Reviews of good albums we overlooked this year...
Roc Marciano is a survivor of the roughest neighborhoods of Long Island, of the Busta Rhymes-led crew Flipmode Squad and, most importantly, of the ice-cold tomb once known as New York rap. But it has to be this way for Marciano - who is also a former member of the Carson Daly-bankrolled, hard-core hip-hop group the UN - because without the struggle, there'd be no payoff. His proper solo debut, "Marcberg," issued in May, is unlike any other rap album released in 2010, mostly because it's like so many rap albums released in 1996.
Entirely self-produced, Marciano's long-gestating opus is full of gutty, gritty East Coast formalism, deeply indebted to Rakim, Mobb Deep and the RZA in equal measure. The samples are jagged edges of guitar licks, low-toned organ lines and gangster movie monologues. As a rapper Marciano is calm and measured, a classic grinder who won't overwhelm you with metaphor, but paints a menacing portrait at every turn and toys with syntax in unusual ways.
On the standout "Snow," he raps: "Reaching for toast like TV remotes/spray cans where graffiti is wrote/and where the media promote/so I appear like a genie in smoke/and for me it's so easy to boast/even when I'm greasy and broke/in a peacoat/and this beat here is good as meatloaf/better yet, a pot roast." No flash or whiz-bang. Just a hardworking technician shining in the cold winter.