Action Bronson, Rare Chandeliers
Roc Marciano, Reloaded (Decon)
As at least one writer pointed out, last week was a big one for New York hip hop. No, Nas didn’t announce that he’d rounded up Pete Rock, DJ Premier and company to begin work on a true sequel to Illmatic. The Wu-Tang Clan hasn’t reunited, and Biggie remains buried.
On Tuesday, though, Roc Marciano, a largely unsung MC from Queens, released Reloaded, a follow-up to his 2010 LP Marcberg and last year’s Greneberg EP. Two days later, Action Bronson, another Queens native, dropped Rare Chandeliers, a mixtape produced entirely by the Alchemist, a Beverly Hills-born beatmaker who, though praised for his work with Mobb Deep and its affiliates, was once one half of a rap group with actor Scott Caan.
In addition to both having worked with the Alchemist, Bronson and Marciano have appeared on some of the same tracks, including one on Reloaded. But while Marciano is a skilled (if slightly unenergetic) rapper, I paid him no mind for years, mostly because he was part of the Flipmode Squad, Busta Rhymes’s collection of second-stringers. No matter how good he was—or might have been, since I categorically refused to listen to him—I couldn’t see past that affiliation.
Reloaded, however, sounds like nothing Marciano would have released with his former crew, either then or now. Listening to it, you feel as though he completely shunned what New York hip hop has become, opting instead for a classic, rugged sound that owes more to Boot Camp Clik than, say, A$AP Rocky or French Montana, the current kings of the city.
Tracks like the string-heavy, self-produced “Emeralds,” as well as “76” and “Pistolier” — the latter an Alchemist production — are welcome bits of ’90s nostalgia. Lyrically, Marciano doesn’t stray far from that decade either, with lines that touch on subjects like guns, automobile aspirations and, woven in there, somehow, talk of spirituality. So your standard golden-era New York fare, albeit updated, but still sure to satisfy the most unapologetic ’90s apologist.
The decade and its influence aren’t lost on Action Bronson, who, before gaining fame as a rapper, worked as a cook. He’s consistently clever, and though he’s been compared to Ghostface Killah, his style is wholly his own. Rare Chandeliers finds him in his usual form, rapping about food, weed, girls and bullshit, this time over the Alchemist’s maturing production. He’s at his best on the Meyhem Lauren- and AG Da Coroner-featuring “Sylvester Lundgren,” coasting over its bouncy bass and drums. And Marciano complements him nicely on “Modern Day Revelations,” with its spare pianos and vocal loops.
Do these two records signal a rebirth of New York hip hop? Probably not. But both Bronson and Marciano are unabashedly loyal to the form, a fact fans, especially older ones, will appreciate. Bronson, of course, has greater commercial prospects, but he seems set on creating records with one collaborator at a time—not exactly the stuff mainstream success is made of. Marciano, meanwhile, is arguably the MC most faithful to that classic sound. Where that will take him is anyone’s guess. But he, like Bronson, hardly seems to care.
Solange, “Lovers in the Parking Lot”
Faye, “Breathe Out”
Formerly of Scandi-pop group Play, and known as Fanny (until, presumably, she got involved with a British label), Faye really sells her new single here, with sepia tones, feathers and an art deco backdrop. Classy. The single is out on Best Fit Recordings.