When the movie Heat dropped, it was a big deal because it was the first time Al Pacino and Robert De Niro were on screen together. The two greatest actors of their generation had only co-starred in one film up until that point (The Godfather II) but never in the same scene. Fittingly, Roc Marciano and The Alchemist are both widely-regarded as the godfathers of this new age street renaissance—and aside from deep cuts they’ve collabed on (“Pistolier,” “All for It,” to name a few), fans of both have been clamoring for an entire tape. On August 26, they got their wish with The Elephant Man’s Bones, one of the best rap albums of the year so far. 

The Alchemist has been honing his craft for the last 25 years or so, continually getting better like a kung-fu grandmaster. Once underrated, he’s finally getting his flowers. The same goes for Marci—after a hiatus from the rap game following stints with Flipmode and the UN, he locked himself in the lab to develop what would become 2010’s integral Marcberg. That album opened the floodgates, allowing underground rappers the assurance they needed to make the music they wanted to make without the mainstream pressure of sales and streams.

ALC / Pimpire International

A few weeks ago, Roc’s manager Jazz assured me the album would have a darker sound than we’re used to, and he wasn’t wrong. On this project, we hear Roc’s signature dark humor accompanied by some of Uncle Al’s most desolate production. We get intervals of melancholy mixed in between those bleacker elements heard on the title track and the Yacht Rock-inspired “Think Big,” but most of the time, we hear Marciano embracing his villainy. “Bubble Bath” is the perfect example as he boasts about sniffing lines off “[his] lady” and being the only person in his top five like Dylan.

“Roc Marciano and The Alchemist are both widely-regarded as the godfathers of this new age street renaissance.”


The tape starts off with the haunting “Rubber Hand Grip” as both the producer and lyricist paint a stark reality for rappers and producers everywhere; the bar has been set. “Forever devilish, don’t you ever forget how the AK-47 kick like an elephant,” Roc adds for good measure. It’s as good an intro as you’re gonna get. 

The second track “Daddy Kane” featuring Action Bronson is a standout. The beat sounds like it could score a spy movie as Marciano and Bronson float down the side of a mountain in matching Aston Martins chasing super villains. “Deja Vu” features the stripped down production Marci has been known for over the years and it’s the perfect precursor for my other favorite track “Quantum Leap.” The beat is a ride and, as usual, Marciano’s rhymes are effortless—and he knows it: “This the flow that earned me a Bentley/It came with my own personal Fonzworth Bentley,” he says in all seriousness. 

On “Trillion Cut,” featuring Alchemist’s tag team partner Boldy James, Marciano gets on his Max B as he sings a hook that shows off his versatility. Later on, Marciano writes a nice love letter to his first plug on “JJ Flash” and Alchemist takes us back to his Mobb Deep era with the piano sample, “Zig Zag Zig,” on which Marci—embodying the spirit of Bruce Lee—spits: “Wrap the foreign, rap like water, it’s formless.” Elsewhere, “Stigmata” calms the tempo down a bit as Marci gets introspective, delivering the slick line: “When you have true inner beauty, no man can remove your jewelry.” And that’s what rap is about: lines that we can share and obsess over. They can be clever, uplifting, or both—doesn’t really matter.

Overall, there are little to no misses here. The only exception is Ice T’s appearance on “Horns of Abraxas.” Although the song and video are amazing, it would’ve been dope to hear the OG put in some work, especially since Roc had claimed on “Move Dope” that he’s “Ice T times three.” Instead, the legend just talked about a time when he had to dump a body. 

Marciano and the Alchemist were in their respective bags throughout this tape. And, on the Pimpire Edition (which you can only get on Roc’s site), the two bonus songs add on to an already masterful showing; especially “Momma Love.” The beat is smooth and calm as Roc arrogantly raps, “Your favorite artist probably a carbon copy of the kid/What didn’t come out in the wash did in the rinse/Eventually your outfit shrink tryin’ to fit in with cliques.” 

After taking a four-year break between 2013 and 2017, Marciano has proven that he’s one of the best rappers (and producers) in the game. For him and Alchemist to finally link up for a full project and deliver this masterpiece is something rap fans should cherish. They’ve single handedly kept this sound alive so camps like Griselda could rise into mainstream consciousness. Crime rap is what Marciano and The Alchemist excel at, and this album is their tour de force. And that’s on momma love.