Lando Chill has been a busy dude, dropping at least three albums over the last three years. Although we missed out on “For Mark, Your Son” we covered “Madera Canyon” and “The Boy Who Spoke to the Wind” in 2017, with Chill showing steady improvement over each release with accompanying album scores to match. He’s quickly become one of the focal points of MMG (Mello Music Group my dude not Maybach Music), already well established as one of the strongest indie labels in hip-hop. With a decade and change of releases from the likes of Open Mike Eagle, Apollo Brown and Rapper Big Pooh to name a few their reputation ain’t to be f—ed with, so to be a rising star on such a stellar imprint really is saying a lot.
The title “Black Ego” makes a statement even before you press play as does the D’Angelo style cover art. This isn’t a child speaking to the wind and having his words blown back in his face. Lando is speaking with the growing confidence of an artist who knows his worth and emboldened by that self-worth to be outspoken. On occasion that kind of ego can backfire horribly when artists get gassed and start believing their own hype, leading to an inability to discern the difference between their brilliant and terrible ideas. On the other hand an overly humble artist can look at even their best output as shoddy and throw away work the public would love just because they’re not convinced it’s good enough. It may not be healthy to be overly egotistical but if you intend to make records and then sell them you’d better have SOME pride in you and what you do.
Lando is shooting “From the Hip” on this album, letting The Lasso handle production while he spits bars ranging from chill to aggro. The Chicago born Arizona resident doesn’t really sound like either if I’m being honest. He’s got a very Left Coast slash Project Blowed feel and flow, which comes through on the dark and dank funk of “Facts.” If I didn’t know better I’d swear Madlib produced this joint. Peep the verbals:
“Blood runneth from a sentence that’s been fo’ hundred years
The ocean’s salt came from all of our tears
Stay overboard with ya fears, we in the land of the gears (so grease ’em up)
Money trees be the shade of the free (so crease ’em up)
Pocket peace in the land of the buck, then mount it
Self-worth come from species we killin, so count it
Ol’ Earth know it’s hurt like pussy, we pound it
Break it, buy it, tell it that it need to diet
What this nation really needs is a +Pussy Riot+ – FACTS
See my mind be Monae inspired – FACTS
Speaking yo truth that’s gon take you higher – FACTS
Purpose not worthless we don’t need no sire
Yo we black so we stealth, these piggies huntin for pelts
Instead of whippin our welts, it be the bullet that melts
brain matter and psyche, guess my dead body fresher
in some bloody Nikes; guess words double your worth
if your people like me…”
That’s the confidence of Lando’s “Black Ego” coming through loud and clear, letting loose his verbal bullets on homicidal cops, the generational damage of slavery passed down over the centuries, the false promises of capitalism and more — and that’s just a partial verse from one track. Lando has a lot to say and at the present time he also has a lot of opportunity to say it thanks to a supportive label and some positive buzz. He also has the support of his fellow independent hustlers thanks to cameos like MotorKam on “Clypped,” Psychic Twin on “Koolaide” and Quelle Chris on “Peso.” I get a real Pharcyde vibe from the reverberating instrumental they share.
In an era where short albums are becoming the norm, Lando goes in the opposite direction by stretching 13 songs out over 45 minutes, and none of that space is taken up by filler like skits or instrumentals. Even when you think things are about to wind down they pick back up at the finale with one of the album’s longest songs in “Love Cold” featuring Swansuit. Even as Lando notes that love “can’t stop a bullet” he still extols the virtues that it brings, and even managed to surprise me with the ally friendly line “my queer homies gon’ make it.” Considering the current bigoted, racist, homophobic and xenophobic political climate in the United States, these sentiments matter — representation matters. (Please vote today. We need this country to change in a big way.)
Even though Lando’s name might imply he’s as +Chill+ as Billy Dee Williams in a Millenium Falcon sipping on a frozen daquiri, “Black Ego” melts that frosty exterior and shows a heart pumping hot hip-hop blood (and no Kool-Aid). I think it’s fair to say he’s now exceeding geographical definitions. It’s like saying Andre 3000 and Big Boi are from Georgia — they are but their music is not regional in its appeal. Lando Chill is taking a piece of his “Black Ego” and giving it to anyone who will listen. This album is for those who love what hip-hop used to be in the 1990’s and 2000’s and hopefully can get back to as the 2010’s start to wind down.