Strange Music

The opening two bars on Rittz’s third studio album, Top of the Line, is “I suppose that your eyes were closed the whole time/I've been on the rise for almost five years,” which might come across as a fairly cliché statement to most listeners but for the 36-year-old Georgia native it couldn’t be more genuine.

The peaks and valleys that make up Rittz’s career are radical to say the least. From winning Hot 107.9's Battlegrounds in 2003, to nearly quitting rap altogether due to bad business, to then finally signing to Tech N9ne's Strange Music in 2012, the self-proclaimed White Jesus has really been through it all. This storied career translates moderately well on Top of the Line.

More so than we’ve seen on his past projects, Rittz goes a bit deeper into his more complete story. In his recent interview with XXL, he claims to give more personal stories for fans to attach to on the album. For much of the effort, he accomplishes that mission.

Songs like “My Window” and “Lookin Back Now” dive feet first into his past trials and tribulations. The former even deals with the ever agonizing balance between doing what’s right and following dreams of making it in the rap game. “I'm tryna make it with the scraps that I have/Working fast for the stack of some cash/But it’s like I'm losing the enthusiasm I have/Trying to master the craft as a rapper/All I hear is laughter just got in a scrap with my dad” is one of those lines that can be universally appreciated by any hip-hop hopeful.

Plus, his articulation of battling with cocaine addiction and depression is frighteningly vivid, especially on “I’m No Good.” The angsty, reject anthem will undoubtedly hit home with those sharing similar feelings of unease.

From a purely technical rap standpoint, the album is next to perfect. Rittz has mastered the art of multisyllabic rhyme patterns and machine gun-fast delivery. "This is for all y'all muthafuckas that say all I do is rap fast, this is for your muthafuckin' wack ass," he says at the tail end of "MVP." Aside from the skits, practically all 24 songs feature Rittz spitting this signature rapid-fire style. It’s the type of delivery that makes Twista sound like French Montana in comparison. Although impressive, the rapper isn't necessarily challenged when it comes to Seven’s production, which sounds wildly similar across several songs.

Rittz, who follows the typical verse, chorus, verse chorus set up on each cut, seems to follow the motto "if it ain't broke don't fix it" with Top of the Line but with so much music to digest, switching up the flow formula would've worked to his benefit. However, when it comes to complete standout selections, he comes out on top with the E-40 and Mike Posner-assisted “Inside of the Groove."

Although Rittz has clearly been on his grind for many years, this moment is crucial for the rapper as he begins to expose himself to a variety of new listeners and potential fans. Unfortunately, attention spans aren’t what they used to be and putting out a more than hour-long project can certainly work against him depending on the listener. Trimming the fat to refine his sound could work in his favor in an era where 140-character Twitter thoughts reign supreme.

Top of the Line finds Rittz sticking to the script he knows so well. On the aptly-titled track "The Formula," Tech N9ne sums it up best: "The formula, Rittz got it to a T that’s why we gettin' the sound spread around now."

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