Roc Marciano is a rapper, producer, and former member of The U.N., a Hip Hop collective that emerged from New York City in the early 2000s. Born and raised in Hempstead, Long Island, Roc Marciano started his career as a member of Busta Rhymes’ Flipmode Squad before The U.N., and before embarking on a solo career – going on to become an integral part of the underground Hip Hop scene.
In 2010, Roc Marciano released his debut solo album, Marcberg, which quickly gained critical acclaim and was hailed as a modern classic. Marcberg is a gritty, raw, and unapologetically New York album that draws on the city’s rich history of street rap, a subgenre of Hip Hop that focuses on the harsh realities of life in the inner city. It often features gritty and raw lyrics that address issues such as poverty, violence, and drug use, usually backed by hard-hitting beats and sparse, minimalist production. Marcberg‘s minimalist loop-based production, which relies heavily on sampling, and Roc Marciano’s unorthodox flow and vivid storytelling helped to redefine street rap, breathing new life into it and inspiring a new generation of Hip Hop artists. Roc Marciano’s flow is cinematic and precise, with intricate rhymes and wordplay that keep you hooked from start to finish. It’s the kind of album made for headphones, with subtle layers of sounds and samples that reveal themselves with each listen.
Roc Marciano is a trendsetter who reinvented what pioneers who came before him started in the 1990s, and he has influenced a multitude of newcomers who have built upon his style in turn. In this article, we will be taking a closer look at 20 street rap albums that resonate with Marcberg fans – whether they came before or after it. These albums are all part of the subgenre of Hip Hop that Roc Marciano helped to revitalize – a sound that draws heavily on the gritty, raw, and unadulterated style of New York street rap first initiated by the Hip Hop icons like Kool G Rap, Nas, Raekwon, and Mobb Deep.
Each of the albums on this list has its own unique link with Marcberg, whether it’s the thematics of Nas’ classic Illmatic album, the cinematic concept of Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx..., the hypnotizing soundscapes of Ka’s The Night’s Gambit, the hard-hitting bars of Freddie Gibbs and Madlib’s Piñata, or the more cerebral approach of ANKHLEJOHN on VAN Ghost. They all share a common thread – an appreciation for the unvarnished beauty of street rap. So join us as we take a journey through the underground Hip Hop landscape, exploring 20 albums that will resonate with fans of Roc Marciano’s Marcberg.
Nas - Illmatic (1994)
Nas was born Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones in 1973 in Queens, New York. He grew up in the Queensbridge housing projects, which was a rough neighborhood with a lot of crime and poverty. Nas started writing his raps as a teenager and eventually got his big break when he was featured on the song “Live at the Barbeque” by Main Source in 1991. He was signed to Columbia Records soon after and began working on his debut album, Illmatic.
Illmatic was released in 1994, and it’s widely regarded as one of the greatest Hip Hop albums of all time. It features Nas rapping over beats produced by some of the best producers of the era, including DJ Premier, Large Professor, and Pete Rock. The album has a gritty, raw feel to it, with Nas rapping about the harsh realities of life in Queensbridge.
So, are there any connections between Illmatic and Marcberg? Well, it’s clear that Roc Marciano was influenced by Nas’ classic album. In terms of production style, there are similarities between the two albums. Both Illmatic and Marcberg have a sample-heavy sound, with chopped-up old soul and jazz records to create gritty, atmospheric beats. However, Roc Marciano’s production is a bit more lo-fi and rough around the edges than the beats on Illmatic.
Thematically, both albums deal with the realities of life in the inner city. Nas raps about the violence, poverty, and corruption that he witnessed growing up in Queensbridge. Roc Marciano similarly raps about the world of drug dealing and the dangers that come with it. Both rappers are able to paint vivid pictures of their surroundings and bring the listener into their world.
There are also differences between the two albums. Nas’ rhymes on Illmatic are more complex and densely packed than Roc Marciano’s. Nas is able to cram multiple metaphors and wordplay into each line, while Roc Marciano’s rhymes are more straightforward and to the point. Additionally, Nas’ flow on Illmatic is more varied and dynamic than Roc Marciano’s, which tends to be more laid-back and relaxed.
Roc Marciano has cited Illmatic as a major influence on his own work, and it’s clear that Nas’ classic album paved the way for a new generation of rappers like Roc Marciano to tell their own stories and paint their own pictures of life in the inner city. Ultimately, both Illmatic and Marcberg are classic albums in their own right.
Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... (1995)
Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…, which was released in 1995, is widely considered to be one of the best solo albums from a Wu-Tang Clan member. The album was produced almost entirely by RZA, with additional production from Ghostface Killah, and it features guest appearances from several Wu-Tang Clan members as well as Nas. The album’s title refers to the Cuban link chain, a popular type of jewelry in the 80s and 90s that was often associated with drug dealers. The album has a mafioso theme to it, with Raekwon and Ghostface Killah rapping about their experiences in the drug game and their aspirations to rise to the top of the criminal underworld. The album’s production, which features soulful samples and gritty drums, is often cited as one of its biggest strengths.
In an interview with Complex, Roc Marciano cited Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…. as one of his favorite albums of all time, saying “That’s New York culture at its finest. That’s drug dealer rap from the big homies. That’s not coming from the snot-nosed dudes. That’s that shit from dudes that were old enough to get into those clubs, and things of that nature that I couldn’t get in to. Cuban Linx, that sounded like our big brothers rapping. That’s that fire right there. That lit that torch to keep that shit pushing. Like, ‘Let’s keep this east coast gangster shit pushing.’”
Both albums deal with the world of drug dealing and the criminal underworld. Raekwon and Ghostface Killah paint vivid pictures of the drug game and the people involved in it, while Roc Marciano similarly raps about the gritty realities of life on the streets. However, Raekwon’s album also touches on themes of loyalty, brotherhood, and honor among thieves, while Roc Marciano’s album is more focused on the individual experiences of the narrator.
Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… was a landmark album that paved the way for other mafioso-themed rap albums, including Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt and Nas’ It Was Written. The album’s cinematic production and vivid storytelling helped to elevate it beyond the typical gangsta rap of the time, and it remains a classic to this day. Similarly, Marcberg has been praised for its gritty, street-level realism and Roc Marciano’s unique style of rapping. The album has been cited as a major influence on the current wave of lo-fi, sample-based Hip Hop, with many younger artists taking inspiration from Roc Marciano’s production and delivery. Both albums have left a lasting impact on Hip Hop and will continue to inspire new generations of artists.
Mobb Deep - The Infamous (1995)
Released in 1995, Mobb Deep’s The Infamous was a game-changer for East Coast Hip Hop, introducing a darker, more ominous sound that was both reflective of the streets and deeply personal. Production on The Infamous was largely handled by Havoc, one half of the Mobb Deep duo, and is characterized by its use of haunting piano loops and sparse, hard-hitting drums. The album’s lyrics were equally impactful, with Havoc and the late Prodigy painting vivid pictures of life in the Queensbridge projects, where they grew up.
The Infamous has had a profound impact on Hip Hop as a whole, with many artists citing it as a major inspiration for their own music. One artist who has been particularly vocal about the influence of The Infamous is Roc Marciano, who has spoken in interviews about the impact the album had on him. Like The Infamous, Marcberg is characterized by its gritty, street-level realism and haunting production.
In terms of production, both albums make use of sparse, hard-hitting beats, with a focus on haunting melodies and hypnotic loops. However, where The Infamous tends to rely on more traditional Hip Hop production techniques, Marcberg incorporates a greater range of samples and sounds, reflecting Roc Marciano’s wider musical influences. In terms of thematic content, both albums explore similar themes of street life and survival, with lyrics that are deeply personal and reflective of the artist’s own experiences. However, where The Infamous often takes a more explicit approach to violence and crime, Marcberg is more understated, with Roc Marciano’s lyrics often hinting at violence without ever explicitly describing it.
Despite these differences, both albums are characterized by a sense of urgency and authenticity, with lyrics that are deeply personal and reflective of the artists’ own experiences.
Kool G Rap - 4,5,6 (1995)
Queens-born rapper Kool G Rap first gained fame as part of Marley Marl’s pioneering Hip Hop collective, the Juice Crew, which included other notable artists like Big Daddy Kane and Biz Markie. Kool G Rap has been a major influence on the East Coast Hip Hop scene since the late 1980s and is now widely considered one of the best emcees ever, a lyrical innovator who was one of the first rappers to incorporate complex multisyllabic rhymes and internal rhyme schemes into his lyrics.
Kool G Rap’s 4,5,6 is his first album without DJ Polo and was released in 1995. The album features Kool G Rap’s signature mafioso-style rhymes over hard-hitting beats and cinematic production. 4,5,6 ‘s production was handled by a number of prominent producers of the time, including Buckwild, and Dr. Butcher. The result is a diverse and richly textured soundscape that serves as the perfect backdrop for Kool G Rap’s gritty, street-level lyrics. 4,5,6 has had a significant impact on Hip Hop as a whole, with many artists citing it as a major inspiration for their own music. One artist who has been particularly vocal about the influence of 4,5,6 is Roc Marciano, who has spoken in interviews about the impact Kool G Rap and his music had on him.
