Quelle Chris is a musician who I have always admired and respected, even if the music he has come out with hasn’t always blown me away. His laid-back but left field style of rapping married with his witty, oftentimes hilarious, word play, concepts and lyrics are enough to make him a formidable force in the underground hip hop scene. On most of his previous projects, I’ve found him to be thoroughly entertaining, in spite of his sleepy style of delivery, primarily through his bars, which range from humorous to introspective. Despite how captivated I always am by his engaging persona, I was prevented from absolutely loving some of his previous projects as a result of his delivery, which occasionally felt so laid-back that it seemed somewhat unrefined. I also found the production to underwhelm me at times, as it often took the backseat as to allow for Chris to fully explore and convey the ideas in his head. Nonetheless, I have always enjoyed Chris’ idiosyncratic ramblings, it’s just that they didn’t always come across as something that can be well-assembled into a musical format. This new project from the Detroit underground rapper, Being You is Great, I Wish I Could Be You More Often, displays his usual traits of hilarity, obscurity and contemplation, but in a much more amplified fashion. Chris has always shown a level of self-awareness that a lot of rappers lack, but on his new album, he takes things to an entirely new level. Being You Is Great… deals with the concept of the self, particularly the philosophy that the path to self-improvement is through self-acceptance. The central theme of this record is perhaps summed up most suitably and most candidly by the first line from the first song; “I fuck with myself”. Nevertheless, Chris’ loquacious babbling on this project is not all egoistic diatribes, rather he delves into the myriad of conflicting feelings one may have towards oneself with his usual dose of sharp wit. Not only does Chris seem to have raised the bar on this album lyrically and conceptually, but Being You Is Great… features some of the catchiest and most colourful production from a Quelle Chris record to date, making for a thoroughly enjoyable listen on all fronts.
The opening track, Buddies, comes across as the mission statement of the record, with Chris proclaiming that he’s so in love with himself that he should buy himself flowers. The fact that the ‘buddy’ to whom this song is addressed is evidently Chris himself makes the album’s concept unequivocally clear right from the onset, as the listener comes to realise that the ‘you’ in the title of this album is intended to mean the self. The bluntness with which Chris treats this topic early on in the track makes for some very funny moments, particularly when paired with his comical style of delivery and irregular emphasis on certain words. The beat on this track, courtesy of AyePee, complements Chris’ silly side as well as his relaxed vibe perfectly, with a super smooth bass line providing the foundation for the instrumental, whilst some jazzy horns abruptly burst in and out of the track throughout its runtime, and some chilled keys work their way into the mix nicely on the backend of this cut. I’m That Nigga displays similar themes both lyrically and musically. Frequent Quelle Chris collaborator Chris Keys contributes another slick, jazz-tinged beat that accompanies Chris and Denmark Vessey’s hyperbolic braggadocio very well. This track proves to be one of the most memorable on the record as a result of the amusing skit involving Chris’ confrontation with a long-time fan who is upset that the rapper doesn’t know who he is. The fan, angry at Chris, sings, “Who are you / And who do you belong to?”, to which the rapper retorts “I’m that nigga / I belong to myself” before he descends into another brash verse about his overstated success and fame. BS Vibes, also produced by Chris Keys, shows Quelle Chris deliver similar bars that flaunt his talents, but his ice-cold delivery on this track is so straight-faced that this cut feels more serious than silly. The myriad ways in which Chris tackles the concept of self-love ranges from him displaying a healthy dose of self-acceptance to completely overblown egotism, with the listener left to decide which of these feelings that the rapper conveys towards himself are justified and which are not. The fact that the line between self-acceptance and narcissism seems to be so fine perhaps encapsulates one of the key messages of the record, although there is always a large deal of deliberate ambiguity to Chris’ bars, so this is certainly up for debate.
Popeye sees a huge change of direction from the exaggerated self-absorption displayed on the first track Buddies, with Chris’ bars on this cut dealing with self-doubt as a result of reflection on one’s bad decisions or lack of action taken to achieve their goals. Rather hilariously, Chris uses Popeye the Sailor Man as a lyrical vehicle for conveying these emotions, providing for some amusing but honest lines like, “Kickin’ the can but never eats the spinach / Seems I never reach the goal but always meet the finish”. This cut also features a fantastic, laid-back beat, courtesy of MNDSGN, that brings out the best in Chris’ style of rapping, with some soulful choral vocals carrying the instrumental throughout the track’s runtime, as well as some clean jazz guitars that pop up intermittently and reflect the relaxed atmosphere that Chris creates on many of these tracks.
In Case I Love Myself stands out as coming across as a more conventional track than the majority of tracks on Being You Is Great…, with the jazzy sample loop and feature credits from Cavalier, Denmark Vessey and Goose resulting in somewhat of a jazz rap posse cut. The verses brought to the table by the guest rappers, as well as by even Chris himself, are a lot more regular with a more typical structure, but it creates for a very strong jazz rap cut that could have been lifted right from Kendrick Lamar’s untitled unmastered. project released last year. This slightly more conventional approach continues onto the following track, Fascinating Grass, which boasts features from Big Tone, Roc Marciano and 87 and brandishes a harder beat than other cuts on the record that nevertheless plods along as to retain the laid-back vibe associated with Chris’ sound. All in all, it seems that Quelle Chris is displaying a great amount of diversity in his sound that not only makes this record come across as his most well-organised yet, but also his most accessible.
Being You Is Great… is perhaps Quelle Chris’ most polished record to date, with a healthy balance between his usual off-kilter persona and some cuts that are a lot more easy to get into than some of his previous work, including some of the best production to appear on any of his projects thus far. The jazz-inspired instrumentals, for the most part, are highly accessible and broaden Chris’ appeal, whilst the thematic stylings of the record, displayed in an amusing and sometimes puzzling fashion, are typical of the Detroit rapper and stay true to his unique approach to hip hop. Ultimately, this record feels immensely honest, sometimes painfully so, and Quelle Chris appears here in his most grounded and human form yet, further expanding the appeal of this project. Even in spite of the complexity of much of Being You Is Great…, that’s not to say that it can’t be enjoyed on a more casual level, with the catchy beats and chilled flows on here making for a project that is as enjoyable to listen to as it is to ruminate over the conceptual subject matter.
The Vinyl Verdict: 8/10