Roc Marciano raps about himself like a legend who passed away. By his own account, the Long Island rapper—born Rahkeim Meyer—is just like mobster Guy Fisher, but only a bit richer. He isn’t just a phenom; he’s as popping as Fila is to the youth. God didn‘t just mold him in his image; The Lord dipped Marci in seasoning salt before he was born. Every Roc Marciano bar reads like a eulogy for the greatest character Rudy Ray Moore never created. His style is nothing short of intoxicating.
Marciano’s style has endeared him to the world of independent hip-hop for the entirety of the last decade. After a stint with Busta Rhymes’ Flipmode Squad in the early 2000s, he released his solo debut Marcberg in 2010, emerging fully formed from the shadows of the New York underground. His blend of lo-fi production and free-association bars have helped clear the way for a new lane of music occupied by everyone from KA and Earl Sweatshirt to Griselda Records and Action Bronson.
Marcielago, the rapper’s seventh solo album, doesn’t attempt to fix what isn’t broken. It’s more pimptastic chronicles spread out across 15 tracks and 50 minutes. Marciano’s bars range from funny (“I’m in the Bahamas til I came back the same shade as Akon”) to thoughtful (“You prayed I was done, but I won with the faith of a mustard seed”), with an extra dash of lavishness to complete the ensemble: “I copped the Patek because time is precious.” Marciano sells every fable with conviction.
The production on Marcielago carries just as much flair. Mostly handled by Marciano with a few assists from Alchemist and ANiMOSS, the beats make minimalism crackle and snap. Perfectly chopped loops set the atmosphere, backed up by soft drums that don’t draw too much attention. Tracks like “Choosin’ Fees” and “I.G.W.T.” exemplify this savoring of mood and atmosphere, while “Puff Daddy” and “God Loves You” indulge Marciano’s more bombastic tendencies.
If there is a running theme throughout Marcielago, it’s a yearning for respect. On “Tom Chambers,” he uses the imprisonment of New York rap-croon pioneer Max B to call out the hypocrisy of people tossing roses when innovators can’t smell them anymore: “What good’s the credit if you can’t get it while you alive?” Marci snarls.
As the decade comes to a close, Roc Marciano’s influence on rap music has only become more apparent. His output of quality music keeps fans ready and willing to pay $30 for early access, a tactic currently being used by many independent rappers. The lane Marciano created has only gotten wider. He is tired of the false starts and compliments behind closed doors. Marcielago is another entry in his self-canonization.
Standout track: “I.G.W.T.”
Best bar: “Hov gave me a dap, right afterward he stabbed Un in the abdomen.”
Favorite moment: When Roc Marciano rhymes multiple words—at the same time.
[Editor's Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly cited Roc Marciano as using a homophobic slur on the album. No slurs were used.]