Not one to waste her time, Buffalo rapper Ché Noir has demonstrated repeatedly that she’s one of hip-hop’s brightest emcees. To be a female rapper who’s able to show and prove in hip-hop’s male dominion is no easy feat and, at times, sounds less like an accomplishment and more akin to a backhanded compliment (as though to say, “You rap really good…for a girl.”). Coming off from last year’s solo effort “Food For Thought”, Ché’s now teamed up with enigmatic beatsmith Big Ghost Ltd. for the nine-track offering “Noir or Never.” Though some of the production is better suited for her than others, Ché Butta Queen mostly still shines with her lyrical versatility.
The album begins with “Female Rappers (Intro)”, and an excerpt from an interview where Ché discusses the rappers who she came up listening to, regardless of gender. The album contains several guest appearances, however “Resilient” is the first of two solo tracks from Ché. Built from a soul sample and minimal drums, Ché raps about what separates bosses from bums. On “Sleep Paralysis”, Flee Lord and D-Styles are featured, and the production is reminiscent of Daringer’s: Dusty drum snares and a sample slowed to an ominous, spooky effect. In it, Ché raps “Had a talent, but couldn’t see the cash from it / Awake, but still chasin’ dreams, that’s sleep paralysis.”
The Daringer-esque production continues on “Quiet Moves”, also featuring D-Styles. It’s braggadocio rhymes, but over the dark piano keys, Ché makes it sound interesting. “Veracruz” is driven by a tough guitar riff sample and features 7xvethegenius, who cleverly raps about caramelizing her opponent’s Adam’s Apple. The guest features proceed apace on “Caps Lock”, where Planet Asia lends his gravelly vocals to a verse before Ché’s. Next is the second of two solo tracks, “Low Altitude”:
Arguably a somber track, it has dispersed keys over a guitar sample as Ché spits more about her come-up and since accomplishments. Lastly, are “Brilliance” and “Bad Apples” to close the album. The former features Brooklyn rapper Skyzoo, but Ché isn’t one to be outshined on her own track. When she spat, “Money you didn’t earn be the worst kind of cash / They hit the block and study rocks like its an Earth Science class”, I was convinced that she had it from there. The latter closer is “Bad Apples”, and probably the only track to tie in thematically to her last album. Featuring Ransom and 38 Spesh, this is probably the grimiest track with its boom-bap menace. The cons of “Noir or Never”, however, are that it’s too short and marred by several, sometimes repeated, guest appearances. But on the upside, Ché Noir demonstrates that both her spit and pen games continue with improvements on each release.