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Roc Marciano Builds His Own Exquisite Crime-Rap Universe on ‘Marci Beaucoup’

Roc Marciano
SPIN Rating: 8 of 10
Release Date: December 10, 2013
Label: Man Bites Dog

Welcome to Marci World — it’s a dusky rap wonderland. Since 2010’s Marcberg, Long Island-raised rapper and producer Roc Marciano has traveled a steady path to connoisseur’s acclaim. He capitalized on the slow-burn, dank appeal of that album with last year’s resplendent Reloaded; now, in 2013, he’s following up last month’s playful The Pimpire Strikes Back with Marci Beaucoup, self-described as more of a producer’s project, and proof that he’s now master of his own domain.

Marcberg and, particularly, Reloaded were classically wrought albums in the sense of carrying a listener on a track-by-track journey fueled by Marciano’s narrative skills; they fused the rapper’s wry and throaty voice with the sort of intricate eye for obtuse detail that made Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx crime-rhyme treatise so vivid. (It’s a wonder the cracked-to-shards piranha fish-tank wasn’t resurrected for a cameo.) But Marci Beaucoup deviates from that formula. Roc still raps, but he more crucially holds down a maestro’s role, offering up his increasingly signature beats to a wide range of cohorts. So erstwhile Marci allies Ka and Knowledge the Pirate feature prominently (the former most impressively on the warped-yet-steely “Confucious,” which bodes well for their joint Metal Clergy project). But the charm here lies in how Roc can cast a wider net but somehow maintain a tighter focus.

As a roll call: Evidence follows up his sterling work on The Pimpire Strikes Back with a spot on the quiet-storm workout “Love Means”; Freeway promises us “the beard is back” on the equal parts twinkling and thudding “Didn’t Know”; and Diggin’ in the Crates mainstay A.G. closes out “Soul Music,” which exudes the playful soul of a vintage Prince Paul production. More contemporary guest nods come from the increasingly superb Boldy James (“Trying to Come Up”), Los Angeles-based oddball Blu, Detroit fixture Quelle Chris (“Cut The Check”), and cocksure Brooklynite Maffew Ragazino (who even attempts a brief bit of French on “Dollar Bitch”). In even the most skilled hands, producer-helmed albums can become disjointed and tainted with a whiff of randomness, but Marci Beaucoup is expertly stitched together by virtue of Roc’s exquisite production, an object lesson in low drums, caustic ambience, and the philosophy of infusing a song with the feel of its sample source, rather than relying on the instant gratification of an in-your-face loop. It all results in a seamless listen.

At this point in his career, Roc Marciano has risen to the top of what is inevitably termed the underground strata of rap. But instead of reaching that precipice and seeming to over-stretch for some sort of tipping point into the mainstream, he’s forged his own world, on his own terms, and invited like-minded artists to flourish there as well. Long may his principality prosper.