Marlowe (L’Orange & Solemn Brigham) — Marlowe 2

Proving lightning does strike twice, Marlowe drops a phenomenal sophomore record.

Ever since first listening to and writing about Marlowe’s debut record in 2018, I’ve been waiting, hoping for, and — lemme be honest here — desperately wanting a follow-up. After teasing a sophomore album since June and dropping two early release singles, the dynamic duo of producer L’Orange and rapper Solemn Brigham finally dropped Marlowe 2 last Friday.

And, maaaannnnn, it was worth the wait.

Much of the magic from the first record remains strong here. L’Orange’s sampling from old radio programs provides a cinematic, madcap backdrop for his rich blend of beats: slightly psychedelic, dense with instrumentation, always pounding. Meanwhile, Brigham returns with pacey, deft, breathless rhymes, a keen sense how to ride over or slot into complex beat patterns, and his disarmingly flat delivery. 

But, Marlowe 2 is a definite evolution. There is in fact less cinema mixed in with the beats than before — less sense of clever black-and-white dramas scrolling in the background — which makes everything feel more direct. Moments like on Later with It, when it’s as if L’Orange is quickly clearing the stage of any distractions before dropping an absolute monster bass track. 

For his part, Brigham writes and raps more personally than before, stepping out of the removed observer position and bringing more of himself and his individual reflections into the project. He looks inward on some tracks (Can’t Have Me Nothing, which is almost confessional), while, on others, like Sawdust Underground, he wrestles with career and creative tensions:

I spend my life trying to be everything they saying is missing /
That’s my art and I’m sensitive, why I call it my misses /
Homie say whats the finish, hell I can’t make no predictions /
Be straight with my senses /
Go make me have to take the offensive

On Future Power Sources, Brigham raps “Find your lane or be shook.” Friends before they were collaborators, he and L’Orange have definitely found a lane with Marlowe. They have two albums of straight fire to prove it and, as evidenced by this latest effort, they just keep getting better.

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