Where is Tupac? No seriously. Where is he? After the icon's death in 1996 rappers scrambled to take his place, among them a number of straight impostors. While there was no apparent heir to his throne, some managed to approximate the fervor and passion - particularly DMX and Eminem. Every year since the media discusses the legacy he left behind. But despite one of the genre's biggest stars hollering something about 'Tupac back' only last year, newcomers seem content with inking their body in Pac fashion and largely ignore the artistic templates he set.
Instead we get startingly unimaginative releases like Rosco's "The Album." Not to be confused with Kurupt's younger brother Roscoe, or Star Trak affiliate Rosco P. Coldchain, or Roscoe Dash of "All the Way Turnt Up" fame, or even Cali vet Rasco, Rosco seems to be located in Atlanta, GA, but that's pretty much all I can tell you about him. Apart from him being a ladies man, at least that's to be concluded from several songs. But besides that? Let's take "Why I Grind." Seems like a potentially informative track, right? "I take a look at my past (...) it remind me why I grind," he begins, but then completely forgets to share what he sees when he looks back. He's quite right when he observes, "Things you achieved, can't nobody erase 'em," but again he keeps those achievements all to himself. If that's his decision, he should steer clear of statements like the following: "Translate my whole life through this mic / Every story told, my highs and my lows / You can't understand what my past life was like." I'd just like Rosco to realize that the main reason I can't understand what his past life was like is that he doesn't even make an effort to make me understand.
On "Ain't No Love" he actually states: "I know a thing or two 'bout life, nigga, I'm livin' it." Don't we all? Not to give in to sarcasm, though, the track with the unpretentious Curtis Mayfield impression is among "The Album"'s best and Rosco gets credit for admitting that with his former hustle (whatever it was) he "never broke even, always took a loss." That type of sincerity is usually absent from this brand of rap. "Money on My Mind" on the other hand is even more mundane than its title already suggests but is served over a tight track that bangs with almost no drums in the mix.
The rest of the material is commercial rap light, without the star appeal, without the it-factor. Almost every track features tuned singing, including two guest appearances from members of 112. "Can You Take It" featuring Q is a solid suggestive slow jam, but the fact Slim has to sound like a teenage boy on "Come Over" is indicative of this project's surrendering to the market even as a giveaway. All this is especially unforunate as Rosco is an able rapper. He has a clear, melodic flow (vaguely reminiscent of Donnis) that goes well with the synth-laced tracks. His music is catchy without being gimmicky. The problem lies in the lyrics. Rosco has nothing to say, and it shows on almost all levels of songwriting. He fools you (and maybe himself) into thinking he actually gave content some thought. There's the opening "Open it Up," an invitation to pick the recreational drug of your choice and forget your woes: "I defy gravity, nothing's bringin' me down / It's mind elevation to better your situation / do away with the problems and all the shit you facin'." There's "Pimpology," where Rosco, not quite surprisingly, discloses that he likes his relationships non-committal ("Lookin' for a close friend - with benefits / and I'm willin' to spend a bit"). There's the club track "Charge Up," representing a situation all hardcore clubbers and casanovas should be familiar with. There's "Showtime," which makes full use of the life-as-a-movie metaphor.
But it's all so incredibly basic and impersonal. As if a computer software generated these songs based on the most popular rap and R&B tunes and tropes of the last five years. With no will.i.am, Noah '40' Shebib or GoonRock in sight to give the entire thing that extra boost that would elevate it to the stage where pop and popular rap belong. "Put Em' Up," "One More Time," "Dollaz & Diamondz," "Play it Back," "Another Shot" - all tunes that miss the mark of good rap and/or pop music, even though they clearly aim for it. Finally in 2012 it makes no sense whatsoever to call a mixtape "The Album" but still format it like a mixtape from yesteryear (DJ Infamous is the tape crier).
Rosco and his camp may be stumped why I'm bringing Tupac up when that's evidently not his lane. The thing is, inspiration doesn't manifest itself in carbon-copying, it's something that works more subtle but also more effectively. "You in the company of a real nigga," Rosco announces on track one. "The Album" doesn't necessarily confirm that. He's mainly a rapping dude who has yet to figure out what being a rapper really means.
Music Vibes: 6 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 3 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 4.5 of 10
Originally posted: July 3rd, 2012