Let me first say that this is going to be one of the lyrically illest albums to come out this year, so if you have any penchant for brain-stimulating lyrics, please pick up this album. To those who already know Chino XL from his previous effort or his ‘Wake Up Show’ appearances, you’ll almost certainly get to hear the Chino XL you want.
For those who don’t know who this guy is, here’s a short run-down of his career so far. Being that Bernie Worrell of Parliament/Funkadelic is his uncle, Chino XL early on came in touch with music when he was taken on tour when he was just a kid. As an adolescent, he witnessed the birth of rap music which must have triggered something in this kid of mixed descent growing up in the Bronx, New York and East Orange, New Jersey. An extraordinary MC was born. His talent first manifested in a group called Art Of Origin, which aroused the curiosity of Rick Rubin, the man whose musical matrimony with Russell Simmons brought together rap and rock in the mid-80s. At that time Rick Rubin had left Simmons and Def Jam and was working with people like Slayer and Glen Danzig on his Def American Recordings label. But he still had an ear for rap. It must have been the rock-hard attitude of the group that convinced Rubin. Art Of Origin began recording, but only released two singles, “Into The Pit” b/w “No Slow Rollin…” (’92) and “Unration-Al” (’93). The group broke up but Chino remained with Rubin and shocked those who were willing and able to listen with his ’96 debut album “Here To Save You All”. He was scheduled to release another album, tentatively titled “Poison Pen” for American, but the deal folded. He then signed with Warner Bros., again being left out in the rain. So what I am now reviewing might be material that dates a couple of years back. Especially the Warner references are noticeable throughout the album. But even though Chino is calling out more names than an army instructor this album is not dated. That’s also due to Nick Wiz’ timeless beats that are neither East, West nor South but just straight up (mostly sample-free) hip-hop.
I know, what once was simply rap music has exploded into a myriad of sub-genres. But damn it, some things stay the same: Can you rock a crowd with what you say? Can you get a crowd to move with the beats you’re playing? I think Chino XL is up to these everlasting standards. He is the type of rapper that has to pause for applause after each couplet when he does a live accapella. Dubbed the King of Metaphors he spits sarcastic similes as if [go ask Chino for a clever simile to insert here]. And if you’re waiting for punchlines, you don’t have to wait, they come in a non-stop barrage that’ll have you cover your head. As he said himself: “Fuck a punchline, I write fucking punchrhymes.” I’ll give you some examples:
“I don’t give a fuck if Jesus writes your verses and Satan and God produced it”
“There’s so many gay rappers, they probably diss because I’m the straight one”
“Heard my art with another face, you must be kidding
I consider myself a dog trainer: I’m most bitten
but I’ve been written a billion bars of dissin’
for any rappers dead or livin’ that we’ve ever heard since we was children
My brain got built-in Pentium chips, my thoughts the fastest
For Shakespearian actors: Chino shall busteth your asseth”
“I’m The Artist – without a pound of make-up on my face”
“What the fuck you niggas think?
I roll with killers that spent more time in the pen than ink
Don’t even blink, and turn your voice down a decibel
or start lookin for studios that’s wheelchair-accessible
leave you a vegetable, trust
I have the letters on your FUBU sweater standin for ‘Fucked Up By Us'”
“I’m like a record deal from Select, endin’ anyone’s career”
“Without the HIV I’m positive, you don’t wanna test
I leave rappers confused like homeless cats on house arrest”
“I’m the big dog, the world’s the fire hydrant that I piss upon”
“360 degrees of unadulterated battle rhyme
you must be inebriated wanting to challenge mine
My diss is so accurate you need time lapse cameras to capture it
tearing apart time’s fabric, no exaggerate
35’000 giga harddrives only can store half of it
that ain’t the half of it, I spit the blood of Christ on a Catholic”
“What, comin’ to kill me? I can’t hear that
fear is a stimulus I haven’t been programmed to feel that
Snatch you out of your Roots like I’m from Illadelph
What I do to push your hairline back Rogaine won’t help”
“Foes is something that I can’t let survive
I hate to end this off on a bad note like SWV live”
“Battle me, you’ll win if we battle to see who’s the brokest
I’m sicker than seeing Kelly Price doing aerobics
sicker than finding out first hand Jennifer Lopez can’t fuck
sicker than seeing Richard Pryor in his wheelchair doing stand-up”
“Doin this mostly for the money like EPMD reunion was”
“I’m wack? I just retire and blame it on God like Mase”
“My style never a drag like they beat blackmen in Texas
Next rapper to mention this I’ma show him the real threat
cause I’ma ride till my daugher’s like, ‘Daddy, are we there yet?'”
