Max Bell murdered Jar-Bar Binks.
There isn’t one Star Wars reference on Roc Marciano’s The Pimpire Strikes Back. It’s not a blatant disregard for source material so much as it is honest and telling revisionism. In other words, a young Marciano probably wasn’t rushing off to see George Lucas’ The Empire Strikes Back. Instead, he was most likely at Blaxploitation era flicks like The Education of Sonny Carson, which he samples on the mixtape. Or Probably both. This may explain why the cinematic heroes of his rhymes have always been more Youngblood Priest (Superfly) than Luke Skywalker.
Though Marciano’s career has been on the upswing since dropping Marcberg back in 2010, The Pimpire Strikes Back is his only mixtape to date. Perhaps because he weathered the storm of his post-UN days, all demands for more material while he’s ‘hot’ have been heard and reduced to blunt ashes: Marciano brushes them off the Ralph Polo and keeps his Ferragamo shoes moving. Releasing a rushed, half finished product wouldn’t suit someone capable of compressing the criminal underworld into a few bars. Thus, this mixtape is to be played while rolling up the finest trees, not when emptying your doobie ashtray. It may be a different strain or breed than a Roc Marci album, but it’s not necessarily a lesser one.
With sixteen tracks and a total of 14 actual songs – there are two skits – The Pimpire… is all project hallway killer, no filler to plug the bodies and temporarily stanch the outpour of burgundy blood. On paper alone the production credits read like a who’s who of hired guns. Only someone as respected and well connected as Roc Marci could solicit beats from Madlib, Alchemist, Lord Finesse, and Evidence for a freebie. And though it’s fair to say that none of the above gave Roc their most potent product, each is nothing short of brownstone brick in their respective makeup and solidity.
Madlib, as he’s done with Freddie Gibbs time and again, proves he’s the most adept of all when it comes to getting MCs to well-tailor their rhymes to his production. The horn stabs, strings, and soul samples on “The Sacrifice” (the only Madlib produced track) fit Marciano’s pimp preachment like the seams of custom Armani suit. That said, Alchemist remains unparalleled in flipping guitar stabs, the beat for “Ten Toes Down” is a close second in the best guest production category.
Marciano is best when behind the boards solo. He knows what he wants to rhyme over better than anyone. The moody chords of “Higher Learning” are the very definition of looped minimalism. To quote Disco Vietnam, “two seconds of music can open a door to infinity, which is what sampling is all about.” Marci knows this maxim, using the MPC keys to house the infinite in a chateau and drape it in a lavender bathrobe.
Though there are lighter parts on some of The Pimpire…, it’s mostly as grim, gully and meditative as the rest of his catalogue. And the more you listen to the tape, the more you realize the title could’ve been written: The Pimp Ire Strikes Back. Marc’s finger is always tight on the trigger, but here he wants you to know that the pimp hand has never slacked. The harrowing, verbal hoe slaps start on “The Sacrifice”: “She gonna sacrifice her body / She trying to buy me that Bugatti.” A lot of foreign whips happen to rhyme with body, and a lot of nights spent on the corner must be worked in order to get them all. The coldest pimps care about the ends, not the means. Roc Marci is no different.
The rest of the tape is typical Marci affair. Multisyllabic rhymes about firearms, drugs, foreign whips and females, and designer clothes stack like bricks in the stash house. And Roc continues to possess an almost Fitzgeraldian lyricism, an ability to imbue items of luxury with more meaning than their glisten and gleam should ever warrant. Just look at how he describes his outfit on “Higher Learning”: “Styling in linen / Beguiling the women / To bless a foot I might sacrifice a lizard / Rock the 40 belows when its frigid.” He really may be “too New York to not smooth talk.”
The Pimpire Strikes Back is as close to a free album as you’re likely to see from anyone, let alone a rapper so preoccupied with his bank account. There’s no reason this shouldn’t be bumping in your whip as the leaves fall and you wait for winter. On December 10th, in a galaxy not so far away, Hempstead’s Jedi will return in a custom foreign whip that glides over cracked Hempstead pavement. There will be French spoken, but the French of all opponents will checked and silenced via silencer. Anything else wouldn’t be fitting.