Raymond Chandler Rap: Zilla Rocca Gets “Hard Boiled”

Chris Daly breaks down Zilla Rocca's new EP, released in anticipation of the Philadelphia MC's full-length debut.
By    August 17, 2018

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Chris Daly is still looking for someone to play “Nightcrawlers” with.

Somebody might need to inform Philadelphia’s own Zilla Rocca that things always are sunny there.

The progenitor of noir rap is dropping a new EP, Hard Boiled, in part to promote his upcoming POW Recordings debut and in part to remind you what crime novel rap sounds like. Street tales are steeped in grime, but it’s never simply about outlandish money, Draco’s, or violence for the sake of exaggerated effect.  Yet the bearded bard is here to remind you, nonetheless,  that no matter your aesthetic, it’s always about hustling, full stop.

ZR further cements his status as the Raymond Chandler of Rap, telling gritty stories with straight razor sharp wit.  Opening the jawn with “Lamont Coleman,” the bar is set high, invoking the spirit of Big L. Dropping a seemingly autobiographical account of a hustle both amused and bemused by the world he’s survived. While the goal posts might keep moving further afield, you’ve got to have skin in the game to win the game, and this narrator knows how to roll. Henry Canyon stops by and drops some rare knowledge to round out the track.

There’s the brokenhearted lover on “Time Ran Out” and the struggling artist fighting to make it on “Alive & Paid.”  There’s “Fake Money,” which, to my knowledge, is the first and only rap song that deals almost exclusively with counterfeiting. Rocca has a gift for creating realistic characters you might well run into yourself on South Street, with lines like “Going to meet Enzo, my bookie’s son-in-law/ See he works at Lorenzo’s, I grab a slice standing by the door.”

ZR shares production duties on a handful of tracks here—with Newstalgia on the aforementioned “Fake Money,” Messiah Musik on “Rabbit Will Run,” and The Expert on “Of Tender Sin,” which closes the album.  Speaking of which, the last line of the album could be my favorite Zilla line yet: “I never thought of a sin until I tried it.” As hard boiled as it gets.

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