4,5,6 is characterized by its raw, unapologetic lyrics and hard-hitting beats, exploring themes of crime, violence, and the harsh realities of life on the streets. 4,5,6 tends to focus on the grandeur and power dynamics of organized crime, while Marcberg is more introspective and understated, but the albums share a common thread in their exploration of the darker side of street life.
AZ – Doe Or Die (1995)
Alright, let’s talk about AZ’s Doe or Die and its potential connections to Roc Marciano’s Marcberg. To give some context, AZ is a rapper from Brooklyn who first came to prominence because of his iconic guest verse on “Life’s a Bitch”, one of the standout tracks on Nas’ Illmatic. He released his debut album, Doe or Die, in 1995, to widespread critical acclaim.
Now, when it comes to similarities between Doe or Die and Marcberg, there are definitely some notable ones. For one, both albums have a very specific production style that emphasizes gritty, sample-heavy beats. AZ’s album was largely produced by AZ himself and the likes of Pete Rock, L.E.S., and Buckwild (among others), while Marciano handled production duties on his own record. However, both share a similar approach to using loops and chops from obscure soul and jazz records, giving the music a vintage, timeless feel.
Thematically, there are some similarities between the two albums as well. Both AZ and Roc Marciano are known for their vivid storytelling and attention to detail, painting pictures of their respective street environments with razor-sharp precision. On Doe or Die, AZ is at his most introspective, ruminating on topics like success, betrayal, and the harsh realities of life in the projects. Meanwhile, Marciano’s Marcberg is a more impressionistic portrait of his experiences in the streets of Hempstead, Long Island, with abstract lyrics that paint a picture through scattered vignettes and observations.
Ultimately, what makes both Doe or Die and Marcberg so compelling is their ability to create a rich, immersive atmosphere that draws the listener into their respective worlds. Whether it’s AZ’s vivid depictions of the Brooklyn projects or Roc Marciano’s abstract snapshots of Hempstead street life, both albums offer a window into a specific time and place that feels both real and cinematic. Both records are great examples of how Hip Hop can be used to create immersive, cinematic worlds that feel both real and larger-than-life. And while AZ and Roc Marciano may be separated by a generation and a different set of experiences, their music shows that the tradition of gritty, sample-based rap will always have a place in the culture.
Jay-Z - Reasonable Doubt (1996)
Jay-Z’s razor-sharp lyrics and smooth flow are on full display throughout his 1996 debut album Reasonable Doubt. Like Marcberg, Reasonable Doubt features a production style that emphasizes sample-based beats, and gritty, street-level lyricism. However, while Marcberg has a more stripped-down, lo-fi sound, Reasonable Doubt incorporates a wider variety of sounds and textures, including live instrumentation and jazz-influenced beats.
Both albums deal with the harsh realities of life in the streets, but there are some key differences in terms of approach. While Marcberg often features Roc Marciano rapping in the first person and portraying himself as a street-level hustler, Reasonable Doubt finds Jay-Z adopting a more reflective, observational approach. On tracks like “Can’t Knock the Hustle” and “D’Evils,” Jay-Z paints a vivid picture of the drug trade and the violence that often comes with it, but he also explores the toll that this lifestyle takes on those who choose to pursue it.
Reasonable Doubt has had a huge impact on the Hip Hop game. It’s widely regarded as one of the best debut albums in the genre’s history, and it’s been cited as an influence on a wide range of later artists, Roc Marci among them. Furthermore, along with The Blueprint (2001) and The Black Album (2003), Reasonable Doubt remains one of the best albums in Jay-Z’s extensive discog.
Nas - It Was Written (1996)
It Was Written is his second studio album, released in 1996. The album is widely regarded as a classic, and it showcases Nas’s lyrical prowess over a variety of gritty, sample-heavy beats. Like Marcberg, It Was Written features a production style that emphasizes dusty, sample-based beats. However, while Marcberg has a more lo-fi, stripped-down sound, It Was Written incorporates a wider variety of sounds and instruments, including live strings and horns. The album’s production is handled by a variety of producers, including Trackmasters, DJ Premier, and L.E.S.
It Was Written touches on a wide range of topics, from street life to love and relationships. One of the album’s standout tracks, “I Gave You Power,” finds Nas personifying a gun and ruminating on the violence that permeates his neighborhood. Similarly, “The Message” paints a vivid picture of life in the ghetto, with Nas delivering hard-hitting verses over a sparse, ominous beat.
