Marv Won makes sure we know it’s still Detroit vs. everybody with a lovingly refined and sentimental album that’ll still rough you the hell up.

Release date: April 5, 2024 | Mello Music Group | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Stream/Purchase

Goddamn, I love hip-hop, y’all. In case it wasn’t obvious enough, there’s just not much better than getting into a rap album and having it resonate with you on many levels, even if the music itself wasn’t made for someone like me and they rarely are honestly. That’s fine because probably the biggest thing that hip-hop has taught me is empathy, to see things from other people’s perspective especially when they’re different from your own.

Over twenty years deep into listening to rap and I love that I can still find new things to like about it, not to mention find artists in the field that sound fresh and really exhibit what’s so great about the craft with decades of experience behind me. Right now, all that focus is on Detroit’s Marv Won. Coming up in the battle rap scene as well as with the group The Fat Killahz dropping tapes at the beginning of the new millennium, he’s been in the game for a long time, so why the hell am I just now hearing about him? Well, because Dead End Hip Hop covered him, of course, and I encourage you to check out their review… that, and I honestly don’t get into the battle rap scene much. I’m Fine, Thanks for Asking is my first exposure to him, but it’s one for the books as it’s becoming a fave for 2024 and ensures I’ll be keeping an eye, and ear, out for future stuff from him.

Marv Won raps and produces everything himself. With some help from features like Rapper Big Pooh, labelmate Quelle Chris, Monica Blaire, Freeway, Fatt Father (a peer from The Fat Killahz), and the great eLZhi, this album just hits on all fronts. If a rapper has the talent to produce for themself, they can, at least theoretically, give themself the best beats to reflect precisely the kind of mood they want for a song. “Measuring Stick” is a great example as it’s where Marv’s battle rap origins take hold like a rear naked choke. It’s absolutely just a raw-ass, shit-talking song where the hook just about says it all – ‘I’m the motherfucking measuring stick/I guarantee you ain’t gon’ find too many better than this‘. The beat is grimy, reminiscent of something you’d hear on a Griselda project. It’s boom bap by way of Detroit – there’s something very specific, hard to pin down, about the brand of grit and weight that a lot of Detroit rappers can and often do tap into. This city’s built different, y’all, in many ways.

“Purple” is a dark, story-driven song about an abused woman that carries the same gravitas that reminds me of some earlier Danny Brown tracks, like “Party All the Time” or some devastating bars that could be found on his Old album. It’s honestly deserving of a content warning as the track goes deep into the ways domestic abuse plays out – hiding bruises with makeup, violent and threatening language from an abusive partner, and the stinging betrayal of having someone you love treat you in those ways that shake up your entire life. When rapped over a sparse, demure beat, it’s even more effective and biting. No sensationalizing, just brutal truth that affects millions.

Still, Marv Won knows the benefit of levity and having fun with his craft. “Roc Nation Brunch” is one of my favorites on the album because it’s a surreal fantasy of attending the famed elite event hosted by Jay-Z. That doesn’t mean that Marv’s at rest though – some of his best wordplay on I’m Fine, Thanks for Asking is on here. I love the lines, ‘Put the money through yoga class and make it stretch/And watch it boomerang so I ain’t gotta chase a check‘, but it’s the vividness of the picture portrayed in Marv’s head that sells it all:

‘And know I’mma put the ‘fashionable’ in ‘fashionably late’
I’m fresh as fuck, everything I’m wearing is Black-owned
Silk shirt half-buttoned with the pink linen slacks on
SIA Collectives with the campaign hat on
Made me the pride and joy of every gangsta that’s back home
The shit look like a photo op for the Polo shops
Horse and buggies patrol the plots, know the stops
This shit’s bigger than showin’ opps or holdin’ stocks
Haters gon’ say it’s Photoshop, but no it’s not’

That, and the idea of Beyoncé making punch for everyone or Rihannafacing a blunt‘ at brunch makes for good mental pictures. And I love the The Isley Brothers sample flip, the same one that’s used on Ice Cube‘s legendary “It Was A Good Day“, that really ties it all together since that Cube song was also an idealist fantasy of the perfect day in South Central Los Angeles. Brilliant shit.

I think my favorite song, and one I can really relate to, is “Nosy” with Rapper Big Pooh, a throwback story where Marv and Pooh reminisce on their younger years where a desire to hustle drugs for extra cash or boost for new, better clothes was thwarted by a nosy, protective mom who knew exactly what kind of lifestyle young boys could easily be lured into. Moms finding cash stashes or noticing you’re wearing new clothes she for damn sure didn’t buy and you couldn’t afford without a job – devastating at the time (not to mention the ass-beating that likely followed), but speaks to the class and cultural struggles that many of us were at the mercy of. In retrospect, they wanted to make sure we didn’t end up in jail or dead. Let’s hear it for the moms that wanted better for us.

I’m Fine, Thanks for Asking is a kitchen sink-ass album. It’s sentimental, heartbreaking, tough, and lined with dreams yet to come true. It’s precisely what I love in rap and what motivates me to sit down and distill its track list full of words and beats into a little review, hoping to sell it to y’all and enjoy it as I have. Even the title says a lot by itself, reflective of a community that looks out for each other, remaining introspective and remember that, in spite of it all, you are all right. You’re fine, even if you don’t always believe it when you say it out loud. Damn, I just realized I didn’t talk about “Grand Piano” – I’ll let y’all discover that one on your own, suffice it to say it’s one of my favorite album closers since Acid Rap‘s “Everything’s Good (Good Ass Outro)”.

This is the second Detroit rapper that’s dropped a project in 2024 and really grabbed attention from rap fans who are aware enough to notice (and that I reviewed). I really like what’s coming out of the city now and it’s rappers like Marv Won that give credence to the battle-hardened motto of “Detroit vs. Everybody“, even as he shows great emotionality with his approach to the art. That’s what makes it appeal to me, and that’s what hip-hop’s all about to me.

Photo by Mario Butterfield

David Rodriguez

David Rodriguez

"I came up and so could you, and fuck the boys in blue" - RMR

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