Album Review: Rockie Fresh – The Birthday Tape




Some of the more lavish details from Rockie Fresh’s “Top of the World” are misleading. Yes, Rockie is a member of Maybach Music, maybe the most powerful clique in rap today. But he’s nothing more than a foot soldier compared with MMG head Rick Ross, Meek Mill, or even Gunplay. So when he says he’s “countin’ millions while chillin’ at the top of the world,” it’s important to realize that the dough isn’t (solely) his and that he’s still riding coattails.

Fortunately, the first few songs from The Birthday Tape, Rockie’s quick follow-up to Electric Highway, convince that the 22-year-old could be moving up the MMG ladder very soon. “Top of the World”, despite its occasionally illusive bars, is a strong opening statement, its orchestral pound befitting the verve with which Rockie accounts his rise from the increasingly harrowing streets of his native Chicago. Next is the James Blake-sampling “Life Round Here”, the tape’s most introspective moment being a success even though it would have been nice to hear Rockie write about those streets with the voice-of-a-generation urgency they need. And with “Panera Bread”, we get a Lunice beat that stands up to anything the Montreal producer did for the TNGHT EP and a Ross cameo that might go down as one of his best verses of the year (the way he huffs “Rocky Balboa how I beat boys” over that drop is just…unhhh).

Given its seven-track length, though, Birthday’s underwhelming last few songs render the tape top-heavy. “Nothin Wrong with That” is a catchy little ditty, sure, but that’s only made possible by its lazy use of auto-tune that makes it sound like Rockie is staring nervously at his shoes while coming on to this girl instead of relishing in his MMG-supported status like he should. By the time closer “Bloodstream” comes around, the decisions become even more dubious, with a sample of Stateless’ song of the same name sounding every bit as awkward as was always inevitable. If Rockie can learn to save up his best work for release all at once instead of rushing to drop a new project in hopes of keeping his buzz, he won’t have to worry about three or four stumbles cooling him off.

Essential Tracks: “Top of the World” and “Panera Bread”