“Big Little Brother” from Rocky Banks: Review

Honestly, I had never really listened to Rocky Banks until I came across this mixtape on DatPiff. It had the red ‘sponsored’ banner draped across the upper left-hand corner, an immediate sign that it should be at least given a look. It didn’t have any reviews yet, making it even more intriguing because I wouldn’t have any thoughts on it going in. Opening up, ‘Big Brother Intro’ breaks into a speech, a man giving life-advice before moving snare takes over and Rocky’s voice begins its lyrical traversing. The song takes the listener through a journey, from Rocky’s times before becoming famous, as a youngin, to becoming more in touch with the music and using drugs, and really how this music came together for him. It is an intro that sets you up well to listen to the rest of the album with its emotional highs and lows, harsh introspection and realness.

It has been quite a journey for Rocky Banks, dropping out of college, overcoming drug addiction, and becoming a successful artist. This album takes us on this journey, from Rocky dealing drugs and taking plenty more, to him looking for love. At the end of the second song on the album, ‘Unimpressive’ is a powerful message. I’m not sure if it’s Rocky or one of his boys doing to talking, but regardless it is hard-hitting, loud, and important. The person is yelling at someone about their drug use, how it doesn’t make them cool, and how they’re just wasting their life away. Taken in the context of who Rocky is, and what he came from, it could be taken as though it was an older conversation of a homie yelling at Rocky trying to get him to get his shit together. If it is, then it is a brilliantly worked in piece of dialogue that serves to seem as the kick in the ass that got Rocky working to focus-up and grind. A different way of looking at the message is that it is directed at those rappers who take all these drugs and perpetuate a surrounding image of coolness, then (potentially) causing kids to take the same narcos to seem cool and in-style as well. There has been a massive push against prescription drug abuse within the hip-hop community (and whole U.S.) in the past five to six months. It was originally ignited by Lil Peep’s overdose on fentanyl laced Xanax, kick-starting anti-bar sentiments, which was helped by Lil Xan’s smash ‘Betrayed’, an anti-Xanax anthem, and just recently continued by the way to soon death of Fredo Santana. Within this storm, this dialogue (if aimed at those who promote drugs, as well as those who have been abusing them) can be seen as really powerful and a conversation many people could have with friends who have been sidelined by xans.

As soon as “Unimpressive ends”, the beat on “Dopeman” absolutely goes off. I can’t listen to it without bobbing along. I have no idea what the laser-like sound that keeps pace throughout the song is technically called, but it really keeps a nice bounce to the song throughout. ‘Tony Hawk” follows with a nice tribute to the way that Rocky has come up and that now he’s on, it’s on. The album follows the route set in the opening song for the more part, with feelings of depression, regret, and soul-searching creating the majority of the rest of the track-list. There isn’t a drop in lyrical quality during the quality, but as the album does go deeper, it could use a shot of adrenaline or two. This is nothing against the quality of the music (I like it a lot), just that listeners could potentially get lost within the web of complexity of lyricism and emotion that Rocky weaves. The production quality is solid throughout, no glaring mistakes that make you cringe from a poorly timed snare or bass-hit. Im a big fan of the vibe created through the album, one that promotes the listener entering an almost atmospheric mind-space that promotes the introspection Rocky himself is going through. Overall, I am so happy that I decided to listen to the album. Being able to tackle issues plaguing seemingly this whole generation, addiction with prescriptions, depression/mental disorders, in a way that isn’t off-putting of too preachy, Rocky put a stamp on his spot in hip-hop. It is motivational to watch his transformation, and become a quality lyricist with a deep emotional capability, hopefully these positive messages continue to be pushed through the music. Rocky Bank’s is on the come-up, don’t sleep on him.

 

Jake Zinda

23 years old, from Wisconsin Hip-Hop Journalist @CMAG N.S.C.T.D.

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