While Marcberg is largely a solo affair, It Was Written features a variety of guest artists and producers, including Lauryn Hill, Dr. Dre, and Mobb Deep. This diversity of voices helps to add some additional texture to the album, and it’s a stark contrast to the more insular, self-contained world of Marcberg.
It Was Written has had a significant impact on the Hip Hop landscape. The album’s commercial success paved the way for Nas to become one of the biggest names in the genre. It Was Written is a polished, accomplished album that showcases Nas’s lyrical prowess and helped to solidify his place as one of the most important figures in Hip Hop history.
Mobb Deep – Hell On Earth (1996)
Mobb Deep’s third album Hell on Earth is a classic in the hardcore Hip Hop genre, released in 1996. It’s known for its gritty, street-level sound, which is achieved through the use of haunting, atmospheric textures, and sample-based beats. Marcberg features a similar production style, with an emphasis on stripped-down, lo-fi beats and an overall cinematic feel. Hell on Earth has a wider variety of sounds and textures, including piano loops and orchestration.
Thematically, both albums deal with the harsh realities of life in the streets, but they approach the subject matter in different ways. Hell on Earth takes a more aggressive approach, with tracks like “Drop a Gem on ‘Em” and “G.O.D. Pt. III” attacking enemies with brutal intensity. This aggressive approach sets Hell on Earth apart from the more laid-back style of Marcberg. Both albums also emphasize creating a cohesive, immersive listening experience. Hell on Earth is meant to be listened to as a whole, with each track contributing to a larger narrative about life in the streets. Similarly, Marcberg has a narrative thread running throughout the album, with Roc Marciano painting vivid pictures of his experiences and surroundings.
Similar to its predecessor, Hell on Earth has turned out to be an influential record, with many artists citing it as an influence. Roc Marciano himself has acknowledged the influence of Mobb Deep on his own work, including Marcberg. Both albums are essential listens for any fans of classic street rap.
Kool G Rap – Roots Of Evil (1998)
Kool G Rap is a legendary rapper, known for his intricate rhymes and storytelling ability, and Roots of Evil is no exception, even if it is an underappreciated album in the street rap genre, and in Kool G Rap’s catalog for that matter. Roots of Evil is full of vivid imagery and hard-hitting rhymes that bring the streets to life. It’s a raw and unfiltered look at the realities of life in the hood, from drug dealing to violence to police brutality.
Like Marcberg, The album is meant to be listened to as a whole, with each track contributing to a larger narrative. It’s a cohesive work that takes the listener on a journey through the dark side of the streets. Kool G Rap’s rhymes are intricate and clever, full of top-tier lyricism, clever wordplay, explicit imagery, and metaphors that make you think.
Roots of Evil is a slept-on album from one of the greatest rappers of all time. It’s a raw and unfiltered look at life in the streets, full of intricate rhymes and vivid storytelling. And while its classic boom-bap production differs from Roc Marciano’s Marcberg, both albums share an emphasis on storytelling and a deep understanding of the realities of life in the hood. If you’re a fan of classic gangsta rap, Roots of Evil is definitely an album you need to check out.
Roc Marciano – Reloaded (2012)
Roc Marciano’s second solo album Reloaded is a straight-up masterpiece. It’s got that raw, gritty sound that Roc is known for, with intricate rhymes and hard-hitting beats that hit you right in the chest. While Marcberg was a pivotal album that resurrected street rap after about a decade of nothing special in the subgenre, Reloaded was the confirmation – establishing Roc Marci as the originator of the new street rap wave.
Reloaded is full of soulful samples and hard-hitting drums that create a timeless sound that pays homage to classic boom-bap hip-hop. But despite the old-school production, Roc’s rhymes are anything but dated. Roc Marciano is a master of wordplay, with clever metaphors and multisyllabic rhymes that make you rewind the track just to catch everything. He’s also a master storyteller, painting vivid pictures of life in the streets with a mix of bravado and vulnerability.
Reloaded is a cohesive work that takes the listener on a journey through Roc Marciano’s world. Each track contributes to a larger narrative, creating an immersive listening experience that’s hard to replicate. The album is meant to be listened to as a whole, with each track building on the one before it.
The album gives a vivid depiction of life in the streets, with Roc Marciano portraying a hustler trying to make his way in a world of danger and uncertainty. But despite the tough subject matter, there’s also a sense of joy and triumph in Roc’s rhymes, as he celebrates his successes and triumphs over adversity. In terms of production style, Reloaded has a classic boom-bap sound that’s heavily sample-based. But Roc Marciano also incorporates elements of jazz and soul, creating a unique sound that’s all his own. The album is full of lush, soulful samples that create a warm, inviting atmosphere that draws you in and keeps you hooked.
