Roc Marciano is making up for lost time. Until 2010’s acclaimed Marcberg, the Long Island artist’s most notable accomplishments were his time spent riding the bench for Busta Rhymes late 90’s/early ‘00s Flipmode Squad and his membership in the little- known group The U.N. But as anyone who has witnessed his devastating output over the past three year years knows, Marciano is a skilled solo artist who has perfected his style and is deserving of the attention he is quickly attracting. His newest tape, The Pimpire Strikes Back, further cements his position as top tier emcee.
Marciano delivers bars with a menacing slickness. Listening to him spit is the audio equivalent of a deep sip of Scotch while smoking a cigar. His intensely smooth voice perfectly matches his preferred subject matter. With the title The Pimpire Strikes Back, no one should be surprised to hear lines about dealing drugs, concealing weapons, and controlling bottom bitches. This is street rap at its finest, broadcast from where “Martin Luther King’s dream died.” Besides his silky, always on time flow, what truly elevates him above the well-worn subject matter are the moments of wit and wordplay. Many rappers boast about being violent drug dealers, but few phrase it as elegantly as Marciano does on “Take Me Over”: “Yeah, sloppily ni**as copy my intellectual property / Papi, this isn’t pie this is poppy seed / My head curly like a poppy seed / Cock a 30 back, pop your knee”. While he could hold down each song on his own, guest verses from rappers such as Cormega and Mayhem Lauren add a nice change of pace. Action Bronson shows up for two tracks, reveling in his patent blend of humorous references to food sports, women and excess (“while the blunts burn slow, elk is in the oven”). And relative unknown Knowledge the Pirate kills it on his three appearances.
A sign of Marciano’s ascension to hip hop heavyweight can be seen in the production credits of Pimpire. While he proved himself a fully capable on his completely self-produced solo debut, he now splits time behind the boards with A-listers Madlib, Alchemist, Lord Finesse and Evidence. Madlib sets the standard high with a typically vibrant blend of soul samples, dusty drums and blurting horns on the standout single, “Sacrifice”. The rest of the beats maintain a consistent sound built with haunting strings, pianos, horns, and a medley of soul and funk samples. Unfortunately, many of the song’s loops repeat far too frequently and the beats grow monotonous before the verses finish.
The tape as a whole would get more spins if tracks like the Alchemist-produced “Ten Toes” were built upon more dynamic foundations. Roc Marciano is planning to release his third solo LP, Marci Beaucoup, next month and if The Pimpire Strikes Back is a collection of tracks deemed not good enough to have made the cut, then it will certainly be a contender for album of the year. As it stands, The Pimpire Strikes Back is grimy, New York rap at its finest and better than most full albums of the sub-genre.