"I don't really get writer's block... I just go in when I'm inspired, it's natural - I let it happen organically. I don't force music."
Roc was inspired early on by veteran New York artists such as Rakim, Ultramagnetic MCs and Nice & Smooth. With nerves calmed by green smoke, he sinks deep into levelheaded gangsterism on every track, revelling in it. Although the subject matter may be nothing new, his take on it all is refreshing; he offers a unique perspective with a relaxed flow and incredibly dense, multisyllabic rhyme patterns.
When he raps, Roc assumes the role of the general hustler, earning a living (and then some) however he sees fit, be it through women, drugs or robbery, if necessary. He’s a confidant mafioso, a connoisseur - calm, collected and driven with a hunger for money and success. But despite this confidence, the inevitable paranoia of a criminal life is present in his verses. Both sides are perfectly illustrated in this line from 'Deeper': “Shake out, dress understated at the steakhouse / Spaced out, deep in the game, pray I make it out.” He’s attracted to the risks of the criminal life, whether comparing his girl to Sharon Stone’s unfaithful and drug-addicted Ginger character in Casino or expressing his willingness to rock a ski mask and take money when necessary.
Intrigued? Read on - below are the ''76' lyrics, a standout track from Roc's Reloaded album:
Quadraports, slide off through a time warp
Been gettin' money before dinosaurs
Diamonds is on, llamas is worn
Write rhymes on island resorts
Dimes who snort
Some guys who slide a line inside a Newport
Push a fly two-door like Too $hort
I'm just an artist with a tek
Hard as a baguette, I'm just an artist with a tek, carve a nigga head
You a meatball, get squeezed on
Your physical being turned to creamed corn
Slice a quarter for the order
Supporter, roll dice on the corner
Gats tucked, big casket, touch them at the cusp
Couple of hundred racks on the rug
Young don, son's under the arm
He treats Lamborghinis like bumper cars
Got scars, chains around the neck like scarves
Your limbs hang out of threads like yarn
I'm the next big thing
Chickenheads cling, the bedspring king
Run the ring, my head is on the top of the pyramid
Pictures of me and all my affiliates
We lit Phillies like idiots
Kill the lineage, let 'em know what it really is
Niggas is penniless with skinny ribs
I fire semis at too many wigs
I feel like Billy the kid, skinny big
You literally live as a guinea pig
If the Timbs ain't on deck, you know the Pennies is
Your finger still penny pimps
You make me pull the Mac Milly out the Fendi trench
In any event, hold the 12 gauge that's heavy as shit
For every clip we let steadily rip
Push your afro back to '76, motherfucker...
Huh? Niggas is petty, legendary
All of my enemies are dead and buried
I let 20 hit your strawberry Pelle
Burn holes in your belly like Henny
Bet he turn up dead like Freddie
For owin' niggas 'fetti, get cut with a machete
Lift you up, prick you with the Dezzy
Smuggle drugs stuffed in a teddy
Your bitch get fucked, missionary
Visionary, I bust shots out the tinted M, daddy
Ghetto poet, fourth and the rodent looked bloated
You shouldn't have gloated, I unload it
I was molded to stand up whenever niggas folded
Your spirit out your body just floated
Word to my son, I murder a bum
Turn the thumb, until it swell up like plumb
Your future look glum, heard I feel none, I'm numb
With guns, bang on you like a steel drum
Spill blood, plus sweat
Before I lift the iron up, stretch
Clutch the tek, bust 'til you wet, hands rubber neck
Like "damn, what a fuckin' mess"
Who wan come test the unimpressed? Make you undress
To eat food like I'm underfed
Dump with the Feds like I'm on dead with one in the head
Dont let it be left unsaid...
"There were just certain samples I knew I had for a long time, and always wanted to keep if I wanted to do an album... I knew that if they still sounded good after all the years I'd have to use them."
Marciano's a self-described minimalist when it comes to beat-making. His production style is simple and intuitive, drawing from an archive of handpicked samples he's amassed over the years. Take the track below, for example - 'Deeper'. Roc dusted off a John Martyn record from ’73 called ‘So Much in Love With You’, flipping, accelerating and pitch-shifting the song into an incredibly smooth and addictive loop that he casually demolishes with words. His sound is simultaneously chilling and soulful, and perfectly complements his lyricism.
He's also fond of film dialogue, having been inspired by Dr. Dre and RZA. The interludes and skits on his albums are most often the boasting of pimps and dealers or scenes of violence. He'll occasionally step in and act out a scene himself.
As dope as his instrumentals are, Roc's still in the learning process when it comes to production. He's constantly looking to improve, and is on the right track considering Q-Tip oversaw the mastering of his Reloaded album. He's expressed interest in eventually including live instrumentation on future projects as well, inspired by artsits such as Parliament-Funkadelic, the Ohio Players, Barry White and Issac Hayes. His confidence is clearly on the rise, though, seeing as a compilation is in the works that will feature all his own production with guest verses from his closest friends and collaborators. Stay tuned.
