A whopping 18 tracks of introspection, reflection, and some of the deepest, most soul-baring rap music you’ve ever heard.
I love this album, and I’m going to gush a little bit. Look past that and hopefully you will see why this album fascinates me and I find it so compelling.
Mega Ran, or as he was previously known Random, is a Nerdcore rapper with one of the largest bodies of work in the scene. When he started out as Random, he was a teacher by day and rapper by night. One of his earliest albums back in 2007, Mega Ran, featured sampled tracks from Mega Man games and told the story of Random’s alter ego: Mega Ran. This album kickstarted his career and Random found enough success that in 2011 he decided to quit teaching and do music full-time. Over the years, fans began referring to Random by his alter ego, Mega Ran. Random embraced the new moniker happily, although to avoid confusion, opted for Random aka Mega Ran. Only in 2015 did he drop Random completely in favor of simply Mega Ran. This name change is the catalyst for the entire album.
RNDM is a farewell to the days of Random and an inauguration of a new life as Mega Ran. Calling it the “album of his life” Mega Ran created a deep, introspective reflection on life, both the past and the future. The album features his signature “chip-hop” style, but more prominently, a newly-embraced, modern hip-hop production style. The construction of the album itself echoes this change from Random to Mega Ran–transforming from chiptune to proper hip-hop, lighthearted to serious tone, and accessible, straightforward lyrics to metaphorical, symbolic ones. And yet, the tracks on this album all come back to this feeling of “soul searching”. It could be a “what if” story like in Altern8 Endings, a rumination on the past like A Poet, or a commentary on the world around us like Losses or Revisions.
All the tracks on this album deserve to be looked at and talked about. Unless you want to read a textbook, I will just stick with the biggest ones for me, personally.
Let’s look at the first track, Same As It Ever Was, which features a piano part by Michiru Yamane. Yamane is most famously known for her work on the newer Castlevania games, especially Symphony of the Night. This chipper opener reflects on Mega Ran’s pilgrimage to his current level of fame. He is happy with his success thus far, but remains slightly bitter about certain aspects of his career. [“Feel like we had it on lock back in 06/now the old dogs still expect the old tricks” “We finally made it, I got me a spot on Billboard/checked my Bank account yesterday, still poor/they say you got the life most rappers would kill for/working 16 hour days and yet I’m still bored”] Despite his grievances, Mega Ran assures the listener that all his efforts still have the same level of integrity and soul behind them that they always have. [“…rest assured that it’s honest as long as I’m involved/so here I am, still doing my thang thang/same as it ever was, it’s just a name change”]
The second track, Infinite Lives, is likely the most chiptune influenced track on the album. The lyrics speak to the idea of one’s work outliving them. [“I heard you only live once, well I’ma disagree/Cause you can live forever and forever doesn’t cease/Live through your creations and the people that you teach/So I Live through my music,/eternally through the beats”] Mega Ran has a litany of aspirations that he still wants to realize, but the central message is Carpe Diem. What we make today is what will live on after we die, so make the best of the present and make something of yourself or your art that will live on forever.
As the album progresses there is less chiptune and lightheartedness and more straightforward hip-hop as we delve further into the personal thoughts of Mega Ran.
Track 6, The Meeting, illustrates a hypothetical conversation with Random and Mega Ran; making it the cornerstone of the album.
The conversation starts with a verse by Random, which is then rebutted by Mega Ran in verse 2. One little detail worth noting is the bitcrushing on Random’s vocals to give it the “distorted chiptune quality” while still being clear and understandable. This subtle effect represents his past–his roots in chiptune and video games, and embodies the cover of the album with one half of his face being pixelated. Random is described as an old friend and is happy for Mega Ran’s success but decries the way he feels that Mega Ran has forgotten himself. [Random: “…And you said you’d never change, no matter how awesome it got/Well I couldn’t help but notice you don’t talk about those moments/If I didn’t know any better I’d think you had disowned it/I was your biggest proponent, but you probably think I’m jealous,/Cause you’re too busy being a star to kick it with the fellas…”]
Mega Ran feels that change was necessary in order to survive in the music world. He is doing more to help himself than Random did, and has finally taken charge of his life in a big way. He hasn’t forgotten his old self, but rather is doing more to let his passions become a reality by moving in a new direction. [Mega Ran: “…I wish we could roll together but you just would never listen/You were about the spitting and trying to make a difference/And I was too, but how was I to make a living…” ”…I recovered the fumble and did something about it…” “…But you don’t understand the pressure and the demands,/It was easy as Random it’s hard as Mega Ran…” “…But I promise to make sure they see a piece of you/Cause you’re the inspiration in every single piece I do/But if this isn’t pleasing you to see me live my dreams,/Then maybe we weren’t quite as close as it used to seem. nah mean?”]
Track 12, A Poet, echoes the poem, A Poet to His Baby Son by Harlem Renaissance poet James Weldon Johnson. This is a letter to Mega Ran’s future son and stands as the most profound but heart-wrenching track on the album. Mega Ran pleads with his son to not want to rap, so that his son can avoid the hardships that he experiences. He describes his own never-ceasing need to rap and doesn’t want his son to inherit that “curse”. [Chorus: “I gotta tell you this now,/cause when i was young i wasn’t told/all the things that you want during childhood/aren’t best for you when you’re old/The grief stricken and the stoic,/the constantly misquoted/you’ll never know true satisfaction/if you decide to be a poet, a poet.”]
I want to talk more about this track, but this is something that you need to experience firsthand. This is very deep material so don’t just hear it, but truly listen.
The last track I want to talk about is Believe! It’s made to sound like gospel choir praise hymn to echo the religious implications of the lyrics. The lyrics deal with Mega Ran’s father leaving him, and then in the second verse, Mega Ran’s friend getting shot and the following guilt over not taking his place or dying alongside him.
[“So I (BELIEVE)/It’ll get better/we get through it/God’s real busy,/but He gone get to it/First you pray for it/then you wait for it/Gotta have faith for it/(That’s what I believe in)”]
He questions why God would let this happen to him but trusts that God has a plan and that everything bad that happens is done to make room for something better. Very rarely do you hear any talk of religion in a positive light in rap and hip-hop, so this track is quite refreshing in that regard. You cannot help but feel for Mega Ran in these lyrics. It hits deep but the overall positive tone of the track reassures people that these things are beyond our control and that better things are always on the horizon.
To say RNDM is excellent is an understatement. It’s not perfect, but I’ll be damned if it’s not one of the most impressive pieces of art I’ve heard, across any genre or medium. Very seldom nowadays do you get an album that is a cohesive, comprehensive, and complete artwork, rather than a collection of standalone tracks. A great deal of thought went into the lyrics and how they connect to the music to create a symbiosis between text and music. The lyrics are certainly relevant in today’s world but the message and story of a lot of the tracks transcend generations and culture. All the detail, passion, creativity, and love that went into this album ensured its place in my heart and hopefully in the hearts of many other people.