Rittz is far from nothing on his sophomore LP.
It's no secret that hip-hop at large is lacking in original content. If the music isn't about money, it's about sex; if it's not about sex, it's about who's the hardest (no pun intended); if not who's hardest, it's about hip-hop itself. It's in this musical landscape that a label like Tech N9ne's Strange Music is needed the most. A collective of some of the most bizarre (read: interesting) voices in the genre, the imprint has welcomely signed and developed artists that the mainstream would never touch. Fortunately, in the internet age, you don't need the radio to get traction and Strange has grown year-after-year, all thanks to one key fact: they put out some really, really dope shit. Rittz's new LP, Next To Nothing, is no exception.
"You've been sleeping on me, and it's your loss," opens Rittz on "Explode." "The shit I hear you listen to, the type of music that I'm bored of." It's a claim we've heard a thousand times before: the difference is that Rittz really backs it up.
Next To Nothing isn't your typical rap album because Rittz isn't your typical rapper. A ginger from Atlanta with two-lifetimes-worth of emotional and economic struggle, this is an emcee whose character is unlike any other in the game. Hip-hop thrives on originality and Rittz uses his black (erm, white) sheep status to separate himself from the pack, all while proving he can run with the big dogs himself. "I speak my mind even when I’m going too far, even though a part of me agree with Lord Jamar," he rhymes on "White Boy." "We are guests in hip-hop. I’m appreciative that you finally let us in the crib, but I busted my ass to get respect for my craft.”
And respect for his craft Rittz deserves. Clocking in at an hour in runtime, Next To Nothing is, well, nothing, if not an impressive display of verbal gymnastics. Whether he's wowing with a double-time flow on "Wish You Could" or going a bit more radio-friendly on "In My Zone," Rittz has an undeniable prowess on the mic. "Call 911," particularly, may be 2014's most impressive piece of hip-hop storytelling. Featuring two gruesome tales of murder and betrayal, the track is a welcome reminder of horrorcore's impressive ability to disturb and captivate with equal regard. The subject matter won't be for everyone--there's a fair amount of rape and skull-bashing--but Brotha Lynch Hung would be proud.
If Next To Nothing has a problem, it isn't in the performances--Mike Posner, B.o.B., Yelawolf, Trae Tha Truth, Scar, and Twista all bring their A-games--but rather in the album's presentation as a whole. The sequencing is a bit on the haphazard side with no logical progression in sound or theme ("Going Through Hell" sticks out like a sore thumb between "Profit" and the aforementioned "Wish You Could"). There's also a fair amount of fat that could have been cut, particularly "Basket Case," which retreads a lot of the same themes Rittz tackled with more success on his debut. These problems, however, are all too small and common to bother a listener who isn't listening with a hyper-critical ear.
Overall, Rittz's Next To Nothing is one of 2014's most consistently enjoyable releases. If you like your hip-hop pure and uncut, it's a must-hear. Ya-uh-yeah.