Reloaded is a testament to Roc Marciano’s talent as both a rapper and a producer. The album features some of his most intricate and clever rhymes, along with production that draws from a wide range of classic sources. And while the game-changing Marcberg will always hold a special place in the hearts of Roc’s fans, Reloaded has to be considered his absolute masterwork, and one of the best albums on this list.
Ka - The Night's Gambit (2013)
Ka’s The Night’s Gambit is a masterpiece of underground Hip Hop and one that shares a lot of similarities with Roc Marciano’s Marcberg in terms of production style. The first thing that stands out about The Night’s Gambit is its instrumentals. Ka, who also produces his own music, has a knack for crafting beats that are simultaneously minimalistic and soulful. His production style is built around haunting piano loops, gritty drums, and well-placed vocal samples, creating an eerie and introspective atmosphere that perfectly complements his lyrical content. In this sense, The Night’s Gambit shares a lot in common with Marcberg, which also features dark, sample-heavy production and sparse, minimalist beats.
But where Marcberg is characterized by Roc Marciano’s vivid storytelling and intricate wordplay, The Night’s Gambit is more focused on Ka’s introspective, stream-of-consciousness style. His lyrics are dense and cryptic, often requiring multiple listens to fully unpack. Like Roc Marciano, Ka is a master of wordplay, and his rhymes are packed with internal rhymes, alliteration, and subtle references to everything from Greek mythology to the Bible. But where Roc Marciano’s rhymes are often focused on street life and criminal enterprise, Ka’s lyrics are more focused on introspection and personal growth. Another difference is their delivery styles; Roc Marciano’s flow is more staccato and punchy, while Ka’s delivery is more measured and contemplative.
Another connection between The Night’s Gambit and Marcberg is that Roc Marciano is actually featured on the former. In fact, he is the sole feature on the album, appearing on the track “Soap Box”. The collaboration between these two is a testament to their mutual respect and admiration for each other’s talents. It also serves as a reminder of the close-knit nature of the underground Hip Hop scene, where collaborations and features are often driven by personal connections and a shared commitment to the art form.
Overall, The Night’s Gambit is a stunning album that showcases Ka’s skills as a producer, lyricist, and storyteller. It shares a lot in common with Roc Marciano’s Marcberg, both in terms of its dark, sample-heavy production, and its introspective, lyrically dense content. Both albums are excellent examples of top-tier underground Hip Hop.
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib - Piñata (2014)
Freddie Gibbs and Madlib’s Piñata is a masterpiece that is often considered one of the best Hip Hop albums of the 2010s. Piñata is a collaborative effort between Gibbs, the gritty street rapper from Gary, Indiana, and Madlib, the enigmatic producer and crate digger from Oxnard, California.
One of the standout features of Piñata is its production. Madlib’s beats are a mixture of dusty soul and jazz samples, chopped up and re-arranged in his trademark off-kilter style. The beats on this album are truly stunning, with a warmth and texture that can only come from the use of vinyl. The sampling on this album is so skillfully done that it almost feels like Madlib has created a new genre of music, something that is both old and new at the same time.
Freddie Gibbs is a master storyteller, and he shines on this album. His rhymes are sharp and precise, and he’s able to paint vivid pictures of the harsh realities of life on the streets, like a midwest version of NYC’s Roc Marciano. Gibbs’ delivery is confident and assured, and he never shies away from the darker side of the game. He rhymes about drug deals gone bad, crooked cops, and the struggle to survive in a world that’s constantly trying to bring you down. It’s a world where violence, drugs, and poverty are all too common, and where survival is the ultimate goal. But despite the darkness of the subject matter, there’s also a sense of hope that runs throughout the album. Gibbs’ rhymes are filled with a sense of determination, and he’s always looking for a way to rise above the struggles of the game.
Piñata is a modern classic that deserves all of the praise that it has received. It’s a testament to the power of collaboration, and a showcase of the skills of two of Hip Hop’s most innovative and talented artists. Whether you’re a fan of Gibbs’ raw street rhymes, Madlib’s intricate beats, or just good Hip Hop in general, Piñata is an album that should be in your collection.
Mach-Hommy - H.B.O. (Haitian Body Odor) (2016)
Mach-Hommy is an enigmatic rapper and producer hailing from Newark, New Jersey, who has garnered a dedicated cult following for his sparse and cryptic style and his elusive persona. His 2016 album, HBO, is widely regarded as one of his best works and a standout in the underground Hip Hop scene. HBO showcases Mach-Hommy’s distinctive flow and unconventional production style. The album is notable for its heavy use of samples from classic jazz and soul records, chopped and reconfigured into hypnotic loops that provide a backdrop for Mach-Hommy’s intricate wordplay.
