Bronze Nazareth & Roc Marciano - Ekphrasis

Bronze Nazareth is perhaps best known for his production work, and that makes sense; his credits behind the board include the lion's share of the seminal Wu-Tang Meets the Indie Culture compilation and full albums for Willie the Kid and Canibus among others, as well as "that one track" for seemingly every third underground rap act of note from the past two decades. The irony here is that the Bronzeman has also been spitting some of the deadliest darts to blowgun out of the Wu encampment since he linked up with Cilvaringz and RZA in the early '00s. His 2006 debut full-length, The Great Migration remains an unheralded masterpiece, and he was murdering mics even before that if you go back to 2003's "Sinuhe's Impasse" or his early days rapping alongside late brother Kevlaar 7 as a duo called Unknown. Point being: if you don't know him as a rapper, it'd behoove you to get familiar.

Roc Marciano's reputation as a mold-breaking rapper/producer is at this point concrete. However, to date, the beats he has done for others aren't nearly as well known as those he's kept for himself. And that's not to say he hasn't been spreading the love. On the contrary, even before lacing albums for Stove God Cooks and Flee Lord, Roc had already built a respectable body of production work, including projects for Muja Messiah and The Planets among others. Nonetheless, when someone refers to "the Roc joint" on so-and-so's album, nine times out of 10, they're talking about a song he rapped on, not one he produced. Indeed, nearly all of Bronze Nazareth's collaborations with Roc Marciano heretofore featured the latter rapping over the former, and there are several, including "Think Differently," "Capos (Bronzed)" and "Avalon" (the one exception I can find is "Seal of Approval" off Messiah's Saran Rap).

Ekphrasis makes sense for a number of reasons, not least of which is it provides means for two parallel, yet in many ways opposite, artistic tracks to unanticipatedly coalesce. But beyond the logistics of the collaboration, this album also works in a purely musical sense. In other words, even if you didn't know that Bronze also makes beats and that Roc also raps, the former's vocals and latter's music pair seamlessly here. One gets the sense that the two artists really and truly hear one another, allowing for each of them to bring out in the other something the rest of us might not otherwise get the chance to experience. Right from the jump, "Crazy Horse" sees Bronze Nazareth giving intimate details about his mindset following the death of his brother, how the fragility gave way to an opening of lyrical floodgates. The effect of this introspection renders the beat's minimal loop darkly psychedelic. By the time we get to "Kettle Black," Roc's returning the favor, finding in Bronze's Jesus Feet persona the slick-tongued twang of a Motor City hustler archetype. 

There are so many ways to interpret this album, and from the title you can tell that's part of the point, but one shouldn't mistake this as music made only for headphones and solitary nighttime drives. That room for interpretation also provides space for moving about, with fantastic acoustics and many points of entry.

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