Rome Streetz’s collaborative effort with DJ Muggs is dark, violent and especially paranoid.
Rome Streetz raps like the main character of a Grand Theft Auto game. Though today’s New York isn’t quite like the Liberty City presented in GTA IV, the fiendish beats produced by Cypress Hill veteran DJ Muggs create a ghoulish aura that showcases just how vicious and cutthroat Rome can be on their first collaborative effort, Death & The Magician. The album sounds like what would happen if the next entry of the Rockstar Games inspired itself by watching Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige.
Death & The Magician’s first real track “Prayers Over Packages” starts with a short series of questions where Rome ponders his downfall as a potential revolutionary (“What get you killed fast than too much love, trust and truth? / What’s the difference between Malcolm, Martin and Huey Newt / Sometimes a n**** downfall is who he knew”). Rome’s paranoia is what drives him to keep on asking questions. On “The Devil’s Chord,” the NYC-based rapper likens COVID to the fentanyl crisis and racism embedded in the United States’ police and judicial divisions. COVID-19 is, of course, real, but Rome isn’t arguing against it. He sees it as another tool for the American government to leave Black people for dead.
Rome’s consistency is reliant on his authenticity. On “The Manuscript,” he raps about living his raps (“I really am what I spit in songs / N***** be actin’ like they really want smoke ‘til they hit the bong”), and not creating a personality for the sake of selling records. Frankly, it’s hard not to believe Rome when his songs sound the way they do. Muggs’ rugged production supplements Rome’s grittiness across Death & The Magician with his masterful sampling and the airy, ethereal darkness it exudes.
Despite Rome’s fiery performances, he stumbles by showing a jarring lack of empathy, uttering a homophobic slur on “High Explosive.” Similar to how Tyler, The Creator used to say the word liberally on albums like Wolf and Cherry Bomb, Rome’s use of the f-word shows a slight disconnect, even if the word wasn’t used to demean the gay community explicitly.
Death & The Magician sounds exactly like what the title implies. It’s a dark and violent album but isn’t in your face with booming bass and trunk-rattling raps. It’s like looking up into a gossamer and getting enthralled by the paranoia and apprehensiveness of someone who’s seen it all in the streets of New York.
Trial Track: “The Manuscript”