Despite this unconventional approach, Mach-Hommy’s influence on the underground Hip Hop scene has been significant, with his abstract style inspiring a new generation of rappers and producers who are pushing the boundaries of the genre. With HBO, Mach-Hommy cemented his status as one of the most innovative and uncompromising artists in Hip Hop today.
HBO and Roc Marciano’s Marcberg share similarities, particularly in terms of production style and lyricism. Both albums feature minimalist beats with a heavy emphasis on dusty, sample-based loops, and sparse drums. The production on both projects is gritty and lo-fi, giving the listener a sense of being transported to a bygone era of Hip Hop.
In terms of lyricism, both Mach-Hommy and Roc Marciano are known for their dense, complex wordplay and vivid storytelling. They both have a unique ability to paint vivid pictures of their experiences and surroundings through their rhymes, often using obscure references and slang to add to the overall atmosphere of their music. There are also notable differences between the two albums. Marcberg has a more consistent and cohesive sound throughout, with Roc Marciano handling the majority of the production himself. HBO features a wider range of producers (even if August Fanon took care of the bulk of production), with Roc Marci producing one song. This leads to a more varied sonic palette, with each beat bringing its own distinct flavor to the project.
Additionally, while both albums have a strong sense of nostalgia and reverence for the golden era of Hip Hop, HBO has a more overtly political and social message. Mach-Hommy frequently touches on themes of systemic oppression, police brutality, and economic inequality, using his platform to shed light on the struggles of marginalized communities. Roc Marciano, on the other hand, tends to focus more on his own experiences and boasts, with less of an overtly political agenda.
Overall, while HBO and Marcberg share many similarities in terms of production and lyricism, they also have distinct differences that set them apart. Both albums are essential listening for any fan of gritty, sample-based hip-hop, but each has its own unique flavor and perspective.
WestSide Gunn - FLYGOD (2016)
Westside Gunn’s FLYGOD is a gritty and unapologetic album that showcases the rapper’s unique style and unbridled creativity. With its gritty production and vivid, street-level storytelling, FLYGOD shares a lot of similarities with Roc Marciano’s Marcberg. Both albums are examples of the modern wave of underground Hip Hop that values lyricism, authenticity, and raw, unfiltered expression.
Westside Gunn, born Alvin Lamar Worthy in Buffalo, New York, is a rapper and entrepreneur who is known for his distinct voice, ad-libs, and unorthodox flow. He first gained attention in the underground Hip Hop scene with his mixtapes and collaborative projects, but it was FLYGOD that truly established him as a force to be reckoned with. His high-pitched voice and ad-libs are an acquired taste, but they are also a key part of his unique sound.
The production on FLYGOD is handled by a variety of producers, including Daringer, The Alchemist, and Roc Marciano himself. The beats are gritty, sample-heavy, and often feature obscure soul and jazz samples that add to the album’s vintage, nostalgic feel. This is similar to the production style of Marcberg, which also relies heavily on soulful samples and sparse, minimalist beats.
Thematically, FLYGOD is a deep dive into Westside Gunn’s experiences growing up in the streets of Buffalo, New York. He paints vivid pictures of his surroundings, describing the violence, poverty, and struggle that he witnessed and lived through. This is similar to the content on Marcberg, which is also focused on street life and criminal enterprise. However, where Roc Marciano’s rhymes are often more intricate and focused on his own experiences, Westside Gunn’s lyrics are more impressionistic, painting broader strokes and evoking a sense of atmosphere and mood. One of the standout tracks on FLYGOD is “Omar’s Coming” which features a verse from Roc Marciano. The title references Omar, the legendary character on The Wire, played by the late Michael Kenneth Williams.
One of the most important things about FLYGOD is its role in establishing the Griselda sound. Westside Gunn is one-third of the Griselda collective, along with his brother Conway The Machine and their cousin Benny The Butcher. Together, they have built a loyal following and established themselves as torchbearers for the underground street rap scene. FLYGOD was a key part of this process, showcasing the group’s unique sound and vision and laying the foundation for its future success.
Westside Gunn’s FLYGOD is a must-listen for fans of Roc Marciano’s Marcberg and anyone who appreciates raw, unfiltered underground Hip-Hop. With its atmospheric production, vivid storytelling, and unique style, FLYGOD is a standout album that showcases the creativity and talent of one of the underground’s leading artists.