Networking & Collaborations
We couldn't sum this section up better than Roc did during after being asked how he "dodged the loopholes of this bullshit-ass industry" by Out Da Box TV:
"I think more than anything it's just me being a good person, man - me being a good nigga… and networking… and knowing good people… Me being a good person attracted other good people in my life. That had a lot to do with me continuing on."
Having Q-Tip master his Reloaded album didn't hurt either.
In short, Marciano's making connections. Watch the official video for the self-titled debut single from M.A.R.S., the New York City supergroup comprised of Action, Roc Marciano, Cormega and Saigon (you may have seen this in our pervious segment of On The Come-Up, but it's worth watching again). You'll also see collaborations with producers Arch Druids and Random Axe (Black Milk, Guilty Simpson and Sean Price).
Catalogue / Work Ethic
"I've got so many projects in the can that I be forgetting... I'mma just keep coming every quarter."
Other than what's already been mentioned, in an October 2012 interview with Hip-Hop Wired, Roc broke down the multiple projects he has in the works, only one of which has been released so far:
There you have it. Roc has at least five projects that are near completion, both solo and collaborative, and shows no signs of slowing down. It looks like we'll be seeing a steady stream of Marciano material for the foreseeable future. The well isn't even close to dry.
"It was a lot of love, but it was also a lot of struggle."
Roc's come a long way from apartment 655 in the 100 building on Terrace Avenue, having recently moved to California to be closer to his daughter and get away from the increasingly Orwellian NYPD. Despite this, the street spirit is still very much in him - the New York street spirit, specifically. He maintains an effortless balance between meditation and hyper-violence, humour and horror, and supreme confidence and paranoia in his music. The combination is unreal.
Roc Marciano may be a somewhat of a cult rapper at the moment, but his following is growing, and we can pretty much guarantee you'll be seeing and hearing a lot more of him in the near future. He's gradually letting go of years of ideas, stored away for too long. But we'll let him have the last word:
"[I'm] evolving constantly… improving, so I feel like I'm getting better every day. So I think people are just gon' dig the fact that the music is getting better. And it's getting to a point where I don't do it as a hobby no more, I can do it professionally - I've been doin' it professionally, but [for] a couple of years, I wasn't really pushing hard at rap like that. [Now] I'm pushing more at it and getting better at it… so I think people are just going to hear the improvement, and that's all I want from the fans, to see that I'm growing; I want to see them serious about my music. And I don't wanna act like I got it all figured out, it can't get no better, I just want to continue to improve and make great music, man, so hopefully they just accept it for what it is."
Note: The quotations in this article were drawn from Roc's April 2012 interview with Out Da Box TV.
HNHH's 'On The Come-Up' profiles rising rappers and producers that show strong promise but haven't necessarily seen much shine on the site. This could range from those deep underground to artists on the cusp of the mainstream that we've overlooked. You'll find their defining characteristics broken down by category.
"As the dove flew out the glove of the magician, it was just as I predicted - reality is prescripted". -Flash Gordon
For those of you still unfamiliar, meet Roc Marciano, government name Rakeem Calief Myer, one of New York's most promising underground producers and wordsmiths. Roc grew up on Terrace Avenue in Hempstead, Long Island in the midst of the crack epidemic, a place he describes as "one of the worst blocks in America". The struggle is reflected in his verses, but there's also an underlying perseverance. In an era of hard body Saabs and Beamer wagons, when you could still post up in front of the Apollo with a forty and a spliff, he started running with an older crew at a young age, and quickly came to learn the ways of the street. It was a time soundtracked by DJ Dirty Harry, SNS, Ron G, Kid Kapree and Stretch Armstrong & Bobbito.
Fast-forward later into the '90s, and Roc joined Busta Rhymes' Flipmode Squad. Busta's inner circle afforded him great opportunities - he met and chilled with J Dilla, for example. But he didn't put out much material of his own. After a few slow years, he left Flipmode and formed The U.N., a group comprised of himself and emcees Mic Raw, Dino Brave and Laku. They released an album (UN Or U Out) through Carson Daly's 456 Entertainment in 2004, but it didn't see much commercial success, and we haven't heard much from the group since.
Marciano's career didn't start to take off until the release of his debut album Marcberg in May of 2010, which he followed with his sophomore project Reloaded in November of 2012. Both were critically acclaimed. He's since signed to independent New York record label Decon, which has backed artists such as Aceyalone, Jay Electronica, RJD2, Pusha T, Evidence, Freddie Gibbs, Jurassic 5, Black Milk and Goapele.
This is Roc Marciano, round two. He's successfully reinvented himself over the past three years and has been gaining steady recognition for it. Read on for a breakdown of what the he's doing right.