By Thomas Johnson, March 9 2018 —
Roc Marciano – RR2 – The Bitter Dose
Since releasing Marcberg in 2010, Roc Marciano has stealthily carved himself a nook among rap’s elite. He’s a pristine revivalist, one that doesn’t fall into the gimmicks and tropes that saturate the ‘golden age’ that’s looked upon with such reverence, nor does his synthesization of styles come at the cost of pandering to ‘real hip-hop’ lugs. His nostalgia is pure because of his unrivalled ability to conjure the spirits of Raekwon, Cormega and a couple other classic slick-tongues.
Despite his continued mastery, last year’s excellent Rosebudd’s Revenge was hindered at times by its mastering, which sounded at best like it was recorded in a closet and at worst like it was recorded in RZA’s basement after a flood. RR2 – The Bitter Dose, can sound similarly muffled but it’s deliberate instead. There’s pops and fizzes like a record player or an 8-track in a Shaolin corridor.
But none of that really matters because The Bitter Dose is inarguably brilliant. Marciano’s wit continues to create one of rap’s most entertaining personas. He literally made a beat from a bed spring squeaking and it’s amazing. Of all the characters he’s brought to life, it only makes sense that the best one would be himself.
Elucid – Shit Don’t Rhyme No More
In direct contrast to Marciano’s rearview approach, Brooklyn MC and Backwoodz Studioz centrepiece Elucid has eyes set squarely frontward. Last year’s Rome, in collaboration with billy woods as Armand Hammer, was a pessimistic anthology of history’s darker themes. Elucid sees the glass half-full of poison and his raps reflect his worldview.
Shit Don’t Rhyme No More is his most caustic release, peppered with moments of levity and a strange beauty. The world Elucid chooses to inhabit is one of malfeasance and the unbridled depravity of man. So when the gloom breaks among the softer moments in instrumentals “Round The Sun” and “Idris” near the album’s conclusion, you get the sense that even the man who rapped, “Empire cycle, what a time to be sedated / Narco haven / The lower the wage, the bigger the gage is” less than four months ago can still feel optimistic. In fact, SDRNM seems to showcase Elucid at his most free. The album’s vehement moments remain steeped in spite, but for maybe the first time in his career, he seems able to relinquish the anger that drives his music. That doesn’t make it any less intense. Rather, it makes it more human.
Spark Master Tape – Seven Sekkonds Of Silence
Blind confidence is infectious. Listening to Seven Sekkonds of Silence is like shotgunning two tall boys en route to a demolition derby with monster trucks driven by The Rock and Wesley Snipes. There’s no room for subtlety, nuance or subliminals. Spark Master Tape wants your heart to explode through your eardrums.
The Paper Platoon, an anonymous collective, has produced the entirety of his four mixtapes, draping his artificial baritone with styles from Mos Def to Birdman and Lil Wayne. It’s as freewheeling as one can be without forking up massive sample clearances. The anonymous MC, who’s slick talk rivals Marciano and Elucid in terms of detailing, allows his unfiltered impulses to take the wheel and his boasts seem too specifically absurd to be fictional. He’s a cold, stoned Stonecold Steve Austin.
This is what boom-bap sounds like — or could sound like — in 2018. Spark Master Tape is Captain Murphy with a spiked bat or Billy Danze on bath salts. Seven Sekkonds Of Silence is lush, barbaric, party-smart robbery music. It’s the most instinctively enjoyable mixtape of 2018 so far.
Justin Timberlake – Man Of The Woods
Justin Timberlake deserves our respect. He’s the quintessential pop star. He underwent a metamorphosis in which he curled up into a macaroni hair cocoon and emerged a renaissance man. He’s the closest thing our generation is going to get to a Frank Sinatra. He’s built a successful acting resumé, led one of the greatest boy bands of all time, struck a massively successful solo career filled with generational anthems and offered uncredited backup on the single greatest artistic achievement since a neanderthal struck the primordial cave with a stone — The Black Eyed Peas’s “Where Is The Love.” By many metrics he is the pop standard. He deserves our respect.
But yeah. This sucks.