- GANGSTER OF LOVE ALBUM REVIEW -
San Francisco emcee Rocky Rivera has been building her fan base for several years now, dropping a couple of mixtapes and one solo album, joining up with the Beatrock Music family in the process. With her new solo album, Gangster of Love, we find the Filipino American artist at her most confident and daring.
Listening to Gangster of Love, I can’t help but think of a conversation I had earlier this fall with a friend and producer about finding your artistic voice. His point, which I agree with, is that you just have to dive in and start making music – record that album, tour, make some mistakes, take your lumps, keep going, and the seeds will be planted. You’ll figure things out, and by the time you reach album number three, things will click. Your fan base, which had been growing this whole time, will be ready to receive this great album and spread the word. The number of albums, of course, is approximate, but the point is to be taken. Very few artists knock it out of the park on their first album, but if there’s enough promise on it, fans will focus on the positive and keep supporting. Well, fans of Rocky Rivera can rest assured that everything has finally come together on Gangster of Love.
Rivera has always displayed plenty of talent, with a great mix of in-your-face shit talking and smart discussion of social and political issues in her lyrics. She’s also wavered between a more Hyphy sound akin to other artists in the Bay Area and a more soulful boom bap reminiscent of the L.A. underground. She’s struggled to find the perfect balance in the past, both lyrically and sonically. On this album, everything balances out, and we even get a little bit more to make the album really special. With production from Bhonstro, Otayo Dubb, Faint, PMBeatz, 6Fingers, Dex Beats, MTK, Sabzi, Fatgums, and Justo, Rivera finds just the right mix of music. She utilizes some really hard hyphy/dancehall-esque beats that encourages her to come strong with her delivery. This in turn allows the her opportunity to rail against some of the challenges she’s faced as a woman and a Pilipino American trying to make her way as an independent hip hop artist, such as on the anthem, “Ain’t No Way.” Some of the more soulful beats encourage her to open up and be more vulnerable with her listeners than she ever has. On “Shine,” we get a wonderfully sincere look at how Rivera got together with fellow Beatrock emcee Bambu, what her reservations were, and how she balances her work life with her home life. Another one of the most moving tracks comes in the form of “Air Mail,” which features some poignant production from Fatgums. He smartly samples a Tagalog ballad called “Sa Bughaw na Buhangin,“ to shape the track, which sets the stage for Rivera to relay the story of her family coming to the States from the Philippines.
Gangster of Love is the album I’ve been waiting for from Rivera. I’ve known she had the talent, and have been waiting for everything to come together the way they have here. Most importantly, with this album, Rivera has really opened up to her audience and allowed them to get to know her on a much more personal level than in the past. This is the album that were going to look back on as a turning point in Rivera’s career.
Written by Chi Chi on December 03, 2013 http://www.scratchedvinyl.com/?q=node/1395