New Jersey’s ReTcH is one of those rappers who — like many before him — walks a lot of the talk he cements on wax. Unfortunately for him, it’s resulted in multiple jail stints. Last year probation violation had him locked down for eight months, finally hitting the streets as a free man last October.

That wasn’t the most severe situation, though. He was facing minimum 20-years for an alleged armed robbery. It’s a case he officially beat this past March, hence the title of his latest release, the 10-song grime fest After The Verdict.

In many ways, the project is a return to his roots. The gritty vibes the Hz crew member brought to his debut Polo Sporting Goods and sophomore Finesse The World was slowly replaced by a trap vibe. It was subtle on Lean & Neck and not so much on his post-jail EP Still Up. Not that his brand of trap is inauthentic in any way; the opposite applies actually. After The Verdict, though, is a ReTcH at his best: aggressive, raspy bars, few choruses, and no gimmicks.

Crafted entirely by producer Grimm Doza, the LP’s aura is dark; think — blindfolded in moonlit woods without a flashlight — dark. “Dubs & Losses” which features Roc Marciano, is the brightest tune on the tape, and even its haunting organs requires a screwface and tilted nod to listen. Other standout cameos include Tsu Surf on “Made It Out,” and Dave East on “Paranoia” — two must-have for hardcore enthusiasts.

Oddly, in accordance with the album’s title, there isn’t much direct response to his trial (save for “Dubs & Losses” where he respectably notes, “I did some shit could get me sent that I can’t speak about”) but there are hints of retrospection to be found. “Late Night” holds claim to the boom-bap sound as he spits “Late night on the freeway, riding by my solo, cut the trap music, throw on something made for grown folk …
Dru Hill knocking, feel the beauty in the south too, forever prevailing over obstacles.”

And without getting too deep, he does spit, “going to trial, that’s the toughest shit I ever did, nigga pointing from the stand right in front my kid … same nigga that I used to call my fucking brother.” This is perhaps a nod to his fallout with one-time partner, Da$h.

Overall, the project is cohesive, atmospheric, and ideal length — but with the lingering taste of overcoming a potentially life-changing obstacle — a maximum 65 years under the jail, it isn’t really a fun listen. And understandably could be labeled as a bit repetitive. Yet for longtime supporters and followers of this lean-sipping rebel, they’ll be happy he’s back in the mix.