'NO ROADS' but his own could have led to a Reaux Marquez Debut Steeped in Flame
Evan Dale // Feb 5, 2021
From the ashes rise the phoenix, and into that which steals life and destroys, the lyricism of Reaux Marquez breathes life and creates. Over the crackling of a fire, Cracked – the introductory inclusion of the Tennessee rapper’s debut album, NO ROADS opens its auditory doors. As if at first, its listeners are immersed in the Tennessee woods, lucky enough to be listening to Reaux Marquez spit flame around campfire, the bliss and solace quickly drown with the sample of a news reporter disregarding what seemed a calm campfire and introducing the brutal flames and toxic smoke of a massive blaze in North Nashville. From North Nashville – from Bordeaux, Tennessee specifically – Reaux Marquez is rooted. And from the smoke and flame, he, too, rises, the torch bearing lyricist of hip-hop’s hottest cultural underground. NO ROADS but those that Reaux Marquez has walked could have gotten him here. NO ROADS are paved with such ubiquitous poetry.
Some roads, however, compare to Farmer Lando’s lane. Only also stemming from Nashville, a slew of divested masterpieces have also immersed their listeners in storyline in recent months. Brian Brown’s Journey, JORDAN Xx’s Surfing: Highs N Lows, Namir Blade’s Aphelion’s Traveling Circus. Each and every has not only shone Nashville, Tennessee underneath a light blooming with creative lyricism and timeless production, but also in the strength that a project garners from immersive subplot. And akin to their paths, Reaux’s NO ROADS is a tale of blood, sweat, and fire, sewn in his garden as crop.
Fire by fire’s many modern meanings, NO ROADS is mostly up-tempo, vivacious hip-hop from a rapper who lives and dies by the sharpness of his tongue. Thankfully for him, and for everyone listening, there is not a breath wasted in the hour-long exhibition of prose and poeticism; power and painstaking craft. From beginning to end, adjacent to crafting a cohesive narrative, Reaux’s active actions are ripe with a dominating display of lightning-fast bars. Infused with meaning, each line delivered is a line meditated and crafted in the shadows of an emerging Nashville scene for years. His perfectionism is obvious not only in his mystère and long bouts of silence, but strongest as it rings anthemic with each and every bell tolled on NO ROADS.
Meticulously crafted, the bells of that perfected production line the foundation of the album. Folding in and out of crackling fire and eruptive blaze, track after track is born from the ashes of the one before it, where Reaux unapologetically let burn the world around his words. Only spared are those names which, too, add to the inferno of NO ROADS at large.
The BlackSon, Jamiah Hudson, Namir Blade, Lauren McClinton, Yours Truly Jai, Tim Gent, Kiya Lacey. All Nashville. Stylistically all over the place, the features – juxtaposingly, the soulstresses – akin, the adjoining rappers, help craft an occasional detoured direction for NO ROADS, even at times removing Reaux Marquez from the violent pace of his bread-and-butter cadence fury and wordplay. Listening to him not only risk the newfound ground of vocal emotionality, but thrive in doing so, makes he and Jai’s On My Side particularly enchanting even amongst so much unparalleled rhythm and poetry. But the same level of dissection, too, belongs in varying study to each and every track on the project.
Together, NO ROADS is a sharp coming-of-age tale from a rapper not new to Nashville, but relatively undiscovered (for now, but not for long) to the streaming world largely outside of Tennessee. Broken down into individual pieces, NO ROADS's puzzling, deeply immersive storyline subsides, and hit-by-hit, singles earn their own place in 2021’s greater hip-hop tale, while also introducing his budding genius to further corners of the world.
Through its first four tracks, NO ROADS burns with a vivaciousness and pace unattainable by almost any modern rapper without mentioning names like Kendrick Lamar & JID. Here, through Park, Paradigms And Renegades, and Big Fish, Reaux introduces listeners to the trailblazing word architect that quickly and violently builds worlds deep in the minds of those listening. Juxtaposing, on Big Fish, the BlackSon offers a moment of more paced brevity.
A.A.S.B. again strikes reminiscence to Kendrick Lamar though this time not the coming-of-age immersion of Good Kid m.A.A.d. City or the high energy cadence intensity of DAMN, but of the neo-soul inspired jazz creativity of To Pimp A Butterfly. With a light piano backdrop, Reaux Marquez is transplanted to another world where flow is an alien tool meant to be distorted, toyed, and ultimately mastered as an instrument of rhythm.
Following the stylistic evolution of NO ROADS at large, Reaux Marquez then takes another turn, this time towards the melodic. For all intents and purposes though Reaux is blessed with a natural Tennessee melody to his voice, Block Hot, High, and Diminished are truly his first notable explorations with injecting vocally led direction into his own work. The juxtaposition between his quick-paced, deeply toned delivery and the rangy registers of his accompanying vocalists – Jamiah Hudson, Lauren McClinton & Jai, respectively – gleams with sonic silk and helps belay not only a deeper Nashville identity onto NO ROADS but instill it with a broader sense of musicality altogether.
A new chapter again begins with The Wires // Torched where he and Tim Gent explore the breadth of their poeticism through an aesthetically positivist productive backdrop, seamlessly and dynamically dropping bar after bar for a long five minutes. Here, both make the NO ROADS case for Nashville being the most lyrically adept hip-hop capital of the Southern cloth. It’s that good. And with Back Door, it continues.
On the other end of his stylistic spectrum, Arsonist, With Love, Praimfaya, and On My Side carve out the album’s silkiest, most emotionally in-touch moments where Reaux subsequently takes his largest risks. All are gorgeously interwoven explorations of hip-hop and Neo-Soul’s eternal tether to one another, and all prove to be prime moments for Reaux to exhibit his boundless range. No Roads breathes of the same breadth at length.
By the time End’a The World Party – a NO ROADS intermission – introduces a final few lyrical heat checks from Reaux Marquez: Food For Thought & Jubilee, a listener has seemingly experienced every corner of his musicality – of hip-hop’s range at its full scope – and been immersed in the North Nashville blaze that birthed his creative flow and inexplicable dynamism. By the time it’s all said and done, NO ROADS could never get Reaux here again. Only new matches struck could light a path to more genius. And of those, Farmer Lando surely has many in the pockets of his checkered overalls.
The garden keeps growing.