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The long-awaited Griselda debut by Rome Streetz finally arrives, soaking itself in the obscure loops and sharp-edged bars that the movement helped popularize.

Those who were on the Rome Streetz wave prior to his deal with Griselda knew that the New York spitter was no pushover on the mic. The multifaceted East Coast emcee made his direct influences hard to pinpoint in his style, taking on multiple forms and fashions in his music. Now that he’s aligned in the illustrious Griselda crew with a gang of dope lyricists, Rome decides to take it back to the basics on his first offering in the camp.

KISS THE RING acts as a compilation of lyrical exercises over the formulaic Griselda sound, getting familiar with his position in the crew while establishing his overwhelming presence in the scene.

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When news broke out that Westside Gunn had just signed Rome Streetz to Griselda, underground heads everywhere celebrated the long-awaited unity between two powerhouses in the scene. Followed by a phenomenal freestyle on the prodigious show, Bars On I-95, Rome was building a solid foundation to deliver a stunning debut – and boy did he deliver. KISS THE RING boasts 50+ minutes of nothing but dangerous verses, leaving no room for filler bars to occupy any excess space. Fans were already confident that Rome would deliver nothing short of greatness, but to continue pushing the pen at a high level takes an incomparable amount of dedication to the craft.

As far as the album’s contents go, Rome dives head first into the bars, putting on an excellent display of lyricism while simultaneously talking his shit. As mentioned, all quotes on this record are lethal, tapping into the ambitious nature that the underground scene yields. The record starts off on a high note with Rome demanding immediate attention from listeners with the forceful lines (“I need the power and respect, millions locked in the safe / I push a Benz, bending corners high rocking awake”). From here, Rome remains consistent with the bars, spitting deadly venom effortlessly on each track.

As the record progresses further, Rome holds no intermission with his barrage of bars, continuously rapping as if there were no end. The steady display of braggadocios bars and witty one-liners radiates a similar energy of hip-hop in the late 90’s, an obvious influence noted by the styles and references littered throughout the project. However, Rome still manages to keep the energy fresh and in a present space, with nods to Soulja Boy on the track named after the internet rap phenomenon and critiques to modern fashion on “Ugly Balenciagas.”

Being that Westside Gunn played a major role in executive producing this project, the production palette very much remains in line with the Griselda sound. Production from in-house names like Conductor Williams and Camouflage Monk make up the bulk of this album’s palette, indulging in the naturally minimalistic nature of the movement’s foundation. This helps Rome slide right into place, establishing his role in the camp as a lethal emcee.

Tying it all together, this record is a hip-hop head’s dream, placing great emphasis on lyrical aptitude and competitive spirit; but the project does stumble a bit in terms of its cohesion. Make no mistake, the atmosphere remains consistent all-throughout, but the barebones production combined with the long runtime opens up space for some monotonous moments in the tracklist. Realistically, this doesn’t take away from how brilliant the rhymes are, but it can be a drag when listening from beginning to end. Regardless, Rome is still nice with the bars, proving he can hang with anybody you compare him with.

Another fine addition to the Griselda catalog, KISS THE RING does a great job of sticking to the script, never stepping out of line throughout the lengthy tracklist. Rome greatly kept it pushing, making great use of his newly accepted platform by demonstrating his masterclass of lyrical abilities. If you’re looking for the thrill of catching face scrunching punchlines and street hymns then Rome Streetz’s Griselda debut is the complete package made for you.

7.5 / 10

Best tracks: “Long Story Short”, “Blow 4 Blow”, “In Too Deep”, “Reversible”, “Ugly Balenciagas”, “Non Factor”