Words by Daniel Isenberg (@StanIpcus)
Last time we were In The Lab with Roc Marciano, it was 2013, and he was in Los Angeles cooking up Marci Beaucoup, his self-produced, collabo-heavy compilation album featuring a who’s who of rap fan favorites (Action Bronson, Freeway, Ka and Blu to name a few). Now, almost four years later, we return to discuss his new solo masterpiece Rosebudd’s Revenge, which is out now digitally with limited edition vinyl and CDs available for pre-order HERE.
For loyal Roc Marciano fans, Rosebudd’s Revenge is another pristine body of work that encompasses everything we love about his past albums, from the envelope-pushing production to the God-level lyricism. So the question becomes, how does he keep doing it? I mean, we all know of artists that have put out classics and then dropped a dud or two. But that’s far from the case here.
Step back In The Lab with Roc Marciano as we go behind the beats and bars to talk about the creation of his latest LP, and uncover how one of the dopest MC/producers of all-time just keeps getting doper. Plus much more.
Changes Since Last Album
Roc Marciano: “I did a lot of recording in New York. I was back and forth a lot. I got a crib out in Jersey, so I just was chillin’, soaking up some of that home vibe, recording out there. It really don’t change things, its just I got more of my family out there. When I’m in Cali, I don’t have all the dudes I grew up with around. But I don’t really have party sessions like that. Usually it’s just me, my engineer, and maybe another one of my homies.
“The only thing that’s changed is that I’m getting better at what I do. I’m learning, and living. Even my approach to writing. I’m reading a lot of literature, and that’s sharpening up my writing tools. I read books about artists before me that help me with my process, Quincy Jones and stuff like that. And then I incorporate some of the things that work for me. The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp, reading books on Jimi Hendrix. I wouldn’t say I’m a big reader, but I definitely read. When I’m slacking, I make sure I get on that.”
“Something like the second part of ‘Herringbone,’ I hadn’t heard nothing like it. So that intrigued me off the top. It was ill to me, but also, if someone was to play that to me, I’d be like, ‘What kind of music is this? Is this rock? Soul?’ I liked the strangeness of it, but it was also hard to me. It was a challenge, so it was like, ‘Alright, let’s give this one a go.’ It’s not typical.
“I’m always digging for strange stuff, that’s not easy to figure out on the first go. I like stuff that’s challenging, like, ‘Oh this is crazy. I gotta figure this out.’
“I dig in places that I know. I don’t dig in a lot of new places much. Like, I’ve done a lot of digging in the Bay. I like the Bay Area for digging, and some of the places I go to, they know what I’m looking for. They’ll put stuff to the side, and be like, ‘Some of this stuff is interesting. This is some of the new stuff we got in, it’s kinda crazy. Check it out.’ Sometimes that little help helps out.
“But then I’ll just pick up a stack of records, and I don’t really care what’s on them or what they say. I just listen. That’s how you discover stuff. If you keep digging and keep looking for stuff that you’re already familiar with, you’ll always get familiar sounding shit. Like, ‘Oh, this sounds like that last record.’
“I wanna keep growing. I don’t wanna keep doing the same thing over a thousand times. I try to push myself and make interesting music. I don’t want shit to get stale.”
“When I make beats, I make a lot of beats at once. And I record to what I’m feeling at that moment. I might like a beat a lot, but if I’m not in that mood that day, I won’t fuck with it. I try to fuck with something that I’m in the mood for.
“Usually, I like to sit with a beat for a while. You don’t know if a beat is that good if you don’t sit with it for a while. Beats are tricky like that. You could be listening to a beat, when you first hear it, and be like, ‘Oh, this is fire!’ Play it two or three days straight, you be tired of that shit, like, ‘This ain’t all that.’
“But some beats—like ‘Pimp Arrest,’ I knew from the moment I made that, it was like, ‘Oh, this is gonna be on the album. It’s fire.’ And I got started on it immediately.”
“‘Gunsense,’ ‘Killing Time,’ ‘Pimp Arrest,’ ‘Pig Knuckles.’ It’s hard, because I love all the production on this album. But off the top I’d say those.”
“I feel like I’m getting better, because I’m working at getting better. I don’t take what I do for granted. I don’t just want to just keep putting out music if I’m not improving, if it’s not a step forward.
