“I ain’t made a record in three years and that’s why you rich,” laments the emcee on “Let ‘Em Live”, as before there was the multi-platinum success of Eminem , Chino XL preceded him, with amazing freestyle gymnastics and equal amounts of celebrity bashing hilarity. While his debut album, Here To Save You All was not only ridiculously slept on, but also sent the average listener into sensory overload, as they tried to keep up with the amount of insults and crazy metaphors he was spitting at them in the “No Complex” video alone.
But those who bought the album, became dedicated fans, painting Chino up to be the lyrical Jesus, and perhaps one of the greatest emcees of his time. Others who didn’t know how to classify him complained that they didn’t like his style – he could rap but couldn’t make songs. But again, those that actually peeped Here To Save You All saw that there was more to Chino than just nutty freestyle rhymes, as he proved on album tracks such as the conceptual “Ghetto Vampire”, as well as the quest for identity, “What Am I”, a song that explored his own confusion of his mixed racial background.
Little has changed since the days of “You getting’ fucked like 2Pac in jail”, as Chi turns anyone into a target, even our own precious rap legends. (Lines like “I’m shitting on niggas like Kool G Rap did on all the cats on the first symphony” and “You’re weaker that that Public Enemy album they’re selling over the internet” come to mind.) Even possible subliminal disses to that shady fella make there way on to the album, as Chino spits, “Who’s this little boy trying to rhyme like me? / And worship me like Jon B. worship black pussy? / He pushing me to the point I want to smack him, yo / He tryin’ to steal my fans like Chico did D’Angelo’s !”
Although the difference in Chino XL’s music in 2001 is that he is a little more focused on making songs, rather than freestyle contests. His production is better than ever, and with the exception of the Jay Dee produced “Don’t Say A Word” , is surprisingly handled by a number of little known producers. His outlandish dick-waving bravado displayed on “Chianardo Di Caprio” is funny as it is insulting, but is quickly parodied on the contradictory skit following it (no spoilers). He becomes a little more honest on the brilliant Rock The World flip of “Forgot To Be My Lover” on Sorry , as he and his lady trade verses, apologizing for how they’ve wronged each other. His frustration with women is best explained on the future b-side track, Water (a casualty left off this release during the transfer from Warner to Metro), as he laments, “It must be something in the water they drink, it’s been the same with every girl I’ve had”. As the first two verses delve into failed relationships with his mother and wifey, the most chilling and beautifully poetic verse of his career is spent in the third verse, on his stepdaughter.
Yet Chino hasn’t forgotten his roots, and still has plenty of fun dishing out the lyrical smackdowns he is known for. He kicks the door down on the album’s blazing opener, “What You Got”, freaking a phat Carlito’s Way vocal sample, while taking equal pleasure on both “You Fucking Asshole” and “I Told You So”, at defining his character through vicious venom laced battle raps over nasty production from Nick Wiz and Mixture. But the album’s most incredible display of unbridled lyricism is on the Carlos Bess’ted “Nunca” . Try to keeping up with: “My defeat? You better have more blindfolded Faith than a kidnapped version of Biggie’s widow / Kiddo, you ain’t worth hot spittle / Till I’m hospitable enough to put you inside of a hospital, after I smoke critical amounts of dust / Thus my mind floats on Jedi pedestals and roasting demos / semi-seminals who try to test testicles of this taino’s quotables / I make the proudest of all Dominicans wave flags for Puerto Rico / And kill and blanco gringo referring to Chino as Chico / By summoning the smoldering, murdering minister that’s mastering mayhem slating day out of date and / Outspoken like a Dayton rim / that be keeping them staggering through lyrical pattern an / traveling through my abdomen like unraveling at the speed of a javelin / still reppin’ Vatican and invade like Mexican / Notify next of kin / Cats I’m investin’ in don’t worship Christ, they worship the thieves crucified next to him!” God damn!
I Told You So is actually full of many moments just like the aforementioned, but will probably remain one of the most slept on albums of the year. With production just as good as the rhymes, Chino’s sophomore release is proof puddin’ positive that he is in fact one of the most incredible and underrated lyricists of his time, who for some reason still hasn’t received his due. It still remains a mystery as to why – does his mixed racial background make him unidentifiable with each audience? Is it because he doesn’t roll with a big name producer or crew? Is it his geographical location – repping Jersey rather than Brooklyn or L.A.? Is Mr. No Complex, too complex? Whatever factors have kept Chino XL out of the spotlight thus far, he’s too talented to remain there any longer. He is talking loud enough, and it’s time for fools to start listening.
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