DOWNLOAD: Rome Cee & Greenspan, "Cee-Span" EP
RATING: *** out of 4
From the opening song of "Cee-Span," the six-track collaboration between Baltimore rappers Rome Cee and Greenspan, it's clear the two deserve each other.
Over "The Harvest's" soulful production by August Flight Gordon -- blissfully anchored by a sample of J.O.B. Orquestra's "Only Faith and Hope" -- Rome Cee announces it's "time to enjoy the fruits of the harvest for everything we've been through." The 30-year-old, born Jerome Carrington, hasn't become a household name, but in recent years he and Greenspan, born Brian Dawkins, have been recognized as two of Baltimore's most talented MCs. At least on "The Harvest," that recognition seems like enough.
"There was this wrinkle in time and now they pressed like linen / with pressed grapes in the wine cellar that's older than my great-grandma," Rome Cee raps. These wordy, ping-ponging details are a trademark of Rome Cee's rhyming style, and he remains consistently sharp here.
With his comparatively higher voice, Greenspan plays the eager foil to Rome Cee's steely confidence. He raps with a vigor that indicates he has something to prove, which is fitting since Rome Cee is the more talented rapper. At times, Greenspan crams even more words per bar than his partner, but he's still learning how to craft memorable lines that inspire rewinding.
Greenspan should take notes from Al Great, the excellent Baltimore rapper best known for his 2012 mixtape "Summer Nights." On "Journey to the Stars," Al joins the fold, injecting some needed humor into the EP through a delivery smoother than even Rome's.
"Yellow Camaro, say hello the Pharaoh / If you ever out of line, I'll pull your card like a Tarot / My tunnel vision's narrow: family, rhyming and money / Your flow Jay Pharoah, I'm barely finding it funny," Al Great raps.
This effect is what we hope for in collaborations -- artists forcing each other to elevate their talents. That sense of competition is one of hip-hop's everlasting traits, and "Cee-Span" continues in the tradition with often winning results. -- Wesley Case