ANKHLEJOHN & Big Ghost Ltd - VAN Ghost (2018)
ANKHLEJOHN & Big Ghost Ltd’s Van Ghost is an underappreciated underground Hip Hop gem that shares many similarities with Marcberg. Both albums showcase a love for gritty, boom-bap production and vivid storytelling that draws heavily from street life and criminal enterprise. However, where Marcberg is more straightforward in its approach, VAN Ghost takes a more nuanced and cerebral approach, using the artwork of Vincent Van Gogh as a jumping-off point for a journey through the mind of ANKHLEJOHN.
ANKHLEJOHN, hailing from Washington, D.C., is a prolific underground rapper known for his unflinching depictions of life on the streets. He has released over 20 projects since 2015, collaborating with a range of producers and fellow rappers. Big Ghost Ltd, meanwhile, is an elusive producer known for his work with a wide range of underground hip-hop artists and his raw boom-bap beats. Together, they have crafted an album that is both haunting and thought-provoking.
Every track on VAN Ghost is named after a Van Gogh painting, and ANKHLEJOHN’s lyrics touch upon some aspect of each particular painting. The cover art, created by Big Ghost, is done in the artistic style of the famous Dutch painter. Similar to looking at a fine painting, there’s a lot to unpack listening to VAN Ghost, and every single listener may take away something different from the experience.
One of the most striking similarities between VAN Ghost and Marcberg is their focus on vivid storytelling that paints a picture of life on the streets. ANKHLEJOHN’s lyrics are raw and unflinching, with a focus on the brutal realities of life in the inner city. Where Roc Marciano’s lyrics are more focused on his own experiences, ANKHLEJOHN takes a more outward-looking approach, using the lens of Van Gogh’s art to comment on societal issues and the human condition.
Big Ghost’s production is experimental and abstract, using a wide range of sounds and textures to create an otherworldly atmosphere that perfectly complements ANKHLEJOHN’s lyrics. The result is an album that is both familiar and avant-garde, drawing on classic Hip Hop tropes while pushing the boundaries of the genre.
With its innovative approach to storytelling and production, VAN Ghost is a standout album that showcases the creativity and talent of two of the underground’s most exciting artists.
B.E.N.N.Y. - Tana Talk 3 (2018)
At its core, Tana Talk 3 is a gritty and raw project that showcases Benny’s incredible lyrical abilities and storytelling skills. The album features an impressive lineup of guest artists, including Griselda labelmates Westside Gunn and Conway the Machine, as well as notable rappers like Royce da 5’9″ and Meyhem Lauren.
Production on Tana Talk 3 is handled by two top-notch producers: Daringer and The Alchemist. Their beats are gritty and hard-hitting, perfectly complementing Benny’s street-oriented lyrics. The album has a vintage feel, with samples from classic soul and funk records woven into the production.
In terms of thematic content, Tana Talk 3 is a celebration of street life and the hustle. Benny raps about the highs and lows of the drug game, and the sacrifices he’s made to provide for himself and his family. But he also acknowledges the dangers and consequences of the lifestyle, as well as the toll it takes on those around him. Compared to Roc Marciano’s Marcberg, Tana Talk 3 shares a similar appreciation for street life and a dedication to raw, unfiltered lyricism. Both albums showcase the rappers’ ability to paint vivid pictures of the harsh realities of the streets, and their dedication to preserving the traditional sound of New York Hip Hop.
Overall, Tana Talk 3 is a standout album in Benny the Butcher’s discography, showcasing his formidable skills as an emcee and solidifying his status as one of the best rappers of his generation.
Westside Gunn – Supreme Blientele (2018)
Supreme Blientele, which was released in 2018 and features a variety of guest appearances from other well-known rappers, is one of Westside Gunn’s best albums.
The album’s title alludes to Ghostface Killah’s album Supreme Clientele and the Canadian professional wrestler Chris Benoit. One of the standout features of Supreme Blientele is its production, which is handled primarily by Griselda’s in-house producer Daringer, with some outside assistance from top-tier names such as The Alchemist, Pete Rock, Statik Selektah, 9th Wonder, and Roc Marciano. The beats are moody and atmospheric, with heavy use of samples from classic soul and jazz records. The result is a sound that is simultaneously gritty and luxurious, perfectly complementing Westside Gunn’s own style.
Lyrically, the album is full of braggadocio and boasts, but there are also moments of introspection and vulnerability. On tracks like “The Steiners” and “Brossface Brippler,” Westside Gunn reflects on his past struggles and the people who helped him along the way. These moments of honesty and reflection add depth and complexity to an album that could easily have been written off as shallow or superficial.
