Album Review: ‘Reloaded’

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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, all of the expected grand declarations are balanced by Roc’s inclusion of understated quotidian details that would probably feel bitterly underwhelming in the grip of a lesser emcee. 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 solely enough to pave the way to greatness. Thus, in an effort to illuminate both ends of the existential spectrum, Roc hands us descriptions of situations 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 buying, and subsequently grinding, cracked pepper to perch atop your lunchtime salad, Reloaded can be your auditory companion.

"One of my overall picks is ‘Flash Gordon’, which sees the maestro’s menacing monotone glide through an ethereal piano loop..."

This is all well and good, but aren’t stories in music supposed to provide us with a temporary escape from the crushing banality of our existence? Surely they should be made as grand and exaggerated 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 is so vivid that he is literally able to spellbind just by describing the colour of a trench-coat. Of course, the other fifty percent of the album is occupied by 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 similarly clicky, low-key snare and a warm vocal loop that is as dope as it is indecipherable. A third is ‘Emeralds’, which is a bit of a departure for the album as it comprises some crunchy, heavy drums reminiscent of the production on Marcberg. No issues here — Roc snaps, and this is easily one of the nicest tracks on the album.

I’m a big fan, so it’s difficult to pick favourites; the whole thing is my motherfucking jam. 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, progressively weaving a tasty canvas for Roc’s wordplay.

In short, the lyricism is economic and exquisite, the beats are dope, and it’s the best album I’ve listened to in 2014.