Nearly six years ago I reviewed Rock Mecca's "Pirate Radio Star." As the name would suggest Rock styled himself as an underground broadcaster putting out the vibes that the people wanted/needed but had no other access to. As thematic albums go it was largely a success thanks to the commanding presence Mecca had on the mic, the quality of his production, and a liberal sprinkling of pop culture references that everybody from sci-fi nerds to Brooklyn hard rocks could relate to. He returns to that successful formula on "Ironworld" - not the one of the illegal radio deejay operating above the law, but the one of mixing touchstones of pop culture with hip-hop attitude. That was immediately evident on "W.A.S.C. (Rebel Anthem)" as the track immediately bounced from Joe Esposito's "You're the Best Around" (Karate Kid) to a sample of the piano keys on "Hulk Hogan's Theme" from "The Wrestling Album." Those keys come back loud and clear during the chorus as the deejay scratches Busta Rhymes ("Scenario") saying "Powerful impact, BOOM from the cannon." It's like somebody tried to capture every single thing I ever enjoyed from my childhood and college years all in one song -- oh and the lyrics are pretty good too.
"Rest in peace to the Mac Dad
Rock gets extra points for referencing one of the most infamous album covers of all time and for doing an LL Cool J impression in the final verse. The pro wrestling tie in from sampling Hogan's theme wasn't a coincidence as the previous track was called "One Man Gang" and the very next track on the album is "Stone Cold." It opens with samples of a man Steve Austin knows quite well - "Iron" Mike Tyson. It's actually a recurring theme for "Ironworld" in general though - wrestling that is, not Mike Tyson specifically. I'll get to that in a second though. Take a moment to enjoy the jazzy backdrop of "Stone Cold," a song which sounds nothing like Austin's glass shattering backdrop (and that's just fine).
Now as for the sports or sports entertainment world, you could take a lot of "Ironworld" to be either the former or the latter. Athletes in both spheres talk a lot about the "Tunnel Vision" one needs to succeed working in front of a large crowd. "Prizefights" and "Coliseums" may suggest something a little more akin to boxing (and his uploads of these songs do feature the gloves) but even on the former song he says "the world is a squared circle" which brings me back to the grappling arts, and his words definitely reflect someone with more than a passing knowledge of Monday Night Raw and classic movies from 1979. I dig the patois chatta of Ratigan in the outro too.
"East Coast plots and west side stories
Some _Warriors_ victorious tryna make it to Coney
On the corner flippin white╩like George the Animal Steele
Weapons not even concealed some of these cannibals kill
Talking bout these rappers fakin and we keepin it real
But next time you be see 'em on the Ave they shoppin a deal
I'm livin on the corner where fantasy meets reality
Where some'll blur the lines and sell it to you for a salary
You think you're in control but you only a customer
Getting high in your sleep thinkin nothin of life"
Other songs like "King of Kings" and "Survivor Series" leave absolutely no doubt as to where his head is at, but to be honest my single biggest markout moment was hearing legendary mixtape king DJ Ron G in the introduction of Rock Mecca's track "Stanley Cups." I think maybe we should just call the entirety of "Ironworld" sports related and leave it at that. He doesn't draw that much difference between the scripted ones and the competitive endeavors - he's just a conniseur of all of the different forms of fighting - even hockey fights.
At the end of the day I have to say that six years is far too long to go between Rock Mecca albums because I had forgotten just how good he is, and I think he's actually gotten a little bit better in the interim. The production from Jake Palumbo is on point from start to finish, and we haven't even addressed the high caliber of guest appearances that Mecca booked for this card. Roc Marciano drops in for "Gladiator Schools," Vast Aire and Kool Keith drop in on "Killa" and even long lost freestyle king Canibus comes in from out the cold to put hot bars on "Hell's Angels" like "Bear hug the gun barrel/drain blood from your bone marrow/shoot yo' ass out the saddle." I forgot how much I missed him too. According to the press kit he's also got albums in the works tag teaming with El Da Sensei and Ruste Juxx, and suddenly I'm excited about the level of grappling with mics those teams can bring to all competitors. Perhaps I'm the ideal candidate for what "Ironworld" has to offer but play the clips for youself and you might find that you are too.
Music Vibes: 8 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8 of 10
Originally posted: April 24, 2018