Rockie Fresh's Debut Album, Destination is More than an Introduction
Evan Dale // Nov 19, 2019
It’s difficult to believe that Destination is Rockie Fresh’s debut album. But unlike the popularized move that rappers have been pulling where they discount their canon’s half-a-dozen full-length projects in order to gain extra acclaim and attention to their latest (looking at you, Boogie and Chance the Rapper), Rockie Fresh, through almost a decade of releases, owns credit to but one prior solo project: 2016’s mixtape, The Night I Went To…. In accompaniment of Fresh Veggies, his collaborative release with California hip-hop lovechild, Casey Veggies, Destination is more than his introduction or the culmination of his journey to this point. It proves even though he’s been making his presence felt for years, he’s still just getting started.
Per his Chicago roots, Rockie Fresh is an image of hip-hop range in two directions: the high-energy end of the spectrum spurred by Chi-town melodists like Valee, and the consciously lyrical driven by decades of Chicago poets exploring meaningful thematics.
And yet, as Destination begins, it still surprises. Perhaps least expected is its identity reminiscent of Travis Scott. Echoey, hyphy, and melodic, it would seem that even though mostly spent out of the limelight, Rockie Fresh has had no trouble keeping up with hip-hop’s trendiest directions through the past couple years. Anthemic, energetic, and stirred equal parts autotuned melody and adlibbed exclamation, King’s Back, Health Risk, Round Here, Done With It & Feelings Hurt – which features 24hrs and Casey Veggies – reflect a modern hip-hop scene that prioritizes energy and melody. It’s a stark risk for an artist who, although has always been a force in the up-tempo realm, hasn’t been around enough in the past couple years for his fans to get a gauge on just how he has evolved adjacent to hip-hop’s own evolutions. But, risks well taken as the album’s opening half utilizes the shock factor and the high energy to draw in listeners old and new, while providing a popularized scene plenty of new material and new takes from an old name.
But that’s not to say that Destinationadheres strictly to what’s trendy and what’s bubbling over with intensity and energy. Rockie Fresh has always had something to say.
He’s a wordsmith with a powerful pen, but his laid-back, oftentimes spoon-fed delivery has a tendency at masking the meaning in his words. It’s also what allows him the melodic discourse that’s drawing the Travis Scott comparisons. He’s nothing if not wide-ranging, and that range is put on full display once the album enters its second stylistic stage.
Maria feels like the introduction to Destination’s vinyl B-Side. A soft-edged, romanticized change of pace drives its hook and its verses, re-introducing Rockie Fresh as a relatable songwriter, a proper vocalist, and a dynamic, lyrical presence to hip-hop across multiple generations. The range gapping this side of Destination’s texture from its opening hyphy half would have written Rockie’s transcendentalism wrought with claims of unexpected experimentation were it only five years ago; but in a modern scene dictated by artists that flow seamlessly across the relic of genrefication, Destination’s brash self-differentiation makes him a modernist with a storied past that has yielded him years of refinement.
Most debuts aren’t written by veterans, but Rockie’s experience is obvious. And he uses it to welcome the world to a Rockie we’ve always known in accompaniment of two Rockies that exist on opposite ends of only the Freshest of scales.
Through twelve tracks, Destination is perhaps a roadmap of where Rockie may eventually end up. Meandering here and there as a consciously in-touch lyricist, he bookends his bread and butter with vocal runs and featuring artists that edge him close to emotionality and R&B, while on the other end effortlessly explores the hyphy, anthemic corner of high-energy hip-hop à la Travis Scott and friends.
Destination was never going to be predictable, but who would have thought it would be this wide-ranging and this well-done. Congratulations, Rockie Fresh.