Roc Marciano has been very busy since dropping his debut album, Marcberg (which I reviewed here), in 2010.
After garnering massive critical acclaim for his first project, Roc Marciano has been heavily sought out for features by some of the dopest artists in the game.
In 2011, for example, he did an EP with Gangrene (a duo consisting of Alchemist and Oh No) called Greneberg. Shortly before that, he dropped a guest verse on Random Axe's song "Chewbacca."
Roc's popularity in the game has only grown since then, with rappers such as Action Bronson, Crooked I, Ka and Prodigy asking him to grace some of their records in 2012 and 2013.
He has also started his own label called Man Bites Dog Records, and he is in the process of recording his third LP, Marci Beaucoup.
In between all of that, Roc Marci released his second album, Reloaded.
While Marcberg was produced entirely by Roc Marciano himself, the Hempstead native enlisted beatmakers such as Alchemist and Q-Tip (among others) to assist him this time around, seven of the beats on Reloaded being laced by guest producers.
Many feel that sophomore projects often define a rapper's career and determine which route he is going to take. Will he be able to match--or improve upon--his first album, or will the pressure of success overwhelm him and result in him laying an egg?
Let's see how Roc Marciano approached that fork in the road on Reloaded.
1. Tek To a Mack
Roc kicks things off in a similar fashion to the way he started Marcberg, lacing an eerie--if not a bit unorthodox--loop that is perfectly suited for his style. If you hadn't listened to Roc Marciano's features in between Marcberg and Reloaded, you'll likely notice that his voice has changed slightly, and for the better, too. Very solid way to begin the album.
2. Flash Gordon
The first of three Alchemist beats on the project (three on the deluxe version, anyway), and it is a colossal success. The piano-sample-driven instrumental possesses a dark and introspective feeling, and Roc Marci drops some of the best lines he's ever spit. No; seriously. You need to listen to this song quite a few times to catch the punchlines, metaphors and double entendres and truly comprehend what Roc is saying. As a matter of fact, I suggest you check out the annotations at Rapgenius (love that site) to help you out. "Flash Gordon" is proof that Roc Marciano can rap about anything and make it sound elegant. This is not only the best track on Reloaded, but it was the best record of 2012. Period.
3. Not Told
Roc Marci is back on the boards for this one, and you'll likely be able to denote that the second the beat begins. This is one of two cuts on the album with guest appearances, as Knowledge The Pirate and Ka jump on "Not Told" to drop verses of their own. Knowledge dazzles with his performance, and Ka comes through with his trademark lazy, half-asleep flow that can only work for him. Roc Marciano's production is pretty repetitive and isn't all that engaging, though.
Think of "Pistolier" as the "Pop" of Reloaded, but twice as grimy. This is the second Alchemist instrumental, and it is a banger. I highly recommend that you play this in your whip and turn up the volume. Trust me. Also, Roc's "the fish scale, color Kevin McHale" line is both hilarious and genius.
5. Thug's Prayer Pt. 2
The interesting thing about "Thug's Prayer Pt. 2" is how Roc Marci's beat builds throughout. Once it finally kicks in toward the end (it's only one minute and 36 seconds long), you'll probably realize that it's the same instrumental that was used on the original "Thug's Prayer" off of Marcberg.
This was Reloaded's second single. The production is more involved than something you would expect laced by Roc Marciano would be, and it works pretty well. Like usual, Roc's raps are smooth as butter.
7. We Ill
A lot of people gravitated toward this song when the album first dropped, but I wasn't one of them. I know Roc Marci likes minimalistic beats, but this one was a little too minimalistic, with no drums even remotely in sight. Not just that, but the sample kind of grates on the ears, which is the main problem with "We Ill."
And we're back on track. This cut is awesome, containing one of the most relaxing beats your ears will ever have the pleasure of hearing. Roc Marciano sounds extremely energized as if this were his favorite song on Reloaded.
