does it make? Pimps up, Beau‘s down.
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