R.O.E. – To Happiness [Review]
Want proof that hip-hop is not swallowed by the shadows of death? Want proof that the genre is refined and still strong in foundation? The underground is the affidavit of such testament and buried within its vaults is an emcee herald from Chicago with much artistic execution. R.O.E’s (Rising Over Envy) sophomore offering To Happiness is the exact calculation to sanctity’s euphoria not too often found in hip-hop: gloried storytelling, thoughtful lyricism, jagged in delivery with golden era nostalgia.
To Happiness is autobiographical. It is the becoming of a knighted R.O.E. whose life comes in many phases and cycles that prepares him to arrive to his final destination- the evolving into greatness. This notion is implied in the EP’s “Intro” as one hears a car’s ignition turned on and slowly taking off to explore the road less traveled. This suitably sets the tone for not only the rest of the album, but its first record “Long Way From Home.” What serves intricate about this single is its whispery monologue in its beginning that gradually builds momentum in the middle to end with its storytelling, perfectly capturing R.O.E. in a meditative state. His lyrics of self-discovery and of paying dues are like life that flashes before him.
To achieve contentment, R.O.E. must endure through the storms. The emcee who vocally resembles the respective hip-hop heavyweights of Q-Tip, Duck Down’s Buckshot, and Lupe Fiasco takes refuge in the cautionary tale “Beware”. He is the enemy of the state as he lyrically adduces, “I know these killers got a plot for me/ They thinkin’ of Tupac ’n me for all my intellectual property.” Aware of envy and jealousy that comes with fame, R.O.E. is quick to dismiss dream killers, blood sucking leeches, and Tony Montana cockroaches with territorial pissings.
Nevertheless, the EP interlocked with boom bap, heavy instrumentation, and funky alternative sounds with the freshness of Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool and The Root’s And Then You Shoot Your Cousin switches up mood with “Good Times”. This feel good record makes one lose self to the song’s rhythm and forget the problems that frequently plague one’s existence. R.O.E. caresses the clit to “Runaway” just as he romances the womb of his Nubian bride. It is a tale of falling in love with Mrs. Right- the key to fulfilling one’s happiness.
The EP concludes with the reflective “Wake Up The World”, a certified gem that samples Nas’ classic “The World Is Yours.” The song’s militant spirit strikes an emotional chord as the emcee aims for social progress. It easily stands out as the takeover- bursting through the walls of confinement, poverty, and of many social ills such as violence, police brutality, racism, and of rape culture. This commitment to social change is one step closer to an emcee’s indulgence of making the world a better place.
To Happiness is silent and subtle in production, a storehouse of organic substance and creativity, but loud in message. R.O.E plays it smart by shortening the album’s length, which is lead to believe that his story is a continuation as he is still outlining life’s chapters. Though, R.O.E. ends up soaring beyond the highest in heights he is still a works in progress. Call it a celebratory milestone!
-Hector De La Rosa