A second-generation Iranian immigrant from a broken home in downtrodden Kent seaside town Margate, Rocky “Mic Righteous” Takalobighashi’s biography alone stokes interest.
Fortunately, this debut retail release displays sufficient flashes of talent to suggest there’s more to him than a turbulent backstory.
That’s most evident in moments where he diverts away from straight-up rapping. Up All Night is the first attempt at crossover territory, its harmonious chorus lines greedily eyeing up clubs and charts with a swagger roughly equal to Tinie Tempah’s best-selling moments.
He’s not afraid to admit the endgame, either: Ghost Town claims, “This rapping thing don’t bring me s*** / That’s why I’m standing here and singing this.”
Coupled with ambitions for fans to “scream my name” and “follow everywhere I go”, the bluster could easily be dismissed as empty projecting. But it’s all tempered with a sense of humility, talk of a past suicide attempt soon injecting a dose of grim reality.
Elsewhere, spotting parallels is slightly simpler: The Pen is vastly reminiscent of a pre-breakthrough Plan B, back when he was spitting almost as many swears as regular words, a sparse brutal flow splattered with uncompromising, unromantic inner city imagery.
Verbal Murder winds itself into a fury that will have half-glancers namedropping Eminem. Hold It Down warrants mention, if only for containing the most unappetising simile committed to wax in a good while. Let’s pray Mic doesn’t actually “dance like Jamiroquai”.
The only truly misfiring moment is King of Hearts, a formulaic attempt at grandiose hip hop balladry that can’t be rescued by guest vocalist Ella Chi’s cut-glass refrains. It’s a glimpse of Mic’s predilection for collaborations, though, having previously worked with Ed Sheeran and Emeli Sandé.
With ambitions far beyond cementing ghetto hero status, whether Mic Righteous goes on to become the next Strickland Banks or simply another UK hip hop contender isn’t settled inside the seven tracks here.
There is, however, more than a fighting chance that he will realise confusingly-titled existential closer Intro’s parting hope: “When I’m six feet deep in a ditch / My legacy will live.”
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