NO HOLDING BACK Mertz in action. [Photo by Bryant Moscote]
PVD lyricist/producer Mertz recently dropped his official debut solo platter titled The Good In the Bad. He sidesteps rap cliches in favor of a conscious, reflective, and matured outlook on life and love, with some unlikely inspiration along the way thanks to his day job working with autistic children as a teaching assistant at the Groden Center’s preschool in Providence. April is Autism Awareness Month, and Mertz will headline the “Rocks for Autism Awareness” event at the Parlour on Saturday (the 12th), along with a wide range of musical acts comprised of Mertz’s co-workers at the Groden Center.
Rob Mertz relocated to Providence from Burlington, Vermont four years ago with the intention of taking the next step in his musical career as a member of Present Rhymes. The trio released Livin’ the Mission in 2011, but Mertz ultimately decided to part ways with his rhyme brethren and make moves on his own as a solo artist.
“We were living in the same apartment but we weren’t spending a lot of time working on music together,” said Mertz (his surname doubles as a great MC handle). “I was still creating beats and writing lyrics, but I finally got sick of waiting on other people while holding myself back creatively.
“I decided that I was no longer going to let my success be hindered by other peoples’ lack of motivation,” he told me earlier this week.
The Good In the Bad marks a more professional approach for Mertz and a number of firsts in his musical career;
he enlisted outside producers, connected with notable engineer Nastee (whose credits include Mobb Deep’s
Murda Muzik and Big Pun’s Capital Punishment) on the first single “Life & Love,” and recorded the album at Beatbox Studios in Pawtucket with help from studio mastermind Vertygo.
“I’m not the type of emcee that’ll tell you I’m the hardest,” Mertz confidently declares on “Life & Love” and the hook represents a mission statement: “I keep my music based on life and love, not death and hate — we rise above.”
Mertz’s previous experience working at an early childhood program while living up north would lead to a richly fulfilling position at the Livingston Center Preschool (part of the larger Groden Center network).
“I am so thankful for the opportunity. It has definitely been one of the best experiences of my life,” said Mertz.
The children in his class also provided the inspiration for the unique standout track “Madame Butterfly,” and star in the heartwarming video.
“The best shots we got came from the kids playing organically, with little instruction from us,” Mertz said. “The parents and families loved it when we showed the video at the preschool graduation ceremony, which means a lot to me.”
Personal growth is a common theme throughout The Good In the Bad. “They dragged me through the thick and the thin, but I came out with a twisted grin,” Mertz sneers on the second single, “Move On,” and “I Know It Well” (produced by SXMPLELIFE) is a smooth slow-burner. The album closes strongly with “Growth” (“Grow like you’re never gonna stop and don’t count the years”) and “Beautiful Something.”
The Good In the Bad is available for streaming and download free-of-charge, and the CD will be on sale at the show (and at mertzhiphop.bandcamp.com).
MERTZ + FAILSAFE + MATT FRAZA + PALE AMANITAS | Saturday, April 12 @ 9 pm | The Parlour, 1119 North Main St, Providence | 21+ | $5 | mertzmusic.com