9. Death Parade
Sometimes, songs sound actually nothing like their titles suggest. This is not one of those types of songs, as Roc's piano-laced instrumental couldn't possibly be any more ghastly. "Death Parade" is freaking great, even if the "niggas don't want it like the HIV virus" line on the hook is kind of corny for a gifted wordsmith like Roc Marciano.
10. 20 Guns
After a creepier first 18 seconds than I needed to hear, Roc Marci drops one verse over an extremely refined production. This was under two minutes long, and it's a good thing, because I didn't like "20 Guns" that much at all.
Roc lays down what is probably the most non-confrontational beat imaginable, and it sounds pretty freaking good. Roc Marciano gets his Sean Price on, throwing a bunch of rhymes together that are completely independent of one another, and like Sean P, he manages to make it work.
12. Thread Count
Q-Tip is on the boards for "Thread Count," and he laces one of the best cuts on Reloaded. The sample is gritty, complementing Roc Marci's style very well as he glides over the instrumental like he was born for the sole purpose of spitting on "Thread Count." This is impeccable rider music. The fact that Roc says "ride to this" as he is ad-libbing toward the end only further proves my point.
13. Nine Spray
This is the only other track on Reloaded with a guest appearance, and it's Ka again. While "Nine Spray" may have fit better on Ka's album, this is still pretty solid. Ray West's beat (Roc Marci did not produce this one) is appropriately reticent, and both Roc Marciano and Ka ride it seamlessly.
"Emeralds" was the first single. Plain and simply, this knocks. The Arch Druids crafted the banging, dusty instrumental for Roc, who immediately raps about how he has "Lamborghini dreams and Nissan nightmares." Only "Flash Gordon" can top "Emeralds" on Reloaded.
15. The Man
Roc Marci lays down a soulful production for himself to rip, and he does just that. The rhymes don't actually make sense when you try to piece them together, but who cares? That's Roc Marciano's style, and he does it damn well.
*16. I Shot The King
If you have the deluxe version of Reloaded, then you'll be treated to three bonus tracks, and "I Shot The King" is the first of the three. Roc does his best to get his Twista on here (okay, not really, but this is as close as Roc Marci is going to get to doing that), and it actually ends up sounding alright. Not one of my favorite songs on Reloaded, but it's not half-bad. I could have done without the sampled hook, though.
*17. Sweet Nothings
This is awesome. The Arch Druids laced the beat for "Sweet Nothings," and they produced a joint that is ideal rider music. Possibly even moreso than "Thread Count." The instrumental is very stately, and Roc Marciano spits on it gracefully.
*18. Paradise For Pimps
The final record on Reloaded goes to Alchemist, and it sounds exactly like the title entails. Alchemist has really changed up his style over the past couple of years, and it has been for the better. His productions just sound that much grimier now. I would really like to hear an entire project from Alc and Roc.
* = deluxe edition bonus track
There was certainly no sophomore slump for Roc Marciano. As a matter of fact, he managed to surpass Marcberg with Reloaded.
As dope as Roc Marci's debut was, his second effort was that much better. He displayed obvious musical growth, from his choice of samples to his overall performance on the mic. The fact that Roc also collected a batch of beats from other producers proves that he was doing all he could to make sure that Reloaded was superior to Marcberg.
The best songs on this album are absolutely phenomenal, representing some of the best that the year 2012 had to offer. Also, while there were a couple of tracks that I wasn't really feeling, they did nothing to interrupt the consistent flow of the project, as each record transitions seamlessly into the next.
What's most impressive about Roc Marciano is the scarce features. Too many times, artists will lump together countless guests on their albums to try and make a hit, but what they fail to realize is that they are taking the spotlight off of themselves (actually, maybe that's their intention).
Roc Marci does not do that. Instead, he showcases his own lyrical talents and only permits guest verses to his own crew, and of the 18 cuts on Reloaded, there are only three such verses, two of them occurring on one song ("Not Told").
Reloaded was easily one of the best albums of 2012, and I'll even go as far to say that it is one of the top hip-hop records of the 2000s. It's that good.
1. Flash Gordon
3. Thread Count
5. Sweet Nothings