MARCO PLUS Puts Underground Spin on Atlanta Rap in New Album, “JOINTS” [Album Review]

Sundhya Alter

Some rap artists make listeners sift through the fluff to find the gold in their tracks, opting for discursive and lengthy lyrical bouts that leave albums bloated and thematically unclear. For MARCO PLUS, the witty rapper by way of Atlanta, this concern has never been an issue. Rather its his gritty cold shoulder confidence that delivers projects with a candid cadence equally as raw as it feels familiar, as though he sat you down, handed you a joint and told you to enjoy the ride. On his new album, JOINTS, a collaborative venture with The Smokers Club, his relentless talent with the pen oscillate between jazzy interludes filled with keen juxtapositions of the world and poised flows that show the scenic route of money chasing, life in Atlanta, and a loyalty to his vision.

MARCO PLUS arrived in the Atlanta rap scene merely teasing the contemporary southern rap sound while careful not to capitalize on it. Borrowing from its trap heavy reputation the rising artist laid the groundwork to build from its origins out. While placing clinically sewn bars on top of looping instrumental prod beats, he trades 808s for saxophone and ops for clean, lo-fi influenced triplet hats and flows rather than the familiar ATL rattling triple entendres. On his most recent project, his seamless flow slows and opens the door for a more personal look into his spiritual soundbox, while he examines the reality of dream chasing in a city where the path out isn't always guaranteed, he’s optimistic about his chances, glittering his journey with piano interludes and glamorous rewards. 

The intro to the album lays down the project's theme within the first couple bars, getting his team on the map, sniffing out fake supporters, and claiming himself as the biggest ATL rapper on the come up, which he ultimately proves as a worthy claim. On the first couple tracks “Papers” and “86 avirex freestyle” MARCO PLUS is hungry to spit bars at the same rate he is to leave old habits in the past, the two coagulating to create a tone that works up an appetite for more. “All Day Long” sets the precedent for feverous rants spliced by calculated sequencing, a dedication to his craft that keeps the 13 song album textured at every transition. Breathlessly zooming in and out of drum snares and trumpet reverbs; it's a race to the finish marked by timely water breaks and rest spots. Alongside features by Ben Reilly and WowGr8, the track plays like an or nothing rap battle, each artist amped up by the energy of the one that came before.

Yet what translates the young artist's talent from seemingly underground style to worthy of mainstream attention is his visceral anecdotes that tip toe on astute observations of the world around him. The project's most explosive moments come from his ability to maintain a constant stream of consciousness that flows from gloating about rewards of the come up to bars about the uncertainty of life in the streets. On “Some Sins {Necessary}” he’s riding through his old neighborhood streets with clear hindsight, lingering on his past without conceding to it, “I grew up around some gangstas, they accepted me as gang but I was never in the gang, I never been a lame I just never steered that lane, cause I was peddling to fame.” This open narrative feels like a passive conversation had while reconnecting with a childhood friend. On “hiiiasf!” He's having fun coming up with word games and hooks about weed and getting high, but only lingers on the pastime briefly before the high wears off and he’s looking out for his city, urging his friends to get out like he did on “Get Like Me.” This vivid transparency allows you to get to know PLUS on a personal level like he’s invited you into the memory files of his own mind, but even more it gets you to understand where he’s coming from when he dives deeper than recreational drugs and admiring avirex jackets. On “lead soliloquy” he relives his past struggles with mental health, “Always tired I've been feeling depressed, make me wanna pop a xan don’t give a shit if it's pressed, trying to get rid of this feeling that sit on my chest.”

Labeling MARCO PLUS as a hungry artist would be a true yet understated way to introduce him. He’s focused on his craft with a sharp vision for the path he’s planned out for himself, and speaking from the wide-eyed, all-seeing perspective that he does, it’s hard not to believe in him as much as he believes in himself.

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