Roc Marciano Behold A Dark Horse

Written on April 19, 2020

The bottom line

At this point, Roc Marciano’s gritty, dark rapping ability should be unquestioned and he delivers another gem to add to his already impressive catalog. His technical writing skills are right up there with the elites of hip hop.

Behold A Dark Horse is Roc Marciano’s second solo album of 2018 and it picks up right where The Bitter Dose left off. Anyone who knows Roc knows what they’re going to get and this album is no different, and that’s not a bad thing. He delivers verses with flawless metaphors and just the right amount of syllables to let the bars breathe.

This album starts off fantastically with an almost comic-like villainy sound for about 15 seconds until Roc starts rapping with his trademark voice and style. During this album review, it was hard to not quote the entire project but this first verse has some of my favorite lines from the album:

I'm the illest out the bunch / The butterfly was a caterpillar once / Son, if it's love, then why bring it up like a grudge? / N***** blood drunk but, nah, I ain't spiked the punch, son / Nice with the pump, I'm live as Spice-1 / Your writin' need to be spiced up some, uh /

– The Horse's Mouth

The delivery and tempo on that are just 🔥. Reading it doesn’t do it justice so give it a listen.

It’s hard to think of an artist who can paint a picture and pull the listener inside of it better than Roc Marciano can. Listening to him rap is like walking down a New York alley in the middle of the night, while he is narrating from street speakers. It’s truly cinematic. He commands so much authority on his tracks and he talks about himself like he’s on top of the throne and all other rappers work for him.

It’s extremely common for rappers to think highly of themselves, which they should, but Roc Marciano is one of the few rappers that actually convinces you that it’s true. He’s a self-declared boss and his skills are proof enough. He also has a unique tendency to let the listener know what he means without explicitly saying it. For example, on “Amethyst” he raps:

I lied, I'm not a pimp, I'm more like a mack / The gun's worn in the small of my back / Wash the money from the raw off at the laundromat, it's the format, uh / The Range Rover Sport all black / I'm all that, the whole ball of wax / For the bag, I give you one where you store the most fat /

– Amethyst

The entire album is laced with muted but also strangely beautiful beats that blend perfectly with Roc’s voice and aggressive, laid-back style. The samples on the album also seem to compliment the tracks seamlessly. With that being said, there are a few mishaps depending on how you look at it. Some of the samples seem a bit too loud when Roc is rapping.

There a few times during the album where Roc is rapping as almost the same volume as the sample and it kind of drowns out his voice. This is present on “No Love” towards the end of Roc’s verse and on “Sampson & Delilah”. Ironically, “No Love” is my favorite track from the album which kind of proves that this mishap is minor. It could have been done by design given the tempo of the album as a collective.

Coming in at 12 tracks and 33 minutes in length, Behold A Dark Horse benefits greatly from giving the listener this experience in a short amount of time. The album experience feels like an epic graphic novel with Roc Marciano narrating you through the pages. The beats and samples bring the listener to an environment that feels and sounds rugged with minimal color splashed here and there. At the end of the day, penmanship is king and this project doubles down on it.

They say love is blind, but it's not / It's in my son and mother's eyes but none of y'alls / My b**** smell like Chanel No. 9 / Who can you trust when everyone just want they ducks in line? / The drug game dry, these younger thots got butt jobs / The lye made my eyes bloodshot (bloodshot) / I bust shots from out somethin', butterscotch and what not / They love the Louis jacket color block, I'm a juggernaut / I was knocked with the rubber Glock but it wasn't mine / The D.A. looked the judge in the eyes and lied, bottom line / My lil' sly from Harlem shot her in the thigh (pah) / To write what I scribe means spending time on the wild side /

– No Love

Sheesh.. that’s 🔥

Standout Tracks

  • The Horse's Mouth
  • Amethyst
  • Sampson & Delilah
  • No Love

Final Thoughts

This is the perfect album for someone new to Roc Marciano. He showcases his masterful ability to write seemingly perfect verses where every syllable is placed exactly where it should be while also keeping the album short enough to digest everything easily. It’s braggadocious, smooth and also aggressive but in an elegant way. This album might not be everyone’s taste because it’s somewhat repetitive and contains densely lyrical verses, but his core fans and hip hop heads come away with another gem to add to their rotation.

Behold A Dark Horse

86 / 100

Overall

31 / 35

Lyrics

31 / 35

Production

13 / 15

Replay Value

11 / 15

Variety

How would you rate this project? Have an album or mixtape you'd like me to review? Let me know on Twitter or Instagram and I'll add it to my list.

About the author

I'm not music expert but I know what good hip hop sounds like. I'm just a dude who loves music and feels that non-mainstream hip hop is under-represented and under-appreciated. All thoughts and opinions are my own but I'd love to discuss.

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