Rome Streetz is a testament to how diverse and chock-full of talent hip-hop is as a genre. The 36-year-old New York rapper released his newest album, “KISS THE RING,” on Sept. 30, and it may be the best rap album you’ve never heard of in 2022.
Streetz is part of Griselda Records, founded by rapper Westside Gunn in 2012.
“KISS THE RING” showcases Streetz’s impressive wordplay, and his hunger to make a name for himself can be felt in nearly every verse. On top of that, the production and beat selection are unlike those of many other hip-hop records. The lyrics reflect Streetz’s reality growing up in New York around violence and drugs, while the beats sound like background music for a five-star restaurant at times. Streetz’s ability to mesh these together and make great music is a skill that stands out, as not many hip-hop records sound this way.
The intro track on the album is called “Big Steppa,” and it sets the tone for the remaining 16 tracks. Track 1 is produced by Camoflauge Monk, and “smooth” would be the perfect adjective to describe its sound. And Streetz never fails to provide braggadocious lines like “Haters stuck on the sideline, didn’t want Rome to rise.”
In Track 2, which is titled “Heart On Froze,” Conductor Williams makes his first of many appearances as a producer on the album. Listeners will know he had a hand in production when they hear his “Conductor, we have a problem” adlib that recurs throughout multiple songs.
“Heart On Froze” is a great example of the dichotomy between soothing sounds and violent lyrics. A passive listener may be too caught up in the sound of the song to hear Streetz say, “Slice the goat’s throat like a voodoo ritual.”
Streetz’s lyrical ability shines through in “In Too Deep” and the track is one of the best, if not the best, on the record. “Knife wounds in your spine usually come from a friend’s greed, jealous ones’ envy, gotta watch those intensely,” Streetz says. “I always knew you’d get much further if you talked less than you listen. I was in too deep, drowning before I started swimming. Surrounded by temptation, drug money and fast women.”
The beat switches up after Streetz’s second verse to a spoken word outro that sounds like something from an old video game.
Conway the Machine is the brother of Westside Gunn and a member of Griselda. He is featured on the track “Soulja Boy.” The track’s title is a reference to the rapper Soulja Boy, but more specifically, to a clip that went viral of Soulja Boy telling a story about having his home invaded.
At the end of the track, Streetz samples a clip of a Kanye West interview in which the Chicago rapper calls himself a god. The timing of the album release is important, because the week after the album came out, West made waves by wearing a shirt that read “White Lives Matter” at a fashion show. He then posted an antisemitic tweet a few days later.
“Tyson Beckford,” which was produced by Daringer, gives you the feeling of being inside a haunted house. The piano is mixed with a thumping drum that sounds like a heartbeat, and listeners can’t help but remain on edge as Streetz drops bars like “Heavy is the head that wears the crown, that’s just how it is. Stay woke, stupidity and power is a sour mix.”
A simple xylophone over “Destiny Child” stands out and is a positive addition to the album. Streetz seems to be showing off by effortlessly finding pockets to the beat, and his rhyme scheme is so satisfying that the lyrical content almost doesn’t matter. Listeners will likely believe that his voice itself seems like an instrument on the track.
Track 7 is titled “Blow 4 Blow” and features more fellow Griselda members, Stove God Cooks and Benny the Butcher. Conductor Williams is the producer yet again, and the beat gives off the effect of birds chirping early in the morning in a children’s cartoon movie. That feeling quickly morphs into a darker tone once the lyrics pick up in lines like, “Spill the blood of my rival all over his Bible.”
Another track that gives off a distinct vibe is Track 9, “1000 Ecstasy.” This song communicates the feeling of riding on the back of a nearly empty bus through a city late at night as it rains. Conductor Williams delivers once again, producing a very somber, but oddly relaxing beat.
In nearly every song, Streetz alludes to his desire to live a lavish lifestyle with expensive clothes and cars. His tone and relentless flow convey that a fancy life is not just something he wants, but something he needs. Streetz sounds dead set on amassing great wealth, and it sounds like he plans on doing so by any means necessary.
Westside Gunn makes an appearance on the track “Non Factor.” His incredibly unique, high-pitched voice stands out, and if you weren’t expecting it, it may have caught you off guard. Not to be outdone, his adlibs of gunshots are featured plenty throughout his verse to add even more flavor.
“Armed & Dangerous” is a change of pace in terms of the lyrics. Streetz touches on love and trust, but he features Armani Caesar, and she makes the song her own. As the only female artist appearing in the album, Caesar really carries her weight and flows beautifully on the beat produced by DJ Green Lantern.
The replay value of the album comes from clever lines, incredible beats and Streetz’s hungry tone. “KISS THE RING” is an enjoyable listen for hip-hop fans looking for something out of the ordinary, and the different beats can even provide non-hip-hop fans with a reason to give the genre a chance.