RT: “No Biggie”, “Cement (feat. C. Rich)”, “Marcus Miller (feat. D. Brash)”, “Drunken Monkee (feat. Drunken Monkee)”, “Wanna See A Dead Body?? (feat. Tree)”
RiYL: Kembe X, Alex Wiley, Chance the Rapper & The Social Experiment, Chuck Inglish
You wouldn’t be at fault for not knowing who Vic Spencer and Chris Crack are. Other than one terrible diss track against Mick Jenkins by Spencer, the two rappers are still relative unknowns. The underground Chicago rappers have up-and-coming careers of their own, but their new collaborative mixtape, Who The Fuck Is Chris Spencer??, sees the two MC’s combine powers to heighten their respective profiles and create a project that serves as an old-school remedy to Chicago’s other burgeoning hip-hop scenes. While the Drill scene has been carried into the national spotlight on the backs of Chief Keef and Young Chop, amongst others, and the citie’s more vibrant sounds have been almost single-handedly vaulted into the mainstream by Chance the Rapper and his immediate collaborators, Chicago’s current musical landscape isn’t known for much else other than these sonic dichotomies. That’s where Chris Spencer comes in. Though Chicago has plenty of artists who play with soul sampling (In ways more akin to RZA or Madlib than Chicago music progenitor Kanye West), few have stuck to the sound as closely as Chri
The album’s at its strongest when the beats have a strong sense of melody and elements of strangeness that remind you this is still an underground rap album. Album opener “Cue Ball” sets the project off perfectly with a off-kilter flute loop and the melody being let to breathe during the hook, as the two MC’s wax poetic with a mix of braggadocio and slice of life lines. “No Biggie” continues this trend of raw, boom bap laden rhymes. This isn’t gangsta rap in any sense of the word, but the level of intensity here can be seen in both gangsta rap and drill. Unfortunately, after this song, the album continues Chris Spencer’s glaring achilles heel is shown. The next few songs have truly bad hooks, akin to something really amateur weed rappers think are passable as “catchy” or “deep”. Thankfully, there are many highlights on the album. At 13 songs and 40 minutes, most of the idea’s presented here don’t get tired, and most of the songs that hover around 3 minutes are great. “No Flavors” sees a “classic rap” harp arpeggio put to pleasurable use, as Chris Spencer talk their shit and allow the listener to sit back. The album is at its best when it doesn’t take itself too seriously, like on “Marcus Miller (feat. D. Brash)” and “Drunken Monkee (feat. Drunken Monkee)”, songs that have quality beats, and Chris Spencer getting their message across casually, with clever wordplay and conviction.
Tracks with minimal sample chops, clever verses and strong melody are where this album shines, but when Chris Spencer attempt to sing hooks and rap over minor key music with an air of over-seriousness, the album slips into the realm of parody and banality. That being said, the collaboration here is promising and one of the better mixtapes in recent memory. With a little editing and an expansion of their sound, Chris Spencer could give us something really special some day and be the leaders of their own movement in their city.