“As I get older, I’m just improving as a man. It don’t necessarily have to do with music, it’s all facets of life. I’m still growing as a human being. I would hope we’re all doing that as men and women, and not trying to stay stagnant with whatever your ideas were ten years ago. They should be getting more sophisticated with time.
“Some days are good, some not so good. But that’s just studio life. Some days you’re feeling it, some days you ain’t. I just try not to force it. If I ain’t feeling it, I’m not gonna just go through the motions to be like, ‘I’m a horse, I did three songs today.’ If the songs ain’t good, it don’t matter how many songs you did in a day.”
Knowledge The Pirate and Ka
“For one, they’re my brothers, they’re family. But to me, these are some of the illest niggas in the game! Like, as far as listening to their lyrics. Ka is undeniable. Pirate is getting ready to come, I think we got great chemistry. But if you just listen to their lyrics, the voice is incredible. Niggas is just nice. First and foremost. And I believe in my niggas.”
“The Arch Druids are not just some beatmakers I fuck with—that’s the home team. That’s family too. They know what I’m on, so we just go from there. They listen to what I’m making, I listen to what they’re making, and we all come to a meeting place. And we take it from there.”
“I’m an NBA head, so I watch the games. You know, basketball, relaxing. But an average day for me is I’ll get up, go to the gym, pick up some food. I’m not a stock up, food shopping type of dude heavy, so I might go to Whole Foods, pick up some cold pressed juices, couple things for the crib, and then get into my work mode around the evening. But I have been getting up working on music too, then getting to the other stuff later. But that’s pretty much a typical day for me. Just laying low. I ain’t partying and in people’s faces. I’m good on that. I’ve never been a big partying dude anyway.”
Message Behind the Music
“There’s more to this than just beats and rhymes. The more is—brothers taking control of their destiny. That’s the bottom line. Me doing music and being uncompromising, and how I’m doing it more independent right now, it’s a blueprint for life. Do shit your way, go out like Sinatra. When I lay down, I can say, ‘I did this shit my way.’ And that’s what you should take from it.
“Anyone that know me, knows I came from nothing. I had a drug addicted family. Don’t get me wrong, I had a good family, I don’t kick that ‘woe is me’ shit. But where I’m from, that’s just the norm. That shit ain’t even nothing crazy. It’s like hustling—that ain’t nothing ‘cause we all had to hustle to get by. It ain’t even no badge of honor. But to see where a nigga like me came from, and to be able to take control of my life and actually make a difference in the world, it’s like, ‘You could do it too. Look at me.’”
“Busta Rhymes is one of my OGs. He brought me in the game. Raekwon, Rakim, those are the OGs. I mean, the OGs are the OGs, it doesn’t really have anything to do with my opinion.
“I got a lot of my swag from my older brother, Bliss. And one of my best friends Kareem, his older brother, which is like another older brother to me, his name is Love—to name a few. And other niggas from my block, other hustlers, people I grew up watching. I could go on and on.
“But also growing up, a lot of people that know me know that I’m a loner. And I don’t mind being a loner. I live in my head. I calculate things in my head. I’m good company to myself, ya dig? I’m that type of dude, I’m always thinking. And if some of that stuff is coming through in the music, that’s probably why. Even if I’m not coming up with rhymes or whatever, I’m always thinking. Trying to improve myself.”
“The connection is no deeper than what fashion has always meant to hip-hop—it goes hand-in-hand. Your personal style says a lot about you if you’re from the hood.
“Take for instance—Rest In Peace Sean Price—we had shot a video, and I was like, ‘Damn, we shot the whole video, and this nigga ain’t even get our kicks.’ And he was like, ‘Word!’ Like, ‘For real. You had this on, and I had these on.’ Sneakers and outfits, that marks time. So a director, especially in hip-hop, you would expect him to know this. It would be like shooting a video and not getting Slick Rick’s Wallys. Or shooting a Big Daddy Kane video and not getting his Ballys. It’s a big part of what we do. That’s street life. Like, ‘Fuck this nigga got on talking like he’s somebody.’
“I just always looked at it like a one, two punch. How you talking and how you look should match up. Like, for a motherfucker to be talking how I’m talking, and then you see me and I’m some weirdo, funny-ass looking nigga in some bummy clothes, it would be a disappointment. Like, ‘What this nigga talking about? He don’t own none of the stuff he talking about.’”
