Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Chino XL "Jesus" (1996)

"Riooot!", one of the more definitive cuts off of Chino's first album "Here To Save You All", has always served to link Rass Kass & Chino in my mind; staggering lyrical potential that rarely manifested itself in an unforgettable cut, much less album. While that might be unfair to Rass - "Won't Catch Me Runnin", "Nature of the Threat", and the "Soul on Ice (remix)" come immediately to mind - the prospect of the two of them sharing a track was salivating to the lyrics-heads back in '96. Like a lot of Chino's material, the beat was pretty average, and it didn't quite hit like you expected it would.

Chino was "fuck the world" - but not in the nihilistic way that helped Eminem blow up. His aggression was more in tearing down idols ("weight of the world on my shoulders like Aretha Franklin's ankles"), not out of malice, but pure creativity. Which is why you always paid attention to a Chino XL cut...few MC's could match his inventive metaphors.

One hip-hop nerd argument that doesn't happen enough is "best Chino XL cut". I'd nominate "Jesus" (and "Nunca", from 2001's "I Told You So"). As far as I know, this one was promo-only, the b-side to "Rise", a solid but unspectacular cut. This one rocks a beat worthy of ill rhymes (once you get past the long intro), and one of the more memorable moments he produces on a cut:

After ripping the first verse and breezing through the chorus, Chino asks producer Kutmasta Kurt to drop an old beat so he can reminisce. He immediately begins to drop the opening bars to "Ain't No Half-Steppin":

Rappers steppin' to me, they wanna get some
But I'm X-L, so yo - you know the outcome
Another victory, keep that gun in your holster
My rhymes are off the wall like my Big Daddy Kane poster

Who's gonna diss Big Daddy Kane while borrowing some of his own lyrics from "Ain't No Half-Steppin"? Only Chino XL.

Includes clean, original, and instrumental; "Ghetto Vampire" radio; and "Rise" (Long version, Short version, instrumental, and acapella).

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Grav "Snake Bite" (1996)

Grav (aka Gravity) dropped his album ("Down to Earth") when Chicago was still mad slept on; I was living three hours away at the time, and Grav barely made any noise. Not sure what to attribute to (although my instinct is the avalanche of material in '96), but Grav had heavyweights behind the boards for this one. Dug Infinite (who was about to put in real work on Common's album) produced 3 cuts, and Kanye West contributed 8. Correct (Grav's label) ended up putting out two singles, "C'Mon" b/w "Snake Bite" being the first:

"Snake Bite" is the reason I discovered Grav in the first place. It's produced by Andy C, who is obviously neither Dug Infinite nor Kanye West, but this shit still knocks over a decade later. The track goes for sinister AND bouncy, and it works. The chopping here is masterful; a lot of producers tend to over-do it. Grav is clearly feeling it as well, and drops some tight verses, sandwiched by a spoken chorus:

ay-yo, gather round, and get caught in my swing
but watch out 'cause the industry's a venomous thing
n*ggas hold the fortress down, and keep it tight
or else you might die from the snake bite

Includes "C'mon" (radio, album, instrumental) and "Snake Bite" (radio, album, instrumental).