Contrast is a powerful tool. Juxtaposing different things can be either confusing or harmonious. Detail-oriented artists and curators utilize contrast to highlight aspects of their work that are often overlooked or underappreciated. On Kiss the Ring, Rome Streetz creates a web of divergent sounds and themes, all of which are unmistakably unique but painstakingly cohesive. His youthful cadence accentuates production that oscillates between hopeful and despairing, while his lyrics address his ambitions, unique conception of love, and newfound experiences as one of Griselda’s newest signees.
Streetz quickly sets the tone with the project’s opening track, “Big Steppa.” Over ominous, uneasy production courtesy of Camoflauge Monk, Rome informs the listener that he’s been established in the game long before he picked up the mic. The following track, “Heart on Froze,” sees Streetz discussing his past in more detail. The track’s hook serves as an abstract for the project’s overarching themes and motifs. Streetz says,
Mind on money, heart on froze / Gun barrel on fire, smoke out the nose / Razor blade on the table I used to chop the O’s / Keep my Gucci soles, in a rapper f*ckin’ throat
Conductor’s sinister production reinforces these themes, enlivening Streetz’s bars in a way that makes them feel tangible. If Kiss the Ring were a movie, Streetz would be the writer and director. The producers would be an esteemed group of street cinematographers that capture Streetz’s life with an aged but remarkable clarity.
What’s most impressive about Kiss the Ring is Streetz’s ability to mold, advance, and consolidate the staples of a standard Griselda release. His voice is spry and energetic but distinct from the whimsical, free-flowing vocal stylings of Westside Gunn. His flow is analogous to Benny the Butcher’s but oftentimes more dynamic and condensed. His ability to elevate the themes of a track with precise yet straightforward curatorial decisions is comparable to Mach-Hommy. Tracks like, “Tyson Beckford,” and, “Armed & Dangerous,” place Streetz’s prowess on full display.
The former track sees Streetz rapping with the confidence of a self-assured yet slightly depraved supermodel over a steady attack of orchestral trills and laid-back drums courtesy of Daringer. Although only briefly mentioned when Streetz says,
I finesse, been stylin’ on ya, b*tch, like I’m Tyson Beck
His use of Tyson Beckford deliberately strikes a contrast between the purity and perfection associated with modeling and the gritty, unforgiving street chronicles retold by Rome. Assisted by Griselda’s own Armani Caesar, “Armed & Dangerous,” finds Streetz in a vulnerable position, downplaying love as, “Just a four-letter word like f*ck.” But detailing the benefits of having an intimate, well-trusted partner in crime. Green Lantern provides a drumless beat comprised of soaring, rosey vocal samples that lay adjacent to Rome and Armani’s blunt lyrics.
Kiss the Ring thrives in its ability to make the dissonant congruent. Rome is consistent throughout, utilizing astonishing detail and effortless flows to recant his stories as a hustler. Conductor thrives as the project’s primary producer, providing close-knit beats that stray from coming off as one-note. Although clearly influenced by his labelmates, Streetz maintains his individuality and thrives in his wholesale commitment to his sound. This commitment has paid dividends, placing him in a position where his doubters have no choice but to kiss the ring.
Listen to the new album below.