A crazy amount of music just dropped. New emcees, foreign emcees, producers, pop superstars, R&B crooners, and some guy named Chance; you can’t even swing a lil yachty without hitting an artist worthy of your time. Still, while there’s much to digest, all these other artists are going to have to take a number because, as far as I'm personally concerned, Rittz’ Top Of The Lineis at the front of the line.
For starters, Rittz has one of the best flows in rap. Combine that with Strange Music’s knack for face-melting beats, and of course an appearance form label boss Tech N9ne, and needless to say I’m excited. At first we discussed giving Top Of The Line a 1-Listen review, as I tend to do with albums that I can feel all the way down in my plums, but if I tried to 1-Listen 24 tracks of Rittz going the fuck in...yeah, I'd die.
So for my sanity, and your convenience, I’d thought I’d nerd out about a few key moments that jumped out at me because, like spinach dip or cocaine, if you get just an appetizer of Rittz and it's delicious, you’ll be hungry for the main course.
Up-down-left-right-a-b-select-start. It’s time for another cheat code album review. Here is everything you need to know about Top Of The Line as fast as possible...
Maybe you're new to Rittz, which is totally fine. Welcome. Glad you're taking the time to check out his work. The first thing you should know is that he can destroy a mic. I realize that's generic and vague, but just listen to “Ghost Story” and you’ll realize its an example of when hyperbole isn't hyperbole at all because it's absolutely true. And if you already knew what kind of destruction he's capable of delivering than good news, this album has plenty more just as good as "Ghost Story." What I love most about this record is his cadences; the last minute alone is unbelievable. It sounds obvious, but sometimes you just need to just flat out state the obvious; Rittz can rap.
I almost didn’t pick this track because it feels like an obvious choice. But I still have to write about it because also...holy shit! Rittz and Tech have two of the most rapid fire, knifing flows in today's rap scene and hearing them on the same track is a treat for listeners. What I love most though is that while the raps are fast and passionate, they are also surgical. Too often we consider “going in” rapping to merely be super loud and aggressive, but there's nothing impressive about someone quickly rattling off bar after bar with no regard for the beat. Here though, both model a complete control.
And don’t think I forgot about Kaliko. His lightning fast flow has a more wavy, laid-back feel, like if Usain Bolt took some quaaludes and still set a world record. This one's a must listen.
“I’m No Good”
“I’m No Good” dispels two myths about rappers like Rittz. First, those with machine gun flows often depend too heavily on them, sacrificing structure for bars on top of bars. While I love bars just as much as Agustus Gloop, that type of rapper will often deliver a hook like a one armed boxer and it results in a track that feels incomplete. Not Rittz. In fact, his hooks are a strengths on this album and this is one of the best examples. It’s catchy and well-executed but doesn't overshadow the point of the song, which has more to do with that other myth.
The same aforementioned rappers and their machine gun flows also try so hard to put on a tough guy persona, and while Rittz definitely has an aggressive side, it’s his honesty and self-reflection that I find most engaging. “I’m No Good” is painfully personal track where the headliner wrestles with his insecurities and issues and how they affect him, and yet at no point does he sound soft or lose his edge. In fact, his growling flow really helps hammer home his frustrations. Don’t get it twisted, Rittz is way more than just a fast flow.
"Is That That Bitch?"
I came for the funky bass line, stayed for the realness. Ask any Rittz fan any they will say the same thing -- the man keeps it real. Case in point, on “Is That That Bitch?” Rittz doesn’t just rock the boat a little, he sinks it like he’s the Battleship world champion.
Rittz does something a lot of artists are too scared to do; check entitled, opinionated fans. This doesn't describe all of his fans, but there are some who feel like because they hit the follow button or bought a t-shirt at a show that they're entitled to give their two cents about how (and who with) his music should be made, despite having little to no insight on the ways the industry works. What makes “Is That That Bitch?” a must listen is because Rittz gives listeners a glimpse of the bullshit that artists face everyday. It’s rare to get this kind of honesty and if it pisses you off, you're probably one of the fans the song is directed at.
It's still very early, and I'm just beginning to truly grab every bar and absorb every kick drum, but as a fan of Rittz, one who couldn't figure out how open the door to his tour bus, this may just end up being his best effort to date. Every time he releases a project I hear a little more growth and depth, and Top Of The Line continues that trend. Everything from his flow to the content to the production is stellar. There's not an obvious weak spot in sight, though, a shortened tracklist would have helped the highs stay high longer.
Cheat Code reviews are designed to work like actual cheat codes. They are designed to help with the quickness, but you really can't experience an album until you do it the right way, start to finish. These are just four of the 24 tracks on the album, so there's no way I could properly capture the full project.
There's so much more to rap-nerd over, so don't just Cheat Code your way through Top of The Line. Do it the right way. Rittz is more than worthy.