Chino XL may be the most gifted enigma to grace hip hop. He hasn’t dropped a plethora of material, yet everyone who has some kind of knowledge about hip hop over the past decade knows exactly who he is. To many, he is Eminem before he was Eminem, he was the most gifted and volatile lyricist ever. He was the man who drew the ire of Tupac to the point where Pac had to address him on “Hit Em Up.” But for all those that know of Chino’s gifts, there are even more who couldn’t pick him or his lyrics out of a lineup.
The reasoning behind this is sporadic releases and label issues that have caged the rhyme animal instead of fully releasing his utterly ridiculous wordplay and truly laugh out loud punchlines that could possibly place him amongst the greats. Take Poison Pen for instance. This album has been dangled over the heads of hip hop since 2003 (and you thought Styles P album had it bad). It has morphed and transformed over the past three years and has seen several million release dates. But instead of scrapping the project altogether and moving on with a major label deal, Chino understood how much his fans were salivating for something. And thus comes Poison Pen, a collection of his work over the past few years.
First things first, Chino’s lyricism is flat out insanity. For those of you looking for a lesson in ridiculous wordplay and punchlines (“I feel like I’m in Hong Kong how they try a make this Sing-a-pore”) that force you to punish the rewind button, Chino XL is your messiah. He is simply ridiculous in every aspect of his lyricism. Take this use of homonyms on “Wordsmith”….
“….9 planets planned it/Until it became apparent/my parent should have been a parent/state to state I ran some/I wasn’t worth no ransom/money? Won’t you hand some/A nigga wasn’t handsome/Raised a mind like Charles Manson/Knew I was some man’s son/but which one?/that made me strong and create my poison tongue.”
Chino constantly impresses with his slick wordplay. When he says “I no longer battle/I baffle” on “Even If It Kills Me” the listener begins to truly understand exactly what he means. His lyrical assault is absolutely relentless and never slows down. The problem is that his production has a hard time keeping up. While “Even If It Kills Me” and “Don’t Fail Me Now” featuring the Beatnuts do a great job complimenting Chino, other tracks can’t quite move the listener like Chino’s lyrics can. Nothing is blatantly horrible, but joints like “What You Lookin’ At” don’t quite cut it from a production aspect.
The only other issue for the true Chino fans is that most of this material is already on your Ipod. Which means that some of these tracks are a few years old, thus it may not be worth purchasing an album filled with material you may already have. Not Chino’s fault that he chose to service those who haven’t the opportunity to download, but it does stink for those looking for new material.
Poison Pen does what it intended to do. It gives the hungry something to gnaw on for the next few months (or years depending on how optimistic you are) while we await the upcoming major label Chino release. So for those of you who don’t know who Chino is, pick this up. For the others who have known, just add it to your collection. Either way it is better than what many artists are doing today.
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