This review is part of the Colossus Guest Time Series. Some weeks will have one, some will have two, others will have none. At Colossus we are committed to be for the people and by the people! If you are interested in writing a review of your favorite album, DM us on Twitter at @music_colossus!
Roc Marciano has quietly built one of the most consistent catalogs in rap. Ranking his discography is not an easy undertaking and his newest album Behold a Dark Horse only further complicates that task. Continuing to deliver his brand of off-kilter, stream-of-consciousness raps with the most precise and unnecessary-yet-fly details, Roc Marciano floats on every track leaving you wondering how someone can rhyme so many syllables while still sounding so smooth.
Setting things off over some haunting production Roc doesn’t waste any time delivering a slew of fresh rhymes to satisfy his core audience as well as welcoming newcomers to his world of slick talk and syllable acrobatics. He then gets you settled into the album as jungle drums of “Congo” let Roc coast through his bars showcasing his signature wordplay which is unlike anyone else in the game and includes quips like:
“I give you this work like you unemployed,
I just copped another toy, spoiled like a new little bundle of joy,
you bums couldn’t touch a coin.”
Not one for many features Roc Marciano includes two titans on this album as Black Thought and Busta Rhymes both show up, with the former doing what he does best by delivering yet another MVP caliber verse further proving that he’s only gotten better with age and is easily one of the greatest of all time, while the latter motors his way through the spastic “Trojan Horse” while also providing the hook.
Other gems include “Amethyst”, “Fabio” (produced by The Alchemist) and “1000 Deaths” where he drops lines like “this a kilo on my earlobe for realo, yall some weirdos, Ferragamos with some clear soles, the new TEC-22 with the air holes, gotta be prepared holmes.” His cadence combined with the nonstop rhyming is what set him apart from other rappers in the game as someone like 2 Chainz may drop witticisms with brilliant simplicity but Roc cleverly weaves his jokes into elaborate schemes that have you pulling lines back just to catch everything.
It helps that Roc Marciano produces a lot of his own songs as sometimes you almost think he’s off beat until you realize that he just found a groove that no one else even knew was there. There may not be any direction to many of his bars but it sounds so fly that it doesn’t matter that he’s basically just throwing together random phrases. And speaking of no direction, many of his beats have an almost free-jazz aesthetic to them as heard on a track like “Sampson & Delilah” which is built upon running strings, a simple flute line and the occasional vocal sample thrown in. It’s songs like this that truly set Roc Marciano apart as most rappers wouldn’t know how to attack a beat like this but he proves that you don’t need a standard 4/4 drum loop in order to coast on a track. The result of all this is production that may sound dissonant at times but his flow makes it a smooth song you can vibe to.
Behold a Dark Horse is another solid outing from the people’s champ and continues Roc Marciano’s streak of providing gritty New York raps housed in a package of extravagant artistry. He sounds as fly as ever but when you get beneath the surface you hear the griminess in bars like “condo shopping out in Cabo, the condom broke but that ain’t my child though” and realize that dude is your average cat just trying to navigate the streets like everyone else. If you like multi-syllabic rhyme schemes from a slick-talking pimp over eclectic production then Roc Marciano will be your new favorite rapper and if you’re already up on his stellar catalog then this will only further cement his legacy as one of the greats of the last decade.