Chino XL :: Here to Save You All :: American/Warner Bros.
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Vukile Simelane

Heat. Fire. Hotness. Supreme spittins birthed by a half-breed. "Here To Save You All" is as compelling as it is hilarious. From the dark drums of the intro, where a soulful voice warns of the experience about to unfold, to the voice snippets after the last track plays; Chino XL's debut solo LP causes a crevice in one's brain to leave an indelible footprint of artistic expression. (In case you want to know more, scope out the nonpareil and unrivalled Matt Jost's review of "I Told You So" for his brief bio)

The first track has Chino playing with words creating puns and metaphors from the names of R&aamp;B singers. Nobody "Xscape's" the wrath, as all and sundry are diced to the core; from Brandy to Everlast:

"Now Ever_last_, will never _last_, with no ghetto _pass_
Leave you breathin' hard like bitches at Lamaze _class_
Niggaz are slippin when they sippin gin and tonic
smokin chronic Jersey niggaz packin more handguns than Harry Connick
My style is welfare, half of you bitches is on it!!
Was born with a halo, when broke, I had to pawn it..."

This dude's knack for alliteration and soul-searing verses was and is UNPARALLELLED. "No Complex" remains of the most powerful indictments of hip-hop/rap culture. The whole fuckin' track is a hip-hop quotable, particularly these couplets:

"The term Chino goes synonymous with corpses flipped
But never celebrated like Hanukkah in Auschwitz
My complex flips, where'd he get that vain kind of mindframe?
Cause I've been rippin this way since MC's was just a labor pain
Underground for far too long but now I will be surfacin
Spray from my brain on the train -- like Colin Ferguson
They say I go too far but pop radio playin me
Like FCC stands for -- Fuckin Chino's Crazy
But I make TLC stand for ‘They Love Chino' when I terrify
You'll never eat Chili, cuz I'm an arsonist like Left-Eye
But I can't forget I, heard you say you'll leave me deceased, PLEASE
That's famous last words like the "I Have a Dream" speech
Beats fat like Melodie, sweet like Bellamy
You're gellin me more than niggaz at PMD shows be yellin for E..."

On track 4, he comes harder with proclamations on how he don't need a "Partner to Swing," and on "It's All Bad" he rips scientific about wanting so much to be the "greatest lyricist" that things end up spiralling out of control to where he ends up "falling off like T.J. Swan." And then on the equally stellar "Freestyle Rhymes," he busts what the title speaks of. Debut albums tend to allow an artist to not hold back, and homeboy doesn't ease up on the reigns (rains) of ill-ass verbals:

"Fuck out my face is your best bet
Your career is George Burns I can't believe you ain't dead yet
I show more blind rage
Than Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles wrestling in a steel cage
("Yo this nigga's crazy!")
I got an artist losing their limelight like Mike Bivins
Bitches flipping their wigs like Faith Evans
Reject my single I ain't mad at it
Like O.J. getting married again, I'll takes +another stab+ at it..."

"Riot" comes up the seventh track, and in true honesty, this track should have never made it on the LP. How the hell you gon' have Ras Kass and Chino trading body blows? The end effect is that you have 2 supreme vocalists doing their best to make you scratch your head and drop your jaw simultaneously. No excerpt will ever do this track justice, your ass just gotta up and hear it, and I promise it'll have you "niggaz lookin for Webster's like George Papadopolous."

"Waiting to Exhale" features Gravitation, and is the LP's posse cut, while "What Am I?" is an autobiographical tale revealing the complexities of a bi-racial kid striving to find his identity within the dark-skin/pale-skin world. The need to create deadly verses is explained in "Feelin' Evil Again;" yet another vivid portrayal and an exhibition of the "dismal sketches" of that "Jersey trife shit." Standing above par is "Kreep," a haunting recital of a love lost agonizingly; let the liquor tell it:

"Your love is sorcery, drowning in emotion poisoning me
unfortunately, your memory is haunting me
I'm feeling pains that I can't even describe
But if I have to bitch you fuckin buried me alive
Your love counterattacks, unrealistic terroristic acts
Like the Oklahoma Federal Building I collapse
I want her back, but I know that I can't force her
Thinkin' bout takin' my own life like Marlon Brando's daughter..."

As the track ends, peep how deep the narrative flips as he realizes that the woman he's spying on is his former Heidi Fleiss. In a sense, there's a "scalding misogyny" in these verses that speaks volumes of the female-bashing rampant in this rap world. Tempo escalates on "Many Different Ways" as Chino confesses how he wants to "make this crowd bounce like they one big silicone tittie." I was feeling the effective use of sampling on this one, as well as the inimitable flow of Dr. Octagon himself on "The Shabba-Doo Conspiracy." You gotta hear this one for its sheer audacity and ingenuity. Kool Keith needs to refill his prescription; coz boy done lost his ever-loving mind!

The immaculate "Ghetto Vampire" features a molding of three beats on a solo track. Think of Mos' "Brooklyn" and you get the idea. Some lady describes him as some sort of vampire that slices up images of urban icons while leavin' ‘em blood-dry. Wicked shit. "Rise" is the penultimate cut where Chino philosophizes on the spiritual search for the soul, while "My Hero" is a string of voice-overs that encapsulate the fragmented demeanour and attitude pervading North America around the time when Orenthal James "protected his investment" by playing chef with a Ginsu, on two lovers. "Here To Save You All" is a depiction of a Jesus-like figure, where the MC spills his intestines onto the canvas of ill beats, while enlisting the help of his fellow formidable apostles. One may feel cleansed, or baptised after enduring this cathartic experience. It remains a slice of rap when money was not the object, and artistic expression defined one's legacy. If you can find it, GET IT.

Music Vibes: 9 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 10 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 9.5 of 10

Originally posted: May 18, 2004