By Thomas Johnson, October 2 2018 —
Is Long Island scribbler Roc Marciano the best rapper alive? If not, he’s certainly one of the most influential. His undertone voice — cold and sharp like a well-oiled guillotine — can be heard in the deliveries of any New York MC over the past eight years. The sparse loops over which he weaves his tales of pimpery have become the go-to modus for any lyricist worth his salt in bars. But is he the best rapper alive? Behold The Dark Horse, Marciano’s third outstanding album in two years, makes it hard to argue otherwise.
Roc’s brand of hip-hop — an exhaustive use of dusty loops combined with cramming as many syllables between barely audible drums as possible — isn’t a recipe for hits. As such, Roc’s catalogue serves as a chronologically improving display of his pen-game. And there’s no one who writes a rap song quite like Roc.
Dark Horse is defined by its off-kilter menace, with the muted threats that Roc delivers in his nasally monotone. In what amounts to the tightest songwriting of his career, his vivid imagery forms a perfect union with his gallows humour and hyper-referencial methodology. It makes for a character unlike any other — a chuckling sociopath, mac-daddy fashionista. For example, on “Amethyst,” he raps, “The snub is stainless / The ye was white like Shia LaBeouf, I waited / ‘Lipo sucked the plug, I leave you weightless.”
Bolstered by stellar turns from Knowledge the Pirate, Black Thought and Busta Rhymes — the latter two will likely compete on various year-end lists for Verse of the Year — Roc Marci’s latest is the best rap album since, well, his last one. Until last week, Roc’s February album, RR2: The Double Dose, was a front-runner for the year’s best rap album. And yet, Behold A Dark Horse.