In terms of guest appearances, Supreme Blientele features a who’s who of underground rap talent. There are collaborations with Griselda labelmates Conway the Machine and Benny the Butcher, as well as appearances from established veterans like Busta Rhymes and Roc Marciano. Each guest brings their own unique style and energy to the table, making for a varied and engaging listening experience.
When it comes to comparing Supreme Blientele to Roc Marciano’s Marcberg, there are certainly some similarities in terms of production style and lyrical content. Both albums feature moody, sample-based beats and lyrics that focus on wealth and luxury. However, there are also some notable differences. While Roc Marciano’s style is more understated and subtle, Westside Gunn’s delivery is more bombastic and in-your-face.
If you’re a fan of gritty, sample-based rap with a luxury twist, then Supreme Blientele is definitely an album you should check out.
Boldy James & The Alchemist - Bo Jackson (2021)
Released in 2020, Bo Jackson signified the fourth studio album by Detroit-based rapper Boldy James. The album features 12 tracks and a host of guest appearances, including Freddie Gibbs, Benny the Butcher, Earl Sweatshirt, and Stove God Cooks. Production on the album is handled entirely by veteran producer The Alchemist.
One of the standout aspects of Bo Jackson is Boldy James’s unique flow and delivery. His voice is deep and raspy, and he raps with a measured, deliberate cadence that makes his lyrics hit hard. He has a knack for painting vivid pictures of life on the streets, using his words to convey both the beauty and the ugliness of the world he grew up in. In terms of themes, Bo Jackson is a personal album for Boldy James. He spends much of the album reflecting on his past, his struggles with addiction, and his family. He talks about growing up in Detroit and the various struggles he faced on the streets. He also touches on some more introspective themes, like his search for meaning and purpose in life.
The Alchemist’s production on Bo Jackson is top-notch. He provides a gritty, sample-heavy backdrop for Boldy James’s lyrics, with boom-bap drums and dusty loops that give the album a vintage, underground feel. Overall, Bo Jackson is a fantastic album that showcases Boldy James’s unique voice and perspective. While it may not be as well-known as some of the other albums on this list, Bo Jackson is definitely a must for fans of gritty, underground Hip Hop, in the vein of Roc Marci’s Marcberg.
Mach-Hommy - Pray For Haiti (2021)
Mach-Hommy’s Pray for Haiti is widely regarded as his best work, along with HBO (Haitian Body Odor), and for good reason. The album features Mach-Hommy at his most focused and confident, showcasing his lyrical abilities over intricate, sample-heavy production. The album is an ode to his Haitian heritage, with numerous references to Haitian history, culture, and current events.
The album opens with “The 26th Letter,” a track that sets the tone for the rest of the album. Over a melancholic piano loop, Mach-Hommy delivers introspective bars about his journey as an artist and his Haitian roots. The album features several standout tracks, including “Au Revoir,” and “The Stellar Ray Theory,” which features Mach-Hommy reflecting on his experiences with police brutality.
One of the most striking aspects of Pray for Haiti is the production, which is handled primarily by Camoflauge Monk and Conductor Williams. The beats are sample-heavy and heavily textured, with a focus on obscure soul and jazz samples. Pray for Haiti is a standout project with intricate production and thought-provoking lyrics, it is an album that rewards repeat listens and stands up to scrutiny.
Mach-Hommy’s Pray for Haiti is a masterpiece that showcases the artist at his most focused and confident. The album features intricate, sample-heavy production that is reminiscent of Roc Marciano’s Marcberg, but Mach-Hommy brings his own unique perspective and experiences to the project. It is a deeply personal album that explores Haitian culture and history, as well as the experiences of black people in America. Pray for Haiti is a must-listen for any Hip Hop fan, and it cemented Mach-Hommy’s place as one of the most innovative and exciting artists in the genre today.
Roc Marciano & The Alchemist - The Elephant Man's Bones (2022)
Roc Marciano’s The Elephant Man’s Bones is one of his best works, alongside Marcberg and Reloaded. Released in 2022, the album features Roc’s signature stream-of-consciousness flow, this time over The Alchemist’s stellar production work.
The Alchemist’s beats on “The Elephant Man’s Bones” are largely drumless, emphasizing the sample-based melodies and creating a unique soundscape for Roc to rhyme over. The production is sparse but soulful, with dusty loops creating a vintage feel. Roc’s lyrics on the album are vivid and cinematic, painting pictures of street life and hustling with his intricate wordplay and sharp delivery. He effortlessly weaves in references to pop culture, literature, and his own experiences, giving each verse a layer of depth and complexity.
The Elephant Man’s Bones is a masterclass in sample-based production and lyricism, and it further solidifies Roc Marciano’s status as one of the most talented artists in the game.