Romen Rok Absolutely!

Providence, RI MC Romen Rok moves beyond crew albums and guest spots alongside the likes of Apathy, Alias and the Labeless Illtelligence fam, releasing a solid debut album that's mainly throwback tracks comprised of slamming underground beats, witty raps and a nice mix of braggadocio and concept songs. Absolutely! opens with album highlight "Never Too Much," an attack on materialism that calls for more family time over one of the album's mellow beats, made extremely catchy thanks to a chirping whistle, and it's also the first of four self-produced songs on the record. It's followed by two more highlights, each more hype and up-tempo. Rok puts freshness of body next to freshness of rhymes for sing-along party track "Cuckoo Nest," produced by Esh the Monolith, then drops old school battle raps over a minimal Joe Beats beat that's pretty much just live-sounding drums and wood block ("Runnin' With Scissors"). Further along, another trio of songs stands out: Rok channels Necro over simple acoustic guitar and drums on revenge fantasy "The Feed"; drops a touching ode to his hip-hop mentor and friend, "Lou Diamondz Forever"; and examines the need for modern conveniences versus a green life over a reggae beat for "Golden Boy," with the first and last of these being self-produced as well. Aside from the silly, much too long outro, the rest of Absolutely! is far from filler, making for an album that should impress fans of underground hip-hop that's neither weird nor experimental. (Hip Noodle)