Album Review: Roc Marciano - 'Reloaded'

Album Review: Roc Marciano - 'Reloaded'

Felix Garner Davis

Roc Marci is a contradiction, a shadowy puppeteer who melds minimalist soundscapes with sprawling, richly-detailed tales of excess. He’s tastefully brash, the kind of gangster who would wipe the blood out of his victim’s ears with a gold-threaded handkerchief. In other words, he’s everything you’ve come to expect from hip hop.

The thing is, you haven’t really heard anyone do it like him before.

The opener on Reloaded, ‘Tek to a Mack’, introduces Marc’s typical stream-of-consciousness flow. If you’re familiar with his 2010 effort Marcberg, it’ll ring a bell. Interestingly, Marc balances all his grand declarations of thuggin’ by including quotidian details in the mix; these are snippets of ordinariness that are almost pedestrian, and would probably feel bitterly underwhelming in the grip of a lesser emcee.

'I hit the pub, lifted the mug...'

This is what I find unique about Roc Marciano: he is very much a proponent of the stereotypical bravado we’ve come to expect of hip hop, but he actively recognises that this grandiloquence is not enough to pave the way to greatness. Thus, in an effort to illuminate both ends of the existential spectrum, Roc hands us situations that we can all relate to, from eating dinner to picking out clothes for the day.

It’s an egalitarian approach: whether you’re on the grind selling crack or you’re grinding cracked pepper atop your lunchtime salad, Reloaded can be your auditory companion.

Having said that, aren’t stories in music supposed to provide us with a temporary escape from the crushing banality of our existence? Shouldn’t they be exaggerated as much as possible in order to achieve this? Herein lies the magic of Marci’s touch: somehow, the menial is transformed into some sort of supernatural paradise, the language so vivid that he is able to spellbind just by describing the colour of a trench-coat. Of course, the other fifty percent of his wordplay comprises gritty odes to hustling, but we appreciate the pace-shift nonetheless.

One of my overall picks is ‘Flash Gordon’, which sees the maestro’s menacing monotone glide through an ethereal piano loop: ‘…as the dove flew out the glove of the magician, it was just as I predicted: reality is pre-scripted // trees twisted autistic, gorgeous hit men escort the vixen…’ It’s pretty mesmerising. Another I like is ‘Deeper’, which features a clicky, low-key snare and a hauntingly groovy vocal loop.

A third is ‘Emeralds’, which is a bit of a departure for the album as it comprises some heavy drums reminiscent of the more classic production on Marcberg. Roc snaps and it’s easily one of the nicest tracks on the record. As for ‘Pistolier’, the fourth track on Reloaded, how can you argue with a man who spews lines like: ‘I’m sitting by the pool, mate with the goddess // light the chronic with the flame from a comet…’?

I really like this album as a whole, so it’s difficult to pick favourites. My only criticism would be that the 64 minutes of Reloaded can feel a tad excessive depending on the listening context. By all means, this is a joint for a long car trip or a day spent glued to your best headphones, but the individual songs can begin to sound similar and repetitive if close attention isn’t paid.

This is no fault of the production, though: the samples, for the most part looped in traditional style, are well-chosen and flow effortlessly into one another, weaving a progressive canvas for Roc’s wordplay.

In short, the lyricism is economic and exquisite, the beats are dope, and it rolls through its length so smoothly that I think Reloaded deserves to be labelled a contemporary classic.