First of all, let's talk about the artist. Roc Marciano is from Long Island, and his real name is Rakeem Calief Myer (per Wikipedia). I found an interview on unkut where he describes how he came up with his MC name by saying, "My name is Rakeem, and that’s my initial’s – R.M. My last name is Myer. So Rock – Rocky is my family name, like anybody that knows me for a long time knows my family call me Rocky, so I just took the Marciano ‘cos he’s a champion". It was at around this time that I got super confused, since I don't know of anyone with the last name Marciano, so I had to look that up too (I know, I know), at which point I discovered that Rocky Marciano was a professional boxer and NOT the subject of that Sylvester Stallone movie because YES, I had to look that up to. Like I said: I know, I know, I'm sure my husband will be disappointed enough in me for the lot of you. Personal failings aside, however, the best thing about the unkut interview was without a doubt Marciano's natural speaking style, which is peppered with the phrase "and shit" ("we stopped at a truck stop and shit", "it just stuck and shit", etc.), which wouldn't be particularly remarkable except for the fact that Marciano's rap style is so INCREDIBLY intelligent and diverse that it's hard to believe that that interview and this album came from the same guy.
So now let's talk about the album. As I mentioned, Marciano's flow is remarkable, with unexpected word pairings, rhythms, and rhymes that communicate an undeniable aptitude for language (like on "Peru", where he says "As I get tatted in my suite in Manhattan/Speakin' Latin/I'm a lover/Covered in body butter/Brown skin Somali color/Melancholy"). At first, I wasn't quite sure what to think about the fact that his style is more stream-of-consciousness than linear, especially since, by the end of my first listen, I knew that he talked a lot about guns and sex, but I couldn't put a cohesive picture of the album together in my mind. As soon as I cued it up for take two, however, I understood: although Marciano riffs so freely that a "story" is never told, he manages to paint vignettes along the way with such precision that I could remember hearing almost every verse before. Basically, his word play is so unique that it is ITSELF the attraction, more important than even the meaning behind it. And really, who else would even think to rhyme "clitoris" with "porridge" or "erogenous" with "hippopotamus" (both from "Flash Gordon" - "Spit the chorus/To stimulate the whore's clitoris/It tastes like porridge" and "I hit the spot that's erogenous/Erotic/Brolic hips hippopotamus/Chocolate bitch")?
Musically, this album is also very different from your average mainstream, big-budget type stuff, eschewing hip hop beats pretty much entirely for what the Rhapsody reviewer calls "psychedelic vibes and abstract fusion jazz". Marciano's voice is unassuming and a little fuzzy, but that just adds to the effect: he has no need to be in-your-face to prove his worth, especially when he's spitting over a beat that most rappers would avoid like