Months earlier was the first time I heard Che Noir. Her collaborative effort, “As God Intended“, with Detroit beatsmith Apollo Brown was akin to a throwback whirlwind. Despite the soulful boom-bap of the production, Che was the real star. Much like her fellow Buffalo, NY emcees in Griselda, she has a potent concentration on bars and lyricism. But Che isn’t rapping about any drug or crime narratives, no. She’s got flow, wordplay, and multi-syllable rhyme schemes that all tie in to her oft-deserved praise of being a transplant from 1994, which just happens to be the year of her birth.
Che Noir’s a dope emcee, no doubt. She stands out as one of the few female emcees who can hold their own (and then some) on the mic in a genre that’s not known for being particularly friendly to women. Despite the frequent lows of 2020, Che has kept it moving. Her third released project this year, “After 12“, is an 7-track EP which she entirely self-produced. She’s been making beats for years, but this EP has her taking the roles of both rapper AND producer, making her double-threat to watch out for.
The album starts off with sampled dialogue from 1974’s “Foxy Brown”, which Che uses to send a message to her competition. Also, she states that this is the first volume of “After 12“, which makes this an appetizer to the upcoming full-course meal which will take the form of an LP. On “Cruise Control”, she’s given an assist on the hook by Bronx native The Musalini, who declares to Che that “It’s showtime!” after she let loose with some killer bars. The lead single “Hunger Games” has Che utilizing organ and multi-tracked vocal samples before the drum beat drops. Fellow NY natives Ransom and 38 Spesh are also on the track, but Che knows that this is hers and she refuses to be outshined on the mic:
“Every time I’m spittin’, they know it’s a jewel behind it
But sometimes, you might not catch it until you rewind it
I’m just tryna cop me a crib with a pool behind it
And pass out paper to my niggas like a school assignment”
The soul-sampling “Reasons” features battle emcee Jynx as he joins Che in railing against corny rappers. Although Che’s frequent proclamations about being true to herself, having principles, and never selling out can become redundant, it’s offset by the manner in which she tells her story. Take “Divine Knowledge”, for example. The hard-hitting boom-bap of the soulful beat goes hand-in-hand with Che’s rap about “Selling merch, but my plan was to cop a store / But it won’t be easy, ‘cause this road to success was like a Jumanji board”. The wordplay-laden hook pretty much sums up the track: “Cruise the city and get lost in the beat / Tinted windows, I think better when it’s harder to see / Now that’s Divine Knowledge.”
The penultimate track, “Moment in the Sun”, features Brooklyn’s R.J. Payne and Southeast DC’s Sa-Roc. Even with R.J.’s intense flow and Che’s customary delivery, it’s Sa-Roc who stole the show. I mean, her verse is not only comparable in length to the heavily-lauded Cappadonna verse on “Winter Warz”, but the emotion with which she raps her words makes her verse shine:
The EP is closed by “Grace”, which features British singer-songwriter Amber Simone on the hook, but it left me wishing that Che made this an 8-track EP. With “After 12”, Che Noir is now 3-for-3 as far as her 2020 album releases go. She’s proven to be relentless in both work ethic and her prodigious pen game. Despite the short length, “After 12” is a lyrical treat from an emcee who continues to astonish with her skills.