“From time to time, if it’s matching with what I got on, I’ll pull a silk scarf out. It ain’t nothing that I’m claiming as mine, but I’ve been doing it for a while. [Laughs.] That’s all I’m saying. If you look back at the ‘Deeper’ video, I used to always do that type of shit. It’s not necessarily something I’m trying to own as my shit, but, you know, I do like the silk scarves.
“It’s a good accessory, especially if you want to dress simple. I don’t dress crazy, over-the-top. So the little scarves and things like that is just little shit to accent what you’re rocking. I might have a plain white tee on, some good jeans and some kicks, and I’ll feel good. Then I’ll add a little scarf, throw it out there, splash ‘em. Like, ‘Okay.’”
“Shopping with me is boring, because I do most of my shopping online. I go online and find the stuff I want. I get exactly what I want versus just what’s in the store. If I go online, I can see everything.”
“I met Gunn at A3C a few years ago, he was with my man Willie The Kid. We chopped it up—good nigga. Time fly by, Meyhem was like, ‘You heard this guy Westside Gunn? He got this record out.’ I was like, ‘He sound familiar. I met the God before.’ Then I saw who he was, and I was like, ‘Oh, this the homie! We already chopped it.’ So I hit him up to salute him, like, ‘This shit is fire. You niggas is ill.’
From there, it was natural shit. They asked me to jump on a joint, and I was like, ‘Of course.’ If niggas is nice and it makes sense, yeah of course. But I do that for a lot of niggas. It ain’t only them. But don’t get it twisted, I do feel like Gunn and Conway—even while I was taking a break—I felt like that was something that had to happen. That was a special case. They’re not regular rappers, those niggas is nice. I was like, ‘This makes sense.’”
“Those are the big homies. That was just stars lining up for that. They were working on their new album and they reached out and wanted to give me a spot on it. What am I supposed to say? That’s an honor. It’s bucket list shit.
“Whenever we would bump into each other, we’d be like, ‘We gotta get one in.’ The time just hadn’t presented itself yet. But this time it did.
“I don’t really pay attention to social media much, so I haven’t noticed—but I know that this is gonna open me up to a wider audience. Same thing with working with Q-Tip—it helps my brand whether I see it or not. You got people that love these niggas. They grew up on them, idolize them. For them to reach out to me, especially when they’re not the type of people that just work with anybody, it definitely makes their people go check me out. And I don’t take that for granted.”
Ranking Roc Marciano Albums
“I won’t even try. That’s like saying you love a different period of your life more than the others. I can’t really say. I feel like every time I come back, I’m coming back with some improvement. Especially the albums with gaps in between.
“There’s good and bad parts to that though. The good part is that time allows me to write and be better at expressing myself. The bad part is, you don’t get a lifetime to pick the loops, like when I made Marcberg. That was years and years and years of picking samples, like, ‘Okay, this one’s a definite.’ That’s a damn near album full of perfect samples. And I didn’t have the time to do that ever again. I’m just saying that from my perspective. I found a lot of loops for that record like, ‘They got everything in them.’ But I just won’t get that kind of time again.
“But it’s a tough call. I can’t order them.”
“I wanna get in the lab with ScHoolboy Q. He reminds me of Cali artists I grew up listening to. He has the new school flavor, but also when he dig in his bag, he got that old L.A. When I listen to him, I feel like I’m listening to an MC Eiht kind of rapper, one of those kind of guys. You’re getting it from the source. Those are the Cali artists I grew up on, and I appreciate a lot of those dudes that were slept on—the Eihts and King Ts and shit like that. He sounds like a continuation of original L.A. rappers. Like, I don’t wanna rhyme with a L.A. nigga that rhyme like a New York nigga. I don’t mind it, because a lot of them are nice. But I like motherfuckers that sound like they’re from L.A. And I hear that when I hear him.
“I do wanna work with Doom, too. Doom’s ill, all across the board when it comes to making music. He’s one of my favorite artists. He’s definitely someone I’d wanna get in the studio with.”
“Nowadays, I do music for legacy purposes. If you listen to my type of music, it’s not like I’m doing club music. I ain’t doing it to get rich.
“So that’s what I think about. When I’m gone, what will they say? If you look at what my peers are saying, they’re like, ‘That’s a bad motherfucker, one of the best to ever do it.’ My legacy is important.”
Special thanks as always to Jazz! Stay tuned for Rosebudd’s Revenge Part 2…
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