Detroit’s Ty Farris has been making a name for himself over the past decade, regularly appearing on Apollo Brown projects that place an emphasis on lyricism over pounding production. With a background in rap battles harking back to the days when Proof was hosting them at the famous Saint Andrews Hall (where Eminem first performed on stage), Farris comes from good stock. Citing his 2017 “Room 39” project as his best, he followed this up with a sequel in 2019. Confusingly, this recent release “Welcome 2 Room 39” is a repurposed version of that 2019 release, albeit with a few new tracks. It’s an interesting entry point for new listeners, particularly given the theme is based on the Room 39 branch of North Korea’s Working Party of Korea. The same party that headcase Kim Jong Un fronts.
An introduction provides a news report from North Korea and likens Kim Jong Un to a mafia don. It harkens back to the days of Taliban glorification by Dipset but is thankfully so light touch it never really continues as a driving force for the album. In fact, this has nothing to do with the political activities of North Korea or its infamous leader in the slightest, outside of social commentary on life in the United States feel like a prison. Speaking of which, “Let ’em Out the Prison” is where Farris flirts with hard-hitting social commentary, providing examples of lost souls that are locked into a lifestyle – a metaphorical prison. There’s a lot going on between the three verses, but the idea is commendable and sits well with the crashing soul sample.
Farris describes his style as street elegant music and it’s largely accurate, as he merges stories of struggle with punchlines learned from years in the trenches battling. He’s a very tidy emcee. “Came A Long Way” with Lil’ Fame and 38 Spesh is a highlight, with a passionate never-give-up attitude from the former, and a memorable (albeit recycled) verse from Spesh that ends up highlighting the biggest criticism one could have of Farris. Alongside company that possesses a distinct sound (like Fame and Spesh do), he can start to sound ordinary. There’s a bit of Skyzoo in there, a bit of Papoose, but it’s hard to imagine another rapper sounding like Ty Farris. This is highlighted on the Rome Streetz collaboration “Different Bracket”, another emcee that has bars up the wazoo, yet rarely says something profound or memorable. The skills are evident, and the technique is on point, but it’s much of a muchness.
The four new tracks here are “Disloyalty Meets Greed & Revenge”, “Let ‘Em Out the Prison”, “Another Crackbaby” and “Venting” and some fare better than others. I like the storytelling of “Disloyalty Meets Greed & Revenge”, itself a more self-serious alternative to Torae’s “Saturday Night” which feels a bit hurried with its pacing. Farris knows his way around a pen and paper, but when he’s firing off multiple internal rhymes on songs like “Please Don’t Overdose” it’s often at the detriment of the message he’s conveying. With less aggression on “Venting”, it showcases a more relaxed, honest approach to rap that suits the Detroit emcee more, the more I hear it. The track mentions his mother’s struggles and his grandmother’s career at General Motors, but the line that struck me was “my kids ain’t gotta rhyme”. This is also Trox’s best beat, in my opinion.
Considering there have been two more releases from Ty Farris since this dropped in January, the emphasis on work ethic continues in the era of streaming where quantity takes precedence over quality. Some songs on this project possess good ideas and are executed well, but with refinement, it’s clear the parts are there for future albums to show improvement. A bit like how North Korea has been testing their missiles near Japan, one will end up hitting and we’ll remember it for years to come.