Before I address anything else in this review, I’d just like to point out that Chi_Boy’s debut album might feature Hip-Hop’s first photo-shopped haircut. I’m not hating on the man one bit, but looking at the cover art to his album I couldn’t help but notice that his line-up was straighter than the Republican Party’s stance on sexual orientation. So I came to the conclusion that either Chi-Boy should include the name of his barber next time around, or his graphics team went the extra step to make Chi-Boy look sharp for his debut. Aesthetics aside, Chi-Boy’s debut, while solid for the most part, could use a line-up itself before it’s worthy of nationwide play.
Musically the production on “Young and Restless” is consistently solid, with C-Note manning the boards and following Kanye’s trend of flipping vocal samples. One of the songs from “Rocky” gets the sampling treatment on “Tha Champ” and comes out sounding good as it’s accompanied by a pounding bass line. The fat guitar licks on “Turn My Mic Up” work well for the tracks sinister feel. The melodic piano on “Can’t Be Life” sounds especially good with Michael Stokes’ smooth crooning on the hook. The chipmunk soul approach works well on tracks like “Walk With Me” and “2 Gether.” Other highlights include “Live On” where Michael Stokes is once again featured over an uplifting piano track and features a hook that reminds me of Talib Kweli’s “Get By.” The albums only sub-par efforts tend to be the more gangsta inspired tracks and the club tracks. The synths on tracks like “Kill Ya Self” and “Like A Gangsta” aren’t necessarily bad, but get outshined by C-Note’s far superior soulful production.
Lyrically, Chi-Boy holds his own for the most part. He’s at his best when he’s addressing more heartfelt issues. “Can’t Be Life” and “Live On” are reflections on the tragedy and problems faced by Chi-Boy throughout his life and are true highlights on the album. “2 Gether” is a dope song that finds Chi-Boy reflecting on a relationship past and the problems and mistakes that lead to the break up. “Tha Champ” is a punch-line onslaught that shows what Chi-Boy is capable of, it’s not on the level of Canibus or Juice, but it’s pretty good for an artist like Chi-Boy. “Something Like A Pimp” is actually a smooth song with a self-explanatory title. “Freakin On tha Flo” is probably the only attempt at a club track that works well as the hook is somewhat original and the beat is definitely danceable. “Riot City” is a fitting tribute to Chi-Boy’s hometown and the guests, Jinx and Bambino, also represent well. “You Don’t Know Me” is also a tight track as Chi-Boy basically tells the world not to judge him without getting to know him. The album’s biggest misses come when Chi-Boy tries to get gangsta on tracks like “Kill Ya Self” and “Like A Gangsta.” It’s not that Chi-Boy isn’t believable, but compared to his other work on the album these generic efforts sound bland and pointless. His club attempts also tend to fall short on “Put It On Tha Flo” and “Rock This,” they seem like an attempt at crunk-type music but simply put, it’s been done before and done better.
Overall, “Young and Restless” is a good album that shows a lot of potential for Chi-Boy to blow past the boundaries of the windy city. He’s a gifted emcee with a tight flow. In the tradition of Chi-town, Chi-Boy’s got a somewhat fast-paced flow though it’s toned down a bit compared to Do or Die or Twista. C-Note is also a gifted producer as his synth efforts tend to come off nicely and his soul samples don’t sound like a carbon copy of Kanye or anyone else. When the duo sticks to more universal themes, such as love and loss, they really do feel like a breath of fresh air. When they venture into the more generic gangsta and party elements of rap, they recede into the pack of similar-sounding acts. Depending on which area they decide to pursue more, Chi-Boy could either be a household name next time you hear about him, or another local gangsta rapper you never heard of.