Rome Streetz – Kiss the Ring (Review)

“Bible or the Rifle”, “Mud into Moet”, “Prayers Over Packages”; Rome Streetz‘ music has always been a thing of conflict. Conflict on the streets, or in your own mentality. On his latest album Kiss the Ring, his carnivorous raps collide with the upper crust and a world of luxury, begging the question, “What happens when you make it?”.

Being signed to Griselda and having Westside Gunn executive produce brings a wave of opportunity to these underground MCs: an arsenal of new features, top notch production, and masterful pacing (as seen on last years Pray for Haiti). On Kiss the Ring, this manifests in a relatively new soundscape for Rome and his most complete work to date.

These felonies is helping me financially advance

With production largely handled by Conductor Williams, one of the most improved and rising names in the scene, and Camouflage Monk, gone are the dark, skeletal, even exotic beats of DJ Muggs or the subtle psychedelia of Futurewave. Instead, Rome is welcomed into Westside’s world, getting laced with 50 minutes of piano, soul, and string samples chopped and signaturely stretched to their limits. It’s as if Rome finally got past the hustle; no more caviar dreams brought to life through percussion – only a nostalgic, wiser view from the top.

Rome Streetz – “Non Factor” (feat. Westside Gunn)

None of this is to say that Rome is resting on his laurels or watering it down. His in-your-face, Cormega style delivery and vivid peddler tales are still the main draw. On tracks like the menacing “Tyson Beckford”, you can almost feel the spit spraying off his grill as he lets loose what he learned coming up and flexes the empire that came of it all. There’s “Long Story Short”, an all too relevant contrast of two men trying to make it out the only way they know how, but always being destined to stay down. Rome is different though; “Destiny’s Child”, with its surprisingly head-nodding rings, is a clinic in flows as Rome effortlessly finds different pockets and stutters along the off kilter beat.

To the chagrin of a fashion rebel like Westside, “Ugly Balenciagas” is a standout with Rome calling out competition at every level and admitting to the ills of his rise. As both he and contemporary Ransom often lament, heavy is the head that wears the crown. Kiss the Ring mostly skirts these themes, only brought about through tone; thankfully, the gaps are filled with the exact punchlines and trap recipes that earned Rome such love in the first place. For example, no track better evokes pure New York revivalism than “Cry Champagne”, with its juxtaposition of such a playful piano and obscene shit talk on the mic.

With Conway and Benny branching out, a statement album like Kiss the Ring is exactly what Griselda needed; Rome Streetz, alongside Stove God Cook$, Jay Worthy, and Armani Caesar are carrying the mantle better than anyone could have anticipated and prove the label is in good hands under Westside’s direction. While there might always be a nostalgia for the Flygod or Tana Talk 3 days, GXFR is alive and kicking thanks to a fresh, hungry roster.

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