There’s definitely a number of people who might take offense in this album. But not that many rappers. He seems hesitant about mentioning them. Some might remember that Chino was among those who got ‘hit up’ by Tupac in “Hit ‘Em Up”. Obviously he didn’t take too kind that his was one of the names mentioned on Chinos first album (It must have been the line “by this industry I’m tryin’ not to get fucked like Tupac in jail”.) Recently, there was some discontent among hip-hop heads about Eminem only taking on targets outside of hip-hop, namely pop acts and gays. The fact that he’s white might have played into Eminem’s decision who to piss off and who not. Since Chino XL is half black half Puerto-Rican, he can administer bashings left, right and right down the middle: “I’m the hottest Latin entertainer since Ricky Martin is gay”. Or “I beat Macy Gray to death with Erykah Badu’s poster” and “The ‘industry rule’ in my life: / I been blackballed like I’m Cuba Gooding, Jr.’s white wife”, respectively.
So, for those already familiar with his steez, Chino XL is still on that “I’m here to save you all – and oh yeah – fuck you all!” He’s the Arrogant Messiah that I guess only rap could produce. For a full-blooded rapper that impatiently observed in 1992: “my album’s 4 years late / well, let’s accelerate,” all this ‘slow rolling’ he has been doing in the ’90s must have been nerve-wrecking. But sometimes underground mining pays off in the end. Chino fits right into the genre of the frustrated lyrical heavyweight, maybe even invented it (along with what was once called ‘horrorcore’). Think Ras Kass, Canibus and Eminem. But while particularly Eminem took his frustration with the rap life and life in general to the next level, Chino XL has taken a few steps back. There’s a revealing skit on “I Told You So” where an automated calling center asks whether the caller wants to hear “Chino XL dissing everybody”, “speak intelligently as a strong eloquent blackman on the issues of today” or his “discourse on how inner city urban job loss resulted from the shift of the US economy from a primarily industrial to a service etc.”. The caller selects option one. Indeed, “Chino XL dissing everybody” is what the people want, so he gives them what they want. There’s no room for conceptual joints he hit us with last time such as “Ghetto Vampire”, “Rise” or “What Am I?” this time. He pays the ladies some attention (or rather makes them pay attention to him) with “Sorry”, “Chianardo di Caprio” and “Be Here”. These are all well-written, but none of them are as heart-stirring as “Kreep” was. There are subtle overtones within Chino’s antics, but it never gets too deep. This album will not stab you in the heart, it will just tickle your mind.
But still “I Told You So” is somewhat of a ‘second coming’. Chino XL might not be able to save us ALL from the wackness that plagues the world of rap, but he might be able to save some of us, those willing to listen. Whether he meets your own personal expectations with this album is left up to you. One thing is for sure though: only when he won’t make himself so rare in the near future will Chino XL have the chance to expand his fanbase and acquire the track record that suits a champion like himself.
One last word to the people that are responsible for manufacturing this CD. You fucked up. The tracklisting is incorrect, some cuts that are listed are not on it, some that are not listed are. And what’s that irritating noise at the beginning of “Last Laugh” – one of those new anti-copy features gone wild? How does that get on my original? It’s only my admiration for this album that prevents me from sending that shit back at your expenses, Metro Records.