On BANCO, Sir Michael Rocks is still finding his way to separate himself, both from the Cool Kids' sound, and to some degree, former versions of himself.
As a member of the Cool Kids, Sir Michael Rocks helped pioneer the current âcool kidâ rap and fashion swag, since borrowed by a number of your favorite artists. They were the next big thing, even featured in a nationally aired Rhapsody commercial, with future star Sara Bareilles. Unfortunately for the duo, the steam from their almost certain runaway train to stardom ran out halfway down the track. It may have been the product of bad timing, along with clichÃ©d âlabel issuesâ with the second release, When Fish Ride Bicycles. Fortunately, the time out of the mainstream limelight has served the young Chicago MC well, as he has managed to maintain the buzz while diversifying his sound and look.
Rocks starts BANCO with a short life update, and an immediate Japanese anime reference, in âIntro.â These sorts of references are not a surprise, given his prior work, and they occur throughout the album. This track, however, has a surprising southern/Houston rap feel, seeming to be the start of an exercise in how he can sonically separate himself from his hometown, and perhaps shed some of the Cool Kids perceptions out front. This continues on âMemoâ, a song for which the video puts a different light on the lyrics, perhaps as a fun, very subtle satire.
The Twista-assisted âSome Ishâ displays Rocksâ hedonistic side, appealing to the women who like women, with the smooth "Do or Die" flow over reverb-laden guitars. âBussin'â is a straightforward banger, with a slight Triple Six feel, featuring a couple of strong verses from Casey Veggies and IAMSU!. In the middle of the album sits the most volatile track, âKill Switchâ, which has an appropriately infused roman candle sound throughout, and Robb Bank$ and Pouya delivering a pair of tough verses. The mixdown is knotty on most of the album, and specifically on this track. The vocals, as well as more subtle sounds, arenât necessarily drowning in bass, but are barely above sea level. A lot of interesting sounds end up muddled, and slightly overpowered.
âOne Timeâ is the âsmooth and sensuous soundâ of Rocks, a new take on 90âs Quiet Storm FM, with its velvety synths, the deep low end, and a Holy Mountain reference. You will not see many mentions of Alejandro Jodorowsky films in any genre (unless of course we're talking about the "Yeezus" tour or a recent song by Asaad and Ab-Soul). The oddest inclusion is obviously âFuck Seaworldâ, a track most similar to the older Cool Kids productions. Partly awkward brag swag, itâs an equally unusual H.A.M-out on the people running SeaWorld for their alleged mistreatment of animals. His flow is both hilarious and bizarre, mentioning his pet monkey is coming out with its own mixtape.
Along with the good lie the bad, namely âDrug Dealerâ and âPlaystation 1.5.â There is also the questionable: the Mac Miller and Trinidad James co-feature, âLost Boys.â On the surface, the former Mikey Rocks and Miller are an ideal collaboration match, in terms of rap sensibility and aesthetic, as previous shown on 2012âs âGreatâ, from Lap of Lux, and âAliens Fighting Robotsâ from Macadelic. It's not a horrible track, but production is fairly forgettable -- unusual when you consider the quality of Millerâs work, especially of late. âAinât Nothing Likeâ, the one track featuring fellow Cool Kid Chuck Inglish, also includes a vintage Too Short verse, over a vintage Too Short track. âBeeeittcchh.â
The skits, some of the best in recent memory, lend a lot to the surrealist feel of the album. âDino Feeding Skitâ has Rocks leading an unnamed friend toward a casual feeding session for a dinosaur, which eats leather-clothed humans. âCold Sore Skitâ flips from a hilarious cold sore story into an unreal showdown with a hood video game boss.
By the albumâs finish, the incoherent nature has evolved into something with a little more context, a flimsy satire â which may not have been purposeful. Lacking is the crucial intangible that puts artists at Rocksâ talent level over the top: cohesion. Rhyme or reason is lost for the ideas he puts forth, using only the skits, the cat and dog sounds, and the '6 cell phone' motif to pull the album together from end to end. The production, while mostly solid across the board, doesnât deliver anything particularly notable. Sir Michael is still witty, brash, and consistent with the flows, which carry the album, along with the mostly quality features.
It is not a concept album, unless the concept is creating a soundtrack to an unknown hood B-movie made by late surrealist film director Luis BuÃ±uel. Rocksâ life is clearly dominated by video games, women, a newfound love for Eastern philosophy, and staying high. He mixes the all of these components, with some occasional tough guy bravado (that you really donât believe) into the gumbo pot. The results will vary, as the current formulaâs parts inevitably change. There are some strong points, but the alchemy on BANCO works more efficiently as an interesting art project than an album.