Album Of The Week: Je ne sais quoi by Ro$$eTTi
Sitting down with the new EP, Je ne sais quoi, by hip-hop artist Ro$$eTTi, I feel transported. Not to another time though, even if the boom bap is completely on point throughout this EP. No, I’m transported to a place, specifically a bar.
As I make my way through the EP’s first track, I can’t help but feel like I’ve walked into an intimate, dimly lit bar between the hours of evening and morning that’s showcasing a soulful and relaxed trio playing on their stage. They catch my ear instantly and I sit down at the bar, right next to someone who I strike up a conversation with, a conversation that’s enhanced by the music but also fulfilling on its own merits. We get to talking and you end up having one of those chance encounters with a stranger that exists on your own wavelength as well as multiple others, thus expanding your own knowledge and perception without even realizing it.
Of course in this scenario, that stranger is Ro$$eTTi himself and it’s his conversational finesse on this record, stout and sincere, that I just find endlessly captivating.
In just the first track, “Prince Among Thieves,” I can tell Ro$$eTTi is speaking my language. He drops references to The Sandlot (“I’m the fuckin’ beast in this sandlot / you’re killing me smalls”), pro wrestling (“if she watch wrestling, that will hit the jackpot / put her in the camel clutch position til she tap out”), and even offers a tough rebuke of the blonde conservative black hole of thought Tomi Lahren. It’s exactly what I’d want to hear at night sipping a vodka tonic as music glides behind me — common interests and viewpoints that make us both laugh and want to say, “Damn, you all right.”
But as soon as the next song comes in, he shifts his stance. Sure, the pop culture references are still there from NBA bust Greg Oden — what could have been! — to Good Times, but as he continues to fortify that common ground between us, he starts to zero in on his own background and beliefs to help me see his point of view. Of course, it’s one I already agree with, but how could he know that? He doesn’t know me. But he does know how to talk and relate and resonate, and boy, does the veiled and shrewd “black is proud” mentality on this track resonate, almost as strongly as songs like “The Blacker The Berry” from earlier this decade.
It’s not something he dwells on though — like any good stranger conversation, it’s best to jump around and broaden your appeal. And on “Solitude,” he does just that with personal revelations that feel like they come after the 10th drink, but also come across so sincere and expressive that you know he’s just been waiting for the right person to talk to about it. “But still I’m crippled by this self-doubt / Part of the reason I’m still stressed out / Damn / I know I can be the best out / I mean, I think I can / Fuck / Here I go again.” Some people might not have the same feelings, but just hearing his pacing and inflection in the words shows his inner turmoil, something that comes across so genuine that it’s impossible to replicate.
It’s on “Summer Sanders” that I start to realize what’s going on though. The atmosphere, the music — it’s started to revolve around Ro$$eTTi as opposed to Ro$$eTTi weaving in where he can. Pay close attention to the beat and you’ll find it slightly irregular, as if it’s missing a beat on the 2 or 3 at times. But in those moments, Ro$$eTTi’s flow changes course, punching in word notes to keep the proceedings going and it’s clear what’s happened. As the music drops out, Ro$$eTTi storms in because it’s his show — the music’s just there for the flavor while he provides the discernible sustenance.
Of course, this whole imagined scenario seems justified as the last track, “One For The Road,” comes in to wrap up the proceedings. And it’s here, on our last drink of the night before we part, that he drops some really heavy thoughts. Where you going after this, you might ask to which he replies “No destination, this n**** just needs some company to take my head away from this mountain range that’s in front of me.” There it is — why the conversant tone works so well too. While he’s enlightening and captivating me, he’s also unloading himself, releasing the inner dialogue that’s become burdensome over to someone who’ll listen and maybe help him make sense of things as they flow out.
And then his final parting thoughts after the drinks are downed and the bills are paid. “Now listen when the boss speaking / Cause this is more important than anything y’all tweeting / We stronger as a unit / My people we’re all needed / Don’t be a prisoner of fake news and false teachings.” And I couldn’t agree more as I walk back to my Lyft and ponder everything on the drive home.
Through all the rhythmic grace, heavy rhyming skill, and shimmering instrumentals housed in this EP, it’s the conversational tone on this EP that stands tall and makes this an EP worth checking out and re-visiting when you want to re-capture the grounded elegance that only hip-hop can put forth.
I’ll definitely be revisiting this music again, hoping to maybe pass by him again with some new thoughts one day, ones I’ll be happy to listen to just like the first time.