Not many rappers in the game do it like Roc Marciano these days.
Hailing from Hempstead in Long Island, New York, Roc Marciano's career started with Busta Rhymes' Flipmode Squad. After some brief work with the crew, including an appearance an Busta's 2000 track "The Heist," Roc Marci decided to go a different route and formed a group with three other unknown rappers (Dino Brave [whom he still collaborates with], Laku and Mic Raw) called The U.N.
After dropping one album, The U.N. was never heard from as a group again, and Roc Marciano went into a hibernation of sorts. He was featured on Wu-Tang Meets The Indie Culture in 2005 and dropped a verse on GZA's song "Short Race" in 2008, but other than that, you didn't hear much from Roc Marci.
Then, 2010 arrived, and Roc Marciano released his debut solo record, Marcberg.
Bloggers instantly put the project on a pedestal, some labeling it the album of the year and applauding Roc for bringing that 90s golden era-type hip-hop back to the game.
Roc Marciano produced the entire album by himself, choosing to go with mostly minimalist beats via the use of grimy samples and sparse drums.
So, was Marcberg worth the hype?
Typical album intro.
2. It's a Crime
And it begins. The second Roc Marci's beat drops, you'll notice the heavy Wu-Tang influence, and the second he starts to rap, you'll notice how much he must have listened to Raekwon and Prodigy growing up. The sample is raw as hell, and the faint drums somehow make it that much grittier. Roc Marciano knows how to get it started; that's for damn sure.
3. Whateva Whateva
While this cut isn't as good as the preceding track, it's still pretty effective, consisting of another minimalist sample with even sparser drums than "It's a Crime." Roc Marci raps with such an aura of confidence and sureness that you can't help but take everything he says seriously, even if it's meant to be a joke.
4. Raw Deal
This record contains the hardest drums on the album thus far far and a sample containing a grimy-as-all-hell guitar twang that Roc Marci rides effortlessly. This is one of those records you play in your ride when you're driving down the block with the windows down during a heatwave.
5. We Do It
KA, a rapper from Brownsville who has been creating some buzz of his own over the past couple of years, makes the first--and only--guest appearance on Marcberg here, and he fits alongside of Roc perfectly. If you thought the first three tracks were raw, just wait until you listen to this one. Also, even though simply repeating "we do it" on the hook may seem like it would sound corny, trust me; when you hear it, you'll realize it doesn't, and even if you do think it's corny, I dare you to say that to Roc's face.
Roc Marciano managed to make the beat actually sound like something you'd listen to during the winter, further illustrating how much of a genius this man is. The instrumental is fire, and Roc comes through with what is his best performance on Marcberg thus far. The hook is also ill. Phenomenal record here. This cut also has a remix with Sean Price on it, and I highly suggest you go and check that out.
7. Ridin' Around
This is easily the darkest beat on the album, and, naturally, a lot of people gravitate toward this song. The cut is exactly the type of record that the title entails: rider music. It's not "Snow" or anything, but it's still pretty damn good. Also, Roc's interpolation of Debra Laws' "Very Special" (the sample that was used for J. Lo and LL Cool J's song "All I Have") on the hook is pretty hilarious. I don't understand how in the hell it fits within the concept of the record, but that's what makes it so awesome.
The. Best. Song. On. The. Album. Period. Roc Marci's beat is both hard and unorthodox at the same time, sounding like something Black Milk would have produced for the Random Axe album. Roc then proceeds to tear ish up, proving that he can rip a track no matter the tempo of the instrumental. If "Panic" doesn't get your blood flowing, then nothing will.
9. Thug's Prayer
Another one of those cruising down the block cuts that this album seems to be full of. Another winner, too. The drums on this track are nearly non-existent, although you can definitely hear a faint snare throughout. Great performance by Roc Marciano on here, as well.
Good Lord almighty. That's all I've got to say, and that's all I have to say.
11. Jungle Fever
We are now 10 songs in (excluding the intro), and we are yet to have a clunker. Actually, we're yet to even have a mediocre track. "Jungle Fever" continues that trend, containing some banging drums and a crazy sample that Roc just goes in on. You may need a neck brace after listening to this. You've been warned.
12. Don Shit
Okay. This is the first record on Marcberg that I wasn't really feeling. I just wasn't too crazy about the production. But hey; they can't all be winners, right?
This one wasn't all that, either. The instrumental was pretty dull, and this was probably the most uncomfortable Roc Marci sounded on the album. The long ass phone call was kind of off-putting, too.
14. Hide My Tears
Better than the previous two tracks, but still nothing compared to the first 10 songs on the album. Plus, Roc's delivery doesn't seem to match the beat at points. Seems like he is getting winded as he approaches the finish line.
Fortunately, Roc Marciano ends Marcberg on a good note after tripping up in the three cuts prior. "Shoutro" is full of soul, and even though Roc only drops one verse until going into predictable shoutout mode, it just sounds really good. I really wish at least one of the preceding three cuts would have been better, though.
Marcberg is an incredible debut album by an artist who simply knows what's up. There is absolutely no flash to Roc Marciano's game: just substance and grit, and it works wonders for him. It's always refreshing to hear a dude rap like it's still the 90s in this day and age, and Roc Marci does just that.
What's most impressive about Marcberg is how it goes a full 10 songs before an average one finally rears its head, and even the three tracks toward the end that weren't that spectacular are hardly whack.
Roc puts on a clinic for most of the project, showcasing his Sean Price-like ability to sometimes rap about nothing and make it sound like something. On the other side of the coin, he sometimes touches on serious topics, and he sounds every bit as effective when he decides to go that route.
Finally, you have to admire the fact that Roc Marciano produced this entire album by himself. It's rare that you get producer-MCs who are actually good at both things. That's what makes an artist like Black Milk so superb, and it's part of what makes Roc Marci so damn intriguing, as well.
If you care about the golden age of hip-hop at all, then you need Marcberg in your collection. It's a refreshing record in a time where electronic-techno crap passes for good hip-hop in the eyes of many nowadays (and yes; that was a shot a specific artist, and I'm sure you can glean which artist I am talking about).
Also, stay tuned: I will be reviewing Roc Marciano's sophomore album, Reloaded, promptly. You don't want to miss that one.
4. Jungle Fever
5. We Do It