Delinquents make good rappers. Bad manners, curse words, a smoking habit, disregard for human life – these are pre-requisites for any rapper (you saw what happened to Fonzworth Bentley), but the best ones make you feel like you’re standing right next to them as they’re smoking a cigarette. You feel disgust for their personality, but they’re so honest and charming about it that you can’t help but keep listening.
Retchy P is a delinquent. The funniest thing I’ve seen on his Instagram, which is full of funny shit, is him smoking a blunt on a New York City train. I don’t know if you’ve ever been on a train in NYC, but if you haven’t, it’s not exactly the best place to puff. Other highlights include Retch resting his head in between Lil’ Debbie’s legs, talking about why he doesn’t care about kids, and taking a picture during a threesome (the last one wasn’t on Instagram, but you get the picture). And none of it is as entertaining as his rapping.
It’s clear from the start that Retch’s style is similar to Action Bronson’s. Dashes of luxury and foreign names pepper his rhymes, as if he’s more James Bond than a rapper from New Jersey. He’s got an imagistic caption for every possible situation – drug deals, cloudy days, looking in the mirror. You name it, Retch can illustrate it. It becomes obvious on “Burgundy Windbreaker,” the third song from his latest project, Polo Sporting Goods, produced entirely by Thelonious Martin. “Make a fiend touch his heels with the back of his neck / human origami.” Rappers talk about junkies all the time, but not like that. Later he talks about his man “freebasing nature.” It’s the phrasing that catches you off-guard.
I first heard of Retch on a song with Dame Dash’s nephew Da$h, an alum of DD172, but I didn’t think much of him. it wasn’t until I heard “City Lights/Blockwork,” the song at the top of this post, that I started paying attention. He isn’t blacking out, but he’s tapping his arm, looking for that vein. He raps like he’s pissed off at the world, especially towards the end. Too many rappers are happy go lucky these days – genuine anger is alluring. It lets the listener know that rappers are just like us.
Next, he stole the show on Bronson’s “Flip Ya” from Blue Chips 2. That’s when people started asking who this kid was. Polo Sporting Goods has been his best received project to date, clocking in at 11 songs. Martin’s sound is baked soul, although he can sound like he’s mimicking Alchemist’s recent style at times. Retch isn’t always hitting, either – at times he can come off like he’s reading from a piece of paper. Throwing words together is tight, and when he weaves it into a narrative it’s captivating, but he might do well to let the beat breath here and there.
The highlight of the tape, without a doubt, is “Special Jim.” It’s a heartfelt tale of a handicapped kid, so visceral that it sounds like Jim might be a real person. Every detail is pitch perfect – Jim loves ice cream with sprinkles, he’s never partied or kissed a girl, his uncle is a drug addict and his mom works two jobs just to maintain her crack habit. And that’s just a fraction of the song. It’s one of the best songs of the year in any genre simply because the storytelling is cinematic. A healthy imagination can take you anywhere, and Retch is going places.