XP The Marxman & ICEROCKS: NOMADS Album Review
From the second the organ starts playing you feel like you have stepped into a dark backroom in the rear of some smoky neighborhood Pub. The kind of spot you need a password, or secret knock to be granted access, unless your accompanied by someone who is a regular. Luckily, I’m here as an invited guest of XP The Marxman, but it don’t make me feel any safer. If you’re not from around the way you don’t recognize the players at the table, but you can tell upon first sight (Listen) that these aint no average joes.
Queens Bridge Producer ICE ROCKS sets the table, dealing out Wurlitzer Keys, Bass lines and a hard drum loop like a hand of cards. XP picks up his hand and sets the project off with a Poker Face that could turn the gorgon Medusa to stone as he spits
“Yall gonna pay the price for these years I sacrificed /
Jotting down my life inside this mic, aint nothing nice /
They looking from afar, in they’re regard I’m living trife /
But wouldn’t last a damn second in these Nikes/…”
XP The Marxman – Rain Dance
What follows is a deluge of pain and passion-infused bars dropping on the listeners head at a steady rate. The opening track to the “NOMADS” project is titled “Rain Dance”, so of course XP uses the audio storm clouds created by ICE ROCKS as a platform to shower down a curtain of raw lyrics on his fans. He sarcastically states at the end of the 1st verse “Got a Soup Kitchen open for bums who trying to eat / Food For Thought, I’m really living what they trying to be…”. He closes the track with 4 bars that tell the entire story of this collaborative project in a compact nutshell.
“I led the struggle; Top Rahman, I let it bubble /
When going overseas is just a hop across the Puddle /
Me and ICE we build a shuttle /
It took years for this, but it happened so subtle”
While scouring the interwebs for new raw hip hop for our #CyphLyfeRadioShow I stumbled upon XP The Marxman aka The Salamander King. An Independent Hip Hop artist from California with more than 10 years in the game. I’d been following him for years on social media, became a fan of his music and started featuring some of his videos on our Live Stream show. So when he blessed me with the Pre-Release of the NOMADS project and asked me to do a write up, I was not only surprised but excited about the opportunity. The project is titled NOMADS, but I had no idea the journey he had just invited me on.
I asked XP about how this album came to life, and how he started working with East Coast Beatsmith ICE ROCKS, being that they are from opposite coast.
“ We met about 6 yrs ago in Amsterdam. We both got booked at the same venue on my first European tour. Maybe a few yrs later he came to LA and I helped him link some shows and radio shows etc.. doing a small promo run in that time he was here. Started working on 3 songs,..next trip 5 songs,.which led up to this 5 yr in the making project. Flying back and forth but always working towards a masterpiece. I am also the first artist Ice Rock has made a full length album with. He only has eps and beat tapes out before this ..so I feel pretty privileged about that!! – XP The Marxman
The album name started to make more sense now. “NOMADS”, a record inspired by years of back and forth travels, that made producing it, writing for it and recording it a genuine experience that the listener can feel off rip. ICE ROCKS makes sure that no track on the album can be easily dismissed or skipped. His bio credits such legends as Pete Rock, Primo, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Havoc as huge influences, and it is evident in his soundscape. He combines the best attributes of all the above-named greats to create settings that suck you in from the first sample. The beats are like a Seat Belt that strap you in for the ride in XP’s rugged dune buggy of verses. The ride is far from Smooth and comfy. XP’s lyrics are rough terrain that he forces you to go through with him, as you witness the run down inner city of the Salamanders Kings past, the rugged craggy roads that cant seem to stop his current hustle, and the newly paved driveways he dreams of pulling into soon.
The journey is only made better by some stellar guest appearances by Big Twins, Hus Kingpin, Roc Marci, unsigned Peers Madhattan, Supreme Cerebral, Daisy Ray, and close family Members DXA, which is the unit of MC’s produced by ICE ROCKS and XP’s crew Rhyme Addicts.
BIG TWINS from the QB Camp shine blindingly bright on “STEEL HEARTS”, a track that sounds like it could have easily been a hidden track on Mobb Deeps legendary Sophomore release “The Infamous”. ICE ROCKS takes a sound that many have tried to imitate (without any luck) and effortlessly makes it sound current and relevant in this recent era of Glam / Trap Rap. The result was a time machine that instantly took me back to my High School days when I would play that Mobb Depp tape on repeat non-stop (If you lived that era, you already know).
“MASK & GLOVES” swirls around your head with a beautiful blend of ephemeral samples. HUS KINGPIN and XP trade verses about their never-ending hustle, they’re voices complimenting each-other and the feel provided by the samples perfectly. Scratches over the hook give it that classic golden era sound that is sourly missed in the game now a days. Hands down one of my favorite beats and colabs off the project.
The ever smooth Roc Marciano and Sir Salamander ( XP) glide over the lo-fi engineered “OPEN DOORS” with the grace of Gold Medal Ice Skaters. Roc has a bar about “Girl wants me out of pocket, she get nothing but lint / This like the water coming out the taps of Flint ” which made me throw my cell at a coworker, I’m currently awaiting to hear from HR. Thanks guys.
You’d expect such excellence from established names like the ones mentioned above, but the real treat comes when your introduced to names you might have not heard of before like Madhattan on “NO DOUBT SON” which has this Haunted Sample that is bound to stick in your subconscious. Or “SHRUNKEN HEADS” feat Supreme Cerebral who brings a furious pen to the table that reminds you of a time when the Lyrical Bar in Hip Hop was set much higher. The Vocal Sample on the hook adds to the nostalgia as the voice of Mobb Deeps own PRODIGY reaches out to us from the beyond (Rest In Power Prodigy). “BIRDS EYE VIEW” feat Daisy Ramos sounds like sledding through snow as silky as whip cream. ICE ROCK combines String and Key Samples along with backing harmony vocals from Ms. Ramos, and the finished product is nothing short of hypnotic. Then we have another of the Stand Out tracks on the album featuring both ICE ROCKS and XP’s individual Crew Members, DXA and Rhyme Addicts, who join forces to run a bum’s rush on the classic sounding “FAMILY REUNION” which could have come out of Pete Rocks SP 1200. This shit is a Bar Fest and the replay value is crazy. It also takes me back to the day when Posse Cuts would put you on to new dope MC’s you hadn’t heard of before. I instantly went looking online for past releases from both crews, and I’m happy to share you can find all of it on Band Camp. Just search DXA and Rhyme Addicts and enjoy.
XP The Marxman holds his own like a pro on every feature and is never over shadowed. The homie has spent years honing his pen and delivery, and you can tell he’s ready to take the next big step. In my opinion, he’s putting out Top Quality music to rival Industry Artist. His grind is to be studied and respected, his entrepreneurial mind frame is exemplary, and his ear for good productions and vision for dope visuals guarantees you will not be disappointed whenever you press play on a single or video. This joint project just proves that XP and ICE ROCKS are some names you should get familiar with. That way you wont be so nervous next time you find yourself in that dark smoky room at that back of the Pub when the door closes shut behind you. You can rest assured you in good company if the NOMADS are in the building.
Head over to www.xpthemarxman.com and get yourself a copy. Support the Indies so they never sell out to go Major.
Stand Out Tracks:
Mask & Gloves feat Hus Kingpin
Steel Hearts feat Big Twins
Birds Eye View feat Daisy Ramos
Family Reunion feat DXA and Rhyme Addicts
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