Revenge of the Mack: Roc Marciano Drops Another Gem

Douglas Martin takes a look at Roc Marciano's latest LP, Rosebudd's Revenge.
By    February 23, 2017


You might find Douglas Martin chubby on a sunny beach.

Whether you consider them archetypes or stereotypes, rappers frequently assume the guises of drug dealers, arms dealers, professional armed robbers, or pimps. But to the people who really occupy those trades, they’re often seen as bunch of pretenders. It’s that old “self-perception vs. reality” dichotomy — a topic immediately broached upon pressing play on Rosebudd’s Revenge.

The first words on the feverishly anticipated new Roc Marciano project slap you across the face: “Rappers ain’t pimps, rappers are rappers.” Which is to say, be yourself. You’ll always be authentic that way.

“Fuck outta here, you a college kid / We share no common thread / This shit’s Prada, not Diamond Brand / I’m just saying / No disrespect, this just cost a lot of bread”

I wonder how often Roc Marciano goes back and revises his verses. Does he make edits while he writes? Does he let them gestate on the page for weeks, months—tooling away until it’s just right? He doesn’t compose his verses on iPhone notes, does he? That process doesn’t seem to match the way the rhyming sounds of his words hit the beat. He’s gotta just have stacks of notebooks somewhere.

That’s the most logical process for the patron saint of rap fans old enough to remember when the music video for “C.R.E.A.M.” was a pivotal, life-changing event. My favorite Marciano full-length project yet opens with verses begging for Hip-Hop Quotable honors. But then again, most of the verses he constructs could easily earn that sort of accolade. But time moves on and The Source is merely a relic of a bygone time. Marciano, however, keeps refining the Swiss timepiece-esque verse construction to continued excellence.

It’s long been an inside joke that Roc Marciano reviews write themselves in direct quotes. He’s in Miami wearing your rent on a pair of kicks, and that depends on where you live. His new work will make fiends’ shoes chirp like a bluebird. If we were kids, he’d send you home with your sneakers missing. He won’t hesitate to do you greasy like Chinese chicken or fish ‘n chips. He serves two biscuits like it’s time for tea. His jeans fit him like Springsteen. On his guest feature on Flygod’s “Omar’s Coming,” he famously said, “Niggas quote me like the Holy Book,” though his lines are lot more fun to recite than Bible scripture, as anyone who was forced to go to children’s church can attest.

Maybe I should stop trying to unpack the details of his process and remain in awe of the results.

“Bring your best hand weapons, let’s have a jam session / Test with the metal hands, you left a couple band members / Push keys like piano lessons / Ambidextrous, two hammers do duets at Willie Manchester’s”

In a very selfish way, I’m still kind of salty about there not being a Metal Clergy album yet. It has been my Most Anticipated Rap Album since the 2013 Dirty Shoes Awards. You don’t need me to tell you Marciano and Ka have a chemistry that borders on something science can’t quite explain. Their personalities compliment each other like any apparatus with two parts; Ka reflective and wise, Marci a whirlwind of outward confidence, impeccable taste, and sly wisecracks.

Opening with a typically stellar Ka verse, rife with cherry picking periods in school, avoiding the false hope of making Christmas wish lists while growing up in the ghetto (“I only got Santa’s claws,” he laments ruefully), and barely literate young dudes getting the book thrown at them after one glance from the judge.

Over an incredible beat from Animoss of the Arch Druids featuring the peculiar flutter of a guitar’s high string, “Marksmen” overthrows Marci Beaucoup’s “Confucious” as the best Metal Clergy track yet. Marciano rounds out the track with a stellar extended metaphor (Included is the great line, “My steel came with the drum, but I don’t play percussion,” evoking grimy dudes on the corners in the Bahamas with a couple mallets and beautiful sounds ringing throughout the market) and the non-surprise of the year: “Me and the gauge, we like soulmates, but I’m not the marrying type.”

“I did my numbers while you was in the tub with rubber ducklings / I was on some rubber glove shit / Pumping fish, pockets lumpy like puffer fish / The pump was in the truck, my leather looking like pumpkin skin / We hustled in the Comfort Inn, I still got one foot in / It’s just my life, look how wonderful it is.”

On Rosebudd’s Revenge, hip-hop’s premiere sex work advocate is as hedonistic as ever, smoking sherm blunts and indulging in a prolific coke habit in the thick of the title track: “Sniffing yayo off of J-Lo’s butt / It made a player’s face go numb.” He has an affinity for exoticism, boasting lady friends from Hawaii and Burkina Faso, jewels from Zurich, silencers from Idaho. He considers sticking up a CVS for Xanax, probably because the pharmacy for Walgreens is always so understaffed. A notable past time is to, “relax and get face from Christina Applegate,” which means the next logical step is to name one of his projects Marci D’arcy.

The lion’s share of the beats are dusky and reminiscent of the ’70s cocaine soul records some of our parents used to wear out when their friends came over and they made us stay in our rooms. To that degree, it also evokes the feeling of being a high school senior, listening to Supreme Clientele in my room after my parents took me and my brother to Wherehouse Music before making us endure a trip to Ross as our penance. The instrumentals aren’t as pummeling or foreboding as the best efforts on Marcberg or Reloaded, and that’s rendered to spectacular effect here, especially when Marci starts kicking his smooth pimp raps or covering his verses in an introspective tint.

“They don’t want no part of this / They just want to play the armpit, they was fatherless / It’s no bother kid, ain’t no harm in it / I’m tryna scratch some horror of my karma list / Well if it don’t, just know I’m sorry, then / Just know how I see it, I’ma call it, pimp”

On an album of sterling achievements, “Pray For Me” stands out ahead of almost everything Marciano has done yet. Most rappers—especially ones most used to rapping over beats between 80 and 100 BPM—can only weave decent flows over the standard time signature of 4/4, sounding a little off when they try something in 6/8, but Marci slows down and gives his verses a little economy while adding the technicolor introspection of his debut album’s “Shoutro.”

Serving fiends during rush hour while your school bus was fighting traffic, surveying a hard fought hustle while he speeds through parkways and receives texts from ladies with the heart kiss emoji, shooting at police cars, relaying jewels of advice from his father. All while delivering his standard of excellence in boasting: “You just a guppy in a shark tank.” “Niggas ain’t street, try the sidewalk.” “I’m bipolar, too / High roller but I don’t own a suit.” “Used to play the back then, now I’m frontin’ on some Rosa Parks shit.”

Roc also fills the space with the complexity that comes with trying to find a way out of a bleak place: “Crack tore the fam apart but / It paid for my first apartment.” It must be nice for people to go on Twitter and use their privilege to sneer at people who depend on capitalism to survive, to escape a territory where they could be murdered trying to feed their kids, or worse, hit by a stray on the way to school. Excepting churches and community centers only sometimes, there’s no such thing as a safe space in the hood.

As if the gifts of Roc Marciano could be refined any more, Rosebudd’s Revenge provides an even deeper focus on the hallmark traits of the immensely talented rapper’s lyrical and beatmaking skills. From Bogata to Omaha, there are few MC’s currently making music more compelling, taking such richly defined street imagery with such a sense of verve and confidence. No wonder he knows how Satchmo felt.

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