‘KISS THE RING’ looks to introduce Rome Streetz to a larger audience on his Griselda Records debut, and with the help of the best executive producer/curator in the game, Westside Gunn, ‘KISS THE RING’ does not disappoint. Camouflage Monk, Conductor Williams, Daringer, Denny LAflare, DJ Green Lantern, Sadhugold, Sovren, and The Alchemist feature across the project, and if you know the greatness of Griselda, you should be intimately familiar with their names. Across 17 tracks and 50 minutes, all of these insanely talented men and women bring their A-game, allowing Rome Streetz to shine in ways that will surely propel him to being one of the most respected MCs in the game. Rome’s aims may be set high, but when he claims, “I been a Big Steppa!”, I believe he deserves to have his place amongst the best out. Kendrick, eat your heart out, Rome is gunning for the throne.
Front to back, there are highlights to be found, and from the first half, it doesn’t get better than ‘Heart on Froze’. This track is the first of the MVP Conductor Williams’ seven beats across this project. Weird percussion, twisted and distorted strings and keys, and maybe one too many “Conductor!” tags: it doesn’t get more Conductor than that, and it doesn’t get much better than that too. Rome spits lyrics on the song that encapsulate the cover of “KISS THE RING”: dirty and grimy, just like the grit under the fingernail of the finger that wears the biggest fucking ring you’ve ever seen.
“Rose out the coke, smoke to gold quote vocalists, Dior coat with the toast in it, steppin’ on your throat, know I got the game in a cobra grip”
“Say you the greatest of all time, shit that you do typical, slice the goat’s throat like a voodoo ritual”
The holorhyme that makes up the first half is dizzying, but what truly speaks to Rome’s talents is his ability to take classic coke rap tropes and spin them in ways that are original, unique and inventive. But if I had to pick a favourite on this track, and coincidently the best on the whole album, it’d have to be this flip on the Five-Percent Nation’s belief that 85% of the world is ignorant to being controlled by the elites:
“Negotiate, I only slide with a high percentage, you 85s plagiarize, but you guys finished”
Going from the second to the penultimate track, ‘Fashion Rebel’ starts in media res with Sadhugold’s beat tag echoing over the classic “Griselda, by Fashion Rebels”, before the beat kicks in. Sadhu and Sovren go super Saiyan here: a warm grooving bass line blends with rustic drums and vinyl fuzz, accompanying orchestral strings and swooning vocals that bleed together into bliss. Rome once again shows the proof for his claim that he is the Big Steppa and is the perfect fit on Griselda with top-tier lyricism, bringing together extravagance and grime in ways only he can:
“My Off-White runners hover above your scalp, I’m about to triple my account amount, I been a paramount… No chocker chain, I’ll ring your neck”
“Karma still got my address from evil past acts, addicted to fast stacks, I’ve never kicked the habit, half in the cabinet, I bag it then get in traffic”
‘KISS THE RING’ is quality and quantity in true Griselda fashion. Diverse production that carries an atmosphere paired with Rome Streetz lyricism, ‘KISS THE RING’ is the perfect introduction for new listeners and is absolutely one of the better hip-hop releases of the year.