Over the past few years, Roc Marciano has established himself as one of the marquee acts in New York rap’s underground scene (really, rap’s underground scene, period). Having already released his The Pimpire Strikes Back mixtape earlier, Marciano puts a cap on 2013 with his third solo album, Marci Beaucoup – another solid addition to his increasingly watertight catalogue.
1. Roc Marciano and Friends.
After going it alone for almost the entirety of his first two solo albums, Roc flips the script on Marci Beaucoup – enlisting guests for every song. Paired beside Roc’s steely delivery and unflinching nonchalance, his collaborators sound ten percent sharper and at least that much more menacing.
Among the highlights are Evidence’s biographical sketch on album opener “Love Means,” Knowledge the Pirate’s Keyser Söze-referencing spot on “Drug Lords,” and British rapper S.A.S.’s swaggering, punchline-heavy showing on “Willie Manchester.” Roc manages to pull his running mates into his world just enough to where even his sniggering disdain for “social media ni**as,” or Freeway’s ‘Get Off My Lawn’ scolding on “Didn’t Know” just seem mostly amusing.
2. Mixtape vs. Album.
If there’s a drawback to the guest-heavy lineup, it’s that Marci Beaucoup feels more like a mixtape than a true solo album. Nobody veers off course enough to throw off Roc’s richly colored kingpin portraits, but there’s still a bit of a conceptual deficiency at play. There are verses – like the sensory getaway storyline of “Trying to Come Up” – that deserve full songs, and you get the feeling that Roc’s narrative skill is undersold a bit by the amount of pass-the-mic going on.
While Roc pushes open the doors to collaborations on the rapping side of things, he remains steadfastly self-contained behind the boards, and for good reason. Because he’s such a naturally gifted rapper, it’s easy to overlook how good his production work is, and Marci Beaucoup is his most consistent, if not outright best, album in that respect.
Towards the front half of the album, Roc showcases his affinity for warm, crackling soul on tracks like “Love Means” and “Soul Music” – it’s a sound he mines almost perfectly as a contrast to his deadpan delivery (he still levels chopped vocal samples a little too loudly for his understated cadence). The album grows progressively darker, a low-flickering slow burn on “Squeeze” building towards the psychedelic chaos of “Psych Ward” – the latter a collaboration with The Alchemist, whose influence can be heard in the sun-soaked guitar strokes and heavy piano loops that pop up towards the end of the album.
4. “Just look what I do with this English.”
Roc remains a compelling rapper, especially at a micro level, worthy of your perked attention lest you miss the fine details in his wit, style (he rocks the same velour as Prince), and swagger (he’s “too cool to break a sweat,” even when jumping Omar Little-style out of a window to avoid a stick-up). So while it would be an affront to his writing to call his persona one-dimensional, it does risk ringing hollow after three albums. Even Omar broke a sweat once in a while.