Better Than: Waiting until Jan. 21
Rick Ross and his Maybach Music Group (MMG) cadre of artists have perfected a sonic and aesthetic blueprint over the past two years. Unapologetically ostentatious lyrics, pounding basslines and of course, Jessica Gomez’s deliciously sexy “Mmmmmaybach Music” drop; you know a MMG song when you hear it. Rockie Fresh, MMG’s latest signee, is in many ways the antithesis to the house that Rick built. The 21-year-old is a self-described “normal kid”–part Chicago hipster, part friendly stoner– with a musically diverse resume that includes work with Good Charlotte, Fall Out Boy and Cassie Veggies.
– Q&A with Rockie Fresh
Last night, the rapper previewed his upcoming mixtape Electric Highway (Jan. 21 release) as a “3-D visual listening experience” at Sunshine Cinema. From the onset, it was clear that MMG was laissez faire with the project. Rick Ross was initially billed as the night’s compère and turned out to be a no-show, making Rockie the center of attention by default. Inspired by a “futuristic vibe,” select mixtape cuts were set against a dazzling array of imagery like Chicago cityscapes, POV shots through a DeLorean and trippy crack tokes. The term “3-D” may have been a bit of misnomer (Those cheap plastic glasses just turn everything blue and red and cause eyestrain) but the visuals were enjoyable and special touches like including the original movie previews for 1985’s Back to the Future and 1980’s Friday The 13th didn’t go unnoticed.
Electric Highway is a beautiful sounding mixtape. Rockie trades in MMG’s chest pounding for lush, spaced-out sounds, hypnotic beats and interesting musicscapes. “Lights” is a cosmic synth fest; moody and dreamy; what Kid Cudi wished his last album sounded like. “Superman OG” features Lunice, one half of production duo TNGHT, is a delightful combination of clinks and snares which Rockie’s even flow hugs like curves on a road. “Young nigga, new cheddar, my team is rich forever,” Rockie raps, an homage to Rick Ross’ Rich Forever mixtape. He talks tough on the track but is hyper-aware of his new fame. “Fake fans, they ain’t even got the mixtape/Fuck ’em” he closes. “Nobody” which samples British singer Clare Maguire’s wrenching “Ain’t Nobody” seems like total musical serendipity. The song’s producer Peezy told me that he wasn’t –and still isn’t–that familiar with Maguire but knew that she sounded good and that she was legit because she was “verified on Twitter“.
Actual features, from MMG members and otherwise, are kept to a minimum. Rick Ross appears alongside Nipsey Hussle in “Life Long,” a largely forgettable number save for Boi-1da’s production and Ross’ line, “Collect calls from Gunplay/One day I hope to see some peace.” Heavy is the head…
The lack of guests poses its own problem, of course, in that Rockie Fresh is expected to fill the void all by himself. His lyrics and delivery are perfectly apt in the tracks previewed, but there’s a memorable quality the neophyte still needs to hone. Singular bars and abstract concepts are nice but quickly turn forgettable in hip-hop’s fickle marketplace. In a glut of voices, careers are launched upon charisma and branding oneself. If Rockie Fresh learns nothing else from MMG, it should undoubtedly be that.
Critical Bias: I took off the 3-D glasses after the first song.
Overheard: “Where’s Rick Ross?”
Random Notebook Dump: Only a mere five “Mmmmmaybach Music” drops all night.
“Superman OG” feat. Lunice
“Life Long” feat. Rick Ross and Nipsey Hussle
“Show Me Sumthin'” feat. Sasha Go Hard