I’ve known Rokem for about a decade, at least 5 years longer than I’ve known most of the I.E. hip-hop community due to my group’s longstanding friendship with the boys from Chamber Records, who he was affiliated with when we met him (if I recall correctly…). By the time we did stumble into the Inland music community Rokem was among the CLDMKRS crew with Thesis (now Theez), Kid Presentable, Besatree and more. Throughout all that time, he has simply never stopped. Now with seemingly countless collaborative albums and beat tapes under his belt, new releases with Kid Presentable and the EOTR Network shine a light on what the next phase of his musical career may sound like.
Rokem's dynamism and rep as a producer rests on his ability to balance proficiency with experimentation. Left to his own devices I've heard him make some noisy avant-garde stuff with unconventional time-structures and busy layers but he can also produce jazzy cuts like "Win or Lose" and "Bad Habit" from this record with stunning polish and frequency. On this album Presentable's maturity and gameness allows Rokem to surf the gamut of his styles within their collab.
Wave Runners breaks years-long patterns for Kid Presentable, a cat I’ve known albeit not well since high school, who has always been the Southwest’s Latino answer to Anticon in my mind in his consistent delivering of fresh but often somber raps about inner turmoil and love over boom-bap beats with spidery guitar melodies and haunting piano loops. On Wave Runners we find Kid Presentable playing with limerick, with modern styles of production, with brightness and pop in a way that he never has before all while riding some of Rokem’s most experimental beats since Jazz Spectrum with Bone-Solyd. If KP reminded me of Slug and Eyedea before, this brief and upbeat yet pensive album reminds me more of MC Chris and Drake with its masterful grasp of the balance of hip-hop substance and ephemeral pop particularly on songs like "Cobretti" where Presentable sounds like he's teasing while he weaves a catchy refrain. On "JohnHughesOG" its apparent that his elder millennial stoner persona is more relatable every year; "maybe I should write something a bit more uplifting" he says portending this project itself. It really is impressive how KP takes what some MCs just hear as “hard” and to shape it into a project’s sound. Kid Presentable told me he asked Rokem to challenge him with beats the other rappers wouldn’t take- this immediately conjured an image in my mind of a surfer tackling a gnarly wave that other surfers dare not – an image of the wave runners…
While Rokem’s latest album release is Wave Runners, his latest single release is 3rd Person with EOTR Network’s Don’t Sleep & Mad Macks. While 3rd Person’s Full LP is forthcoming, their self-titled debut is a music video for a single that is not on said LP. They introduce themselves in an attic-style art gallery surrounded by local luminaries like Sista Eyerie and Vel the Wonder. Smoke billows through the gallery and the visually arresting silhouette-with-white-background shots that I find to be the piece’s signature. Muds is great at trying new things without smacking you upside the head with it. The effect meshes perfectly with the subtle, chill and arty video. Don’t Sleep’s OutKast tribute chorus is a wonderful reminiscent touch that reminds one that 3rd Person is shooting for high atmospheric levels. Rokem’s beat is seasoned yet sizzling, Macks’ struts his gusto like a dog he loves over this down-tempo treasure of a track, the first of many heat-rocks to come from the Rarest Ones.Tristan "Tanjint Wiggy" Acker is staff writer for JooseBoxx, a youth hip-hop and poetry tutor, and member of the Inland Empire nerdcore hip-hop group the West Coast Avengers. Catch more of their work at westcoastavengers.com, follow Tristan on Twitter @Tanjint or e-mail him at email@example.com