Over the years, the term “food for thought” has been a prevalent statement in Ché Noir’s lyrics. From 2020’s “Freedom” where she rapped “All praise is due to the highest as God protect me / I give you +food for thought+ but my diet was Dr. Sebi” to even further back to her rap on 2018’s “Tyson”: “Give ‘em +food for thought+, leavin’ you with dirty dishes / Nigga, fuck a handout, you better work to get it”, it’s clear she has a fondness for the term to incorporate it into her lyrics with such regularity. It’s also important to think about the meaning of “food for thought”, which is something that requires careful thought and consideration. No, seriously, that’s the definition of “food for thought”. But also, think about it in terms of what Ché brings to hip-hop: The Buffalo emcee is a fierce lyricist with a pen game that’s even more fierce, along with a talent for rhyming and an understanding of the English language that’ll put a top-tier English teacher to shame. The latter is how she flipped her go-to term on its head to its literal meaning for her 2022 album, entitled, you guessed it, “Food For Thought”.
In the past, many hip-hop albums have incorporated ‘food’ or something food-related in their titles: “Chicken & Beer” (2003) by Ludacris; “Soul Food” (1995) by Goodie Mob; and Conway the Machine’s “Everybody Is Food” series, to name a few. But conceptually, Ché’s latest offering bears similarities to the late MF DOOM’s “MM…FOOD” (2004), particularly in terms of both the album and song titles all being references to food, eating, culinary, dinner, table manners, etc. In accordance with the aforementioned interpretations of the album title, Ché doesn’t just serve this twelve-course meal from behind the mic. She serves each listeners’ table from behind the boards as well, preparing the production herself on five tracks.
On the Cartunebeatz-produced intro “Eat to Live”, Ché deftly explains the meaning of the album’s idiom, being clear in pointing out that it’s more cerebral to her than anything. The lyrics begin on “Split The Bread”, a solo track where Ché wastes no time in making a title drop and boasting about her skills. With lines such as “Bitch, I rap better than these niggas, do not compare me / These bars give you +food for thought+, this shit is like commissary” and “I kill a rapper with every bar with just a sling like David / The rap game left blood on my hands, so bitch, I’m finger-paintin’”, it shows that Ché packs her bars with numerous quotables. “Eat Or Starve” is self-produced and its guitar-driven sample loop adds desperation to its “work or don’t eat” theme. Niagara Falls-based emcee Jynx716 aids Ché with his own verse about the steady grind mindset.
The album isn’t without skits, but they serve to tie the album’s concept together. The “Daily Bread” skit is a recording of a group of children saying “grace” right before the aptly titled “Bless The Food”, which Ché also produced. Compared to her previous production, her work here sounds more polished with the string sample and bass sounding cleaner. It contains one verse and, though with bars, it’s more about conveying lessons than memorable rhymes. However, Ché reverts to boom-bap productions with vocal assists from fellow Buffalo emcees Armani Caesar and 7xvethegenius (pronounced ‘Love the Genius’) on “Ladies Brunch”. With vinyl crackling and lo-fi drum snares, all three rappers state their cases to be included among the current crop of the best rappers. The first single, “Praises”, loops a vintage instrumental which is reminiscent of the “Scarface” movie score and has Ché rapping about her ambition to leave a worthy legacy.
“Brains For Dinner” is a joint JR Swiftz-Motif Alumni production with gritty drums and dark piano keys where Ché shows just how hungry she is, pun intended, with the scratched in hook of “I’m from the hood…” to drive the point home. On “Gold Cutlery”, Ché raps over her own psychedelic looped production with a feature from Griselda signee Rome Streetz. This track was disappointing as it had Rome Streetz assigned to rapping a hook instead of rapping a verse. Just as Ché held her own with fellow female rappers on “Ladies Brunch”, she goes for another triple-emcee posse cut with 38 Spesh and Ransom in a sequel to 2020’s “Hunger Games” on “Table For 3”. The self-produced second single, all three rappers devour the piano-driven beat:
Closing out the album are the R&B skit “Water to Wine” followed by “Communion”, a lyrical outpouring of the pain that Ché often doesn’t talk about, from the deaths of family and childhood friends to vulnerabilities in relationships. The song’s church aspect with a preacher and an applause are also nice details. At 27 years old, Ché Noir raps and writes with refined precision. While it’s known that she can produce beats as well, her raps are usually what takes the center stage. She’s thoughtful, vivid, and has multis and wordplay for days. Though 2021 was awfully quiet for her, with “Food For Thought”, it’s time hip-hop fans acknowledge that Ché Noir is the kind of emcee who makes listeners practically stab the rewind button.