An Argument For Why Roc Marciano Is The Greatest MC Of All-Time
The conversation about who is Rap’s best MC is Hip-Hop’s great debate. As with sports, movies and other categories that lend themselves to rankings, the answer often evolves over time, as new entrants emerge. In the 1980s, names like Rakim, KRS-One, Big Daddy Kane and LL Cool J were often proffered. Biggie, Nas, JAY-Z and Tupac were just a few artists who joined the conversation in the next decade. In the 2000s, as Hip-Hop splintered into multiple sub-genres, the names could be as diverse as Eminem, Lil Wayne, MF DOOM and Black Thought. And, in the last decade Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole and Drake became GOATs for an entirely new generation.
In a new video, however, Justin “The Company Man” Hunte argues that there is one name that has been sorely lacking in the discussion about Hip-Hop’s greatest of all-time MCs: Roc Marciano. Hunte has a weekly series called TBD where he does a deep dive into Hip-Hop trends and current events. Periodically, he uses his platform to spotlight MCs who have changed the culture and for whom a credible argument can be made that he or she is the GOAT. Past subjects have included Snoop Dogg, Redman, Scarface, Black Thought and more.
Hunte opens the conversation about Roc Marciano by discussing his stellar 2022 collaborative album with The Alchemist, The Elephant Man’s Bones. The album has had universal acclaim by some of music most respected publications, and NPR‘s Phillip Mlynar went so far as to say the release is “the culmination of two careers.” As celebrated as the album has been, Hunte points out that for Roc Marci, such adulation is the rule, not the exception.
While breaking down Marciano’s impressive catalog, starting with his Flipmode days and continuing through masterpieces like 2010’s Marcberg, 2013’s Marci Beaucoup, the Rosebudd’s Revenge series, and 2019’s Marcielago, Hunte lays out the critical creative pivot Roc Marciano made during a several years-long respite from Rap. Hunte says after the release of 2004’s UN Or U Out?, Roc “went silent for the remainder of the decade while the music industry adjusted to steep revenue declines, and rampant industry pirating. Hunte continues, “In that decade, great quintessential New York Rap faded to the back, replaced by East Coast MCs chasing the success of Ringtone Rap and Snap music. Rather than play that game, though, Roc retreated to his Hempstead (NY) home, and honed in on the sound he wanted to see in the world. The result was Marcberg, a genre-extending masterwork full of grimy wordplay, glorious pimped-out storytelling, and dusty production–180 degrees from Snap music–that was not only critically-acclaimed, but is credited for influencing Hip-Hop over the next decade.”
Hunte contends that Roc’s newly-created genre, which Hunte dubs “Connoisseur Rap,” with his signature drum-less production style, shaped the sounds of artists like Griselda’s Westside Gunn, Benny The Butcher, Conway The Machine and Mach-Hommy, as well as Freddie Gibbs, Action Bronson, Your Old Droog, The Alchemist and even Drake, to name a few. While those names might not be as familiar in mainstream Rap music circles, they are stalwarts for fans of the current wave of stellar Underground Hip-Hop. “Dropping the drums makes Roc’s voice the primary instrument,” says Hunte. “It allows his flow freedom to roam without being locked into the beat.”
Roc Marciano’s influence does not stop with the music, however. Hunte also points out the impact Marci has had in shaping business models that allow independent artists to sustain themselves. Hunte says during the mid-2010s, “streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music had taken hold as the new retail locations, but streaming revenue was notoriously low for musicians. Artists regularly received fractions of a penny per stream, making it difficult to turn a profit. So, rather than playing that game–playing a game of slippery returns–Roc re-imagined the revenue model.”
In order to contextualize Roc Marciano’s approach to creating music business economics that worked for him, Hunte spoke with Roc’s manager, Jazz Walker. “We were thinking about the process of how to display the music, and because of the change in the aspect of monetization we were trying to figure out the best approach, as well,” said Walker. He continued, “That kind of led to us deciding to be something of a subscriber-based platform, and as everything was moving toward [digital service platforms like Spotify and Apple Music], we decided to start selling our music directly to fans. And, that is another one of those things that set Roc and sets us apart from his contemporaries. It wasn’t just him ushering in a sound. We also ushered in a monetization system.”
The end result has allowed Roc to sustain a 12+ year run of critically-acclaimed albums, crafted with him having sole creative control, and doing so in a way that has more than sustained him economically. That is a combination of elements that separates the GOATs from the greats.
Watch The Company Man’s full breakdown of why Roc Marciano is a GOAT MC above, and listen to some of the amazing songs from The Elephant Man’s Bones on Ambrosia For Heads’ regularly updated Spotify playlist below.