2 October, 2012@1:25 pm
It’s been six years since the release of Chino XL’s last solo album, Poison Pen, the third LP from the Mensa certified (yes, really) emcee. Chino’s known for taking at least five year breaks between LP’s, which leaves his fanbase clamoring for his brand of mind-bending punchlines, twisted social commentary, and Chuck Norris-esque feats of strength. With Ricanstruction: The Black Rosary, Chino unleashes a massive double LP, attempting to make up for lost time, courtesy of Immortal Technique’s Viper Records.
Ricanstruction almost starts like the movie UP – you’re all ripe and ready to hear Chino bombard you with lyrical miracles and instead he almost brings you to tears. With “Father’s Day”, he tells the tale of his young daughter’s bout with cancer, which gets worse by the moment. While this is dark territory to start the album off on, it finds Chino at his most vulnerable, suggesting that there is a more human aspect to the guy who lyrically flips off God on a regular basis. But like UP, in starting this way, he gets your full, undivided attention, leaving the listener hanging off of his every word – which is needed, because this album is about an hour longer than Pixar’s film.
Chino easily keeps the listener’s attention throughout the length of the first disc, which really is where much of the meat of the album lies. Disc One, or “Scalpel”, as it’s dubbed, weaves in and out of super-lyrical territory and songs about his personal life, balancing things out almost perfectly. For instance, songs like the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s sampled “Anything” has the perfect, brooding backdrop for Chino’s barrage of poetical terror, while it’s follow-up “Hell Song”, with Tech N9ne, finds him spitting some of the most technically amazing stanzas of his career. While this kind of thing can get overwhelming, Chino’s tapped a strong stable of producers to help keep things interesting, such as Apollo Brown, E-Swift, Stu Bangas, and others.
On the more personal side of things, we find Chino revealing intimate details of his life outside of rap, such as the incredibly visual “Silent Art Child” or “Mama Told Me”, both of which deal with his troubling childhood, or the hateful “Sleep In Scarlet” which deals with his dysfunctional ex. The flipside of that coin comes later on the second disc, with the gorgeously Exile produced “Crazy Love”, a ballad to the lady in his life.
Truthfully, much of the album’s greatest moments are pushed up front, while the second disc almost acts as a series of bonus tracks. While “Little Man” explores the outcome of bullying and school-shootings in a tale we’re all too familiar with, much of the second disc is reserved for the posse cuts and collabos. There’s a host of able lyricists that go toe-to-toe with XL on the second disc, from Bun B (“Xross Your Heart”) to Big Pun (“Kings”) to Iriscience & Roc Marciano (“Take It Back”) to Thirstin Howl & B-Real (“Latino’s Stand Up Remix”). These are the tracks that make the tracklist more appealing to the consumer, but ultimately the tracks that will have the most lasting effect do not have guests. That being said, he closes things out nicely with the rainy, “Gone”.
RICANstruction is a hefty plate to digest, and truthfully should be treated as two separate albums. It’s clear that Chino leaves no bar empty, packing this album with more rewind moments THAN A VCR FACTORY (See what I did there?) Jokes aside, while the album may have a low point or two, and literally bludgeons you with lyrical content, its standard for quality remains high. It will definitely keep fans’ attention for at least the next five years, as it will take at least that long to catch every line.
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