Graduating from rap duo The Cool Kids, lyricist Mikey Rocks aka Sir Michael Rocks drops his long-awaited 6 Cell Phone Records debut Banco. Following the release of several mix-tapes that showcased Rocks’ personality, this new solo album expands on his wide range of rap style. Rocks switches from the signature 1980s boom-bap sound that made The Cool Kids such a success to West Coast chill vibes and Chicago soul. His unique, old school flow finds an interesting placement with lyrics about partying, girls, traveling, his distaste for SeaWorld, and a love for life. With production from Reno, Young Chop, and Dj Mustard, the long-awaited Banco is an ambitious debut that can feel a little disjointed at times.
As one of the pioneers of the digital era of hip-hop where free mix tapes and blog posts can get just as much recognition as an industry-backed mass production, Sir Michael Rocks’ mainstream breakout moment is long overdue. The chill, cool persona that he emulated during his time with Sir Charles (The Cool Kids) carries through into this debut. Along with the notable singles Bussin (ft Casey Veggies and IAmSu!) and Memo have come repeat-worthy tracks that can not be overlooked.
Rocks’ style switches up on the Twista-assisted Some Ish. The laid-back tune brings in some chiming samples mixed with some electric guitar rips. Rocks jumps on to drop a boasting verse about enjoying the lavish life with plenty of ladies. The young emcee is later joined by the quick-tongued, fellow Chicago-native Twista and an auto tune hook to set listeners up for the chill mood of a 90s sex vibe. Almost like Rocks recorded this song while crossing through the desert in a drop-top, this song is a standalone and infectious listen that is a new spin for a recurring theme on Rocks’ long-awaited Banco.
The following tracks of Banco incorporate a few different sub-genres of hip-hop, while continuing to ride the same chill wave and laid-back vibe off of which Rocks has made his signature sound, as of late. The production quality of Playstation 1.5 may leave the listener wanting more, but the lyrical flow and content is nothing less than one of the strongest songs on this release. Rocks’ voice is the main instrument to recognize on this track as he spits over the atmospheric backdrop.
Later the momentum and energy picks up on Drug Dealer and Kill Switch. Drug Dealer is a playful track that has a role-play element to it. Rocks jumps onto the bouncing beat with some quick, boasting bars. The sing-a-long hook serves a funny contrast to the crude lyrics about playing women hungry for the fella with money. The latter Kill Switch turns up the mood from the chill, smokey vibe that Rocks has become comfortable with to a high-energy rap track that somehow manages to retain the element of cool. The addition of Pouya and Robb Bank$ was a nice touch, as the three emcees trade bars and call out competition.
Conquest of the opposite sex is a recurring theme throughout Rocks’ long-awaited release Banco. Lost Boys brings in Mac Miller and Trinidad James for another insight into the life of a rap star, where the women are easy and the drugs are plenty. With Rocks at the age of 26, in light of his lyrical content, one begins to question whether or not rap star life is more than just about blowing money fast and romancing groupies. Those that may be new to Rocks’ works may be enlightened by the work, but for the fans who are familiar with his earlier works, these catchy tracks get repetitive and fall into the realm of the mundane after a couple listens.
When an artist goes from a group to a solo act, it is always a tough transition for listeners to see what they are really all about. With Banco, Sir Michael Rocks gives listeners a slight look into what he is all about but manages to leave them wanting to know more. Mixing in a bit of hood element throughout, Rocks manages to throw in a nod to the classic Final Fantasy fight music in a sound bite during the Cold Sore Skit, and another reference in F**k SeaWorld. The track is a standalone that lets listeners know that Rocks is about more than spending money, female conquests, and good smoke, as he sympathizes for the sea mammals that are held in “captivity.” At times, Banco can feel a little out of focus as it bounces from West Coast, psychedelic beats to southern trunk-pop, to old school boom-bap, but Rocks’ lyricism stays consistent. Rocks is still missing that dope production to really showcase his flow, but overall, Banco is a quick and satisfying listen for new and old fans.
Review by Tyler Cole