Texas rapper Big Marley is one of the most inhuman rappers I think I’ve ever heard. His grinding, vehement takes on trap and drill are intensified by his vicious, animalistic delivery, creating a listening experience unlike much else in the underground scene.

Marley’s Soundcloud bio says ‘not human’, and this much is believable. Although he raps primarily over straight-laced hip-hop beats, his vocal approach could not be further from traditional. There’s a real gnarliness to his inflections that extends beyond mere hoarseness, he sounds less like he has a sore throat and more like he’s conjuring something otherworldly every time he opens his mouth. A quick rifle through his discography reveals that on his World War project he was actually pretty close to sounding like a ‘regular’ dark trap rapper, but things soon escalated on the sequel. The lyrics on this project as well as everything he has released since reveal Marley to be a merciless character obsessed with vengeance, and even on songs like ‘Hellz Gen’ that sport boom-bap production the anger never ceases.

On Godz Hidden Agenda Marley sounds even more disappointed and disillusioned with the world at large. The only notable musical difference on this project is that the rapper is working on longer, more fleshed-out tracks (one of which, ‘Hitman’, clocks in at almost four and a half minutes long), but the intensity with which he delivers his lyrics has been amped up even further. His tales of violence and paranoia may be hard to decipher, but their ability to keep the listener engaged is unparalleled. It may not seem like it when you initially hit the wall of abrasiveness that Marley presents with his music, but the Dallas rapper is an expert storyteller and a master of working with a beat to enhance its atmospheric potential.

One of the highlights of his discography so far, ‘The Calm Before the Storm’, exists solely to eviscerate any expectations that the listener might have of what a rapper might do on a beat like this. The DIY aspect of this song’s creation is fascinating, everything from the rawness of the vocals to the mixing of the beat to the sound of a mouse click as the song concludes exudes a lo-fi attitude that results in the crafting of a truly unique musical product. This song featured on Marley’s Blue Matrix EP, the first of three Matrix-themed EP’s that massively contributed to the diversity of the artist’s sound. Blue Matrix featured some wild experimentation including a trap metal song as its closer, a sensible musical foray for a rapper so dedicated to creating content on the darker, more twisted side of rap. Green Matrix meanwhile saw the rapper return to conquering drill beats, essentially honing in on and perfecting his laser-focused flow and gargled delivery.

The most recent instalment of the series is Black Matrix, simultaneously the most depraved, insane-sounding and most accessible entry point into his discography. ‘Im Up’ is an unprecedentedly catchy opener, ‘Yea, I Kno’ is essentially one long, bitter rant and centrepiece ‘Feel Ma Pain’ is his most vulnerable offering to date. With stronger, more structured songwriting on his side, Marley’s continued forays into dark, underground hip hop will undoubtedly only improve in the future, anyone even remotely interested in that side of the genre should be tuning into this guy’s music.

– Chris (@108mics)


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