Since the departure of the late Capital STEEZ, the Pro Era collective has grown visibly stagnant. Quite frankly, it’s difficult to differentiate them from one another at times. For the most part, the remaining members feel like emulators of their de facto leader, Joey Bada$$, who himself is a strict emulator of purist Rap. The group of emcees has heavily indoctrinated themselves in Hip Hop history, and they have been trying to conduct what amounts to a Lord Finesse séance since Bada$$’s raucous debut, “Survival Tactics.” Rap revivalism grows tiring, but even more so when concentrated in heavy doses. In the second installment of The Secc$ Tap.e, the NYC crew tramples over hallowed ground once more—and explores familiar territory conceptually—this time without their deceased sergeant-at-arms, and when the homogenous styles are pitted against one another in confined space they respond like crabs in a bucket.
The name Progressive Era has always been somewhat of a paradox given that each member of the clique is desperately caught in a mid-‘90s temporal loop. There isn’t a great deal of progressiveness taking place here. A more apropos title might’ve been Nostalgic Era. Joey himself is the most successful aesthetic replicator of the now deified time period, but this simply makes him the least innovative. Such stagnation is evident on Pro Era’s The Secc$ Tap.e 2, and the static nature of their collective ideology permeates their romanticism.
The Secc$ Tap.e 2, like its predecessor, loosely peruses romantic themes; one could interpret “loosely peruses” as meaning it superficially hones in on the sexual. However, this one is almost entirely about getting laid. Track titles like “Pantie Raid Pt. II” and “Pussy Facx” instantly inform you what you’re getting: there isn’t much diversity; it’s more or less 30-minutes of teenagers explaining how sexually competent they are to their unnamed female conquests. It’s a cesspool of young male egos with each member attempting to one up the next saying things like, “I’m not what’s just poppin’ though I’m what’s popular / I love it when you scream big poppa bear please stop / You know my animal style / Apex on top that latex gon’ pop safe sex ain’t a option / They be sitting on your chin like it’s up for adoption” and “I’m up on 30 / You down in dirty / We’re such a perverted influence / Birds do it / Bees do it / Talk dirty, speak fluent … Wait honestly you don’t know no better / Keep it a buck you just ran into luck / ‘Cause you ’bout to fuck with the whole Pro Era.” The rhymes are technically dexterous but they lack delicacy.
Some of the collective’s more notable acts are noticeably missing from the credits—namely, CJ Fly and Chuck Strangers—and there is no song as subtle and genuine as CJ’s “Flyin’ Lo” from the first tape to balance this installment’s machismo. In that same vein, there isn’t a song that appraises feelings the way STEEZ’s “Emotionless Thoughts” did so naturally. The music has no pulse. It has about as much charm as Gilbert Gottfried reading a romance novel aloud. The second volume of The Secc$ Tap.e falls short of the mark set by its predecessor almost entirely because it lacks any real emotional appeal; it dryly harps on eroticism, poking and prodding at it as if it’s a lifeless corpse, and unsurprisingly it never responds.
Few tracks stand out in this tapestry woven of creepy come-ons and empty gestures except the one with an active female voice; “Dirty Dancing” by Rokamouth and A La $ole sandwiches a fantastically nimble guest verse from Jean Deaux in between solid verses from the Pro Era camp. Deaux effortlessly laces her patois-infused rhymes with conversational tone—“He say ‘gal Imma need a little taste mami’ / I said I’m sorry it’s gone be a lil wait for me / Hot ‘n heavy you gon’ get a lil weight from me / Tryna give you sum that’ll make your face funny.” It is the first real sign of passion or feeling. Later, there is another sign of life: the posse cut “Far” led by Nyck Caution, which provides a great deal of perspective over production reminiscent of a music box, but it is simply too little, too late. The Secc$ Tap.e 2 honestly just completely lacks an understated touch.
With Pro Era’s progress stymied, the bigger question now becomes: What’s next? Capital STEEZ, much like A$AP Ferg in Rocky’s Harlem clique, brought legitimacy to the Pro Era brand as an act that could very feasibly grow into a power player. Without him, they are a lost bunch filing in line behind their general, hoping he leads them to victory. He still may; ‘90s Rap revivalism will always have a strong market. However, if The Secc$ Tap.e 2 is any sort of indicator as to what to expect henceforth, the blind may be leading the blind.