Roc Marciano & Gangrene
Some may choose to grouse about the current trend in hip hop of the so-called “supergroup”, where MCs and producers come together seemingly out of the blue to collaborate and release material. I, on the other hand, applaud such cooperation between artists; talented people working together with the singular goal of releasing dope music is, in my book, no way a bad thing. Greneberg, a short EP on which the extraordinarily gifted Roc Marciano combines forces with the duo of Oh No and Alchemist (known together as Gangrene), demonstrates the positive value of such collaboration. While the final product may be a little on the short side, the beats and rhymes of concocted by Marciano, Alchemist and Oh No swirl together nicely and create an enjoyable listening experience that sounds unique in the glossy and sugary-sweet current hip hop landscape.
From the first few bars onward, it’s clear the star of the show is going to be Roc Marciano. Debate has surfaced over how best to classify his style, with “throwback” seemingly being the (unsatisfying) consensus. He’s not the loudest rapper with the most ostentatious catchphrases or adlibs, but his hardened persona in conjunction with his knack for rhyme patterns is more than engrossing. When he locks into a syllabic scheme, it’s astounding how far he can stretch the rhyme, nearly always carrying on for multiple bars. These skills are showcased on the opening track, which is produced by Marciano himself. As anyone familiar with his lauded solo effort Marcberg can attest to, Roc’s style of beats and rapping are a perfect pair; he gets into autopilot mode and drops gems like, “The after effects of harsh livin’, turn hearts frigid/Thank the Lord I’m artistic with dark pigment/Palm biscuits, cut butter, but still its no picnic.”
Of course, while Marciano sounds comfortably at home over his own beats, the truly intriguing aspect of this EP is the question of how he fits over the production of Oh No and Alchemist. The answer is pretty obvious from the start of “Hoard 90,” the Alchemist-produced second track; this combination is a match made in — as opposed to heaven — definitely the grimiest of sewers. Roc absolutely demolishes every beat he comes across, an accomplishment that must be partially credited to the top-notch quality of the production he’s given to work with. The ominous, yet catchy “New Shit” is a perfect example as to why the medley of Roc and Gangrene works. Oh No, the talented younger brother of Madlib, sticks true to the family business of blending an array of sounds and vocal samples together that in the hands of any other producer would result in cacophonous disaster. The end product here, however, is the perfect type of dark and gutter beat that Roc can absolutely smash out of the park.
While there’s no doubt as to their talent as producers, the MCing abilities of the Gangrene duo are definitely a wildcard. Alchemist, though he won’t be winning any MC battles anytime soon, is serviceable on the microphone. His presence is a little lackluster, especially compared to the icy and captivating Marciano, but his lyrics and flow are always solid if not astonishing (he shines on “Jet Luggage” but comes up a little short of spectacular on “Sewer Gravy”). Oh No, who, it must be noted, is a far superior rapper than his more-famous older brother, is a little more talented. Though his flow isn’t as in-the-pocket as Marciano’s, he’s no lyrical slouch and his appearances never detract from the overall quality of the songs he appears on. Neither of the two steals the show from Marciano at any point, but both do well enough so as not to lessen the listening experience.
At less than twenty-five minutes, Greneberg is over far too quickly. The album doesn’t really have a shining, defining, “must hear” track, yet is consistently strong throughout without — with the exception of the news report outro on “Sewer Gravy” — a wasted moment. It’s a quick album to digest, which may be an indicator of a lack of staying power in your CD changer, and one that you’ll certainly find yourself nodding and scowling to but never falling in love over. As a sampler as to what this talented trio can accomplish, however, Greneberg is an excellent testament to the idea that grimy hip hop, void of poppy sheen, can not only survive but thrive in 2011.
Get FamiliarJ. Kennedy
Meet Midwest-by-way-of-SD MC/producer, J. Kennedy, and check out the premiere of his brand new project, ‘California Dreaming’.