Review: Des Moines’ MarKaus delivers a tight offering of hip-hop on new EP


Courtesy of MarKaus

MarKaus’ “Riot Gear” EP was released on March 30.


One of my least favorite potential criticisms towards music is how it can “fail” to innovate or break from the norm.

While there certainly have been extremely influential, game-changing albums throughout history, that isn’t to say that their more traditional contemporaries weren’t of equal quality at some points.

And that’s where Des Moines-based hip-hop artist MarKaus’ “Riot Gear” EP comes into play. Passing on this one because of it’s lack of significant departure would mean passing on a seriously solid and satisfying collection of tracks.

When I sat down to check out “Riot Gear” for the first time, I had to call over one of our news editors, the office’s known hip-hop fan, to hear MarKaus’ raw sound. Upon first listen you may not think anything of the EP’s offerings, but there are multiple small touches that go a long way.

The organic percussion used throughout the EP’s four tracks lends to a subtle aggression, which is further accented by MarKaus’ punchy, almost old-school delivery, best seen on “Bounce Rap (Don’t Play With Us),” a highlight.

MarKaus moves quickly on “Riot Gear,” moving from the harder-hitting first half into the more reflective, mid-tempo second. The droning, socially-conscience “Summoning” serves as an effective closer, with some of the only significant vocal effects providing some welcome variation.

The assertive, fuzzed out sections of “Sex, Weapons & Deception” compliment and feed well into “Memories,” the EP’s softest moment, with touches of 90s hip-hop.

An easily overlooked aspect of “Riot Gear” is just how seamless the transitions between it’s four tracks is. At a compact 11 minutes, “Riot Gear” wastes no time, offering a variety of sounds and textures over it’s limited runtime. 

While many of “Riot Gear’s” songwriting and production choices are engaging and sometimes charming, it doesn’t keep certain moments from feeling a little played-out. A repeated hook on “Sex, Weapons & Destruction” can become slightly grating on repeated listens and the live protest sampled at the end of “Summoning” feels more like a track from 2015, rather than one from 2018.

That being said, I have been complimenting “Riot Gear’s” ability to use some older hip-hop influences to give itself it’s own identity, so I digress.

These are just knitpicks, as MarKaus’ “Riot Gear” really is a solid piece of hip-hop with very subtle touches of artists from other eras to create something that stands out from some other generic offerings so often found in rap today.

I strongly recommend this for fans of the genre.

“Riot Gear” is available to stream on all major streaming platforms, as well as to purchase via Media Fresh Records.