Album Review -- Chaundon: "No Excuses"

I’d be lying through my teeth keyboard if I told you that this review was fair, unbiased and without preloaded fanship of the reviewed… No, this is not to become a glowing review of a close personal friend, moreso one that I enter with the HOPE that it will be a glowing review of someone whose work I have come to love. No, don’t know the dude personally, though we have met a couple or 3 times at shows around the state, and have exchanged messages through various social networking mediums (MySpace/FaceBook/Twitter, yeah all of them, lol) down through it all.
That said, this is EASILY my most anticipated album of 2010 so far of any genre, and WILL be only the 3rd album I put down my hard-earned $10 or less for single-disc albums at FYE when it releases next Tuesday – the same day that my Lakers commence their title defense – no matter the outcome of my review.
Individual mileage may vary.

If entertainment derived from his first album Carnage – which was released before I started this blog – is any indication of what we’re about to go through, I stand to be pleased with what I will get out of my $10 purchase.

[Phlip note – with the mentions that FYE and that little diddy about their prices, they should have BEEN cut a check]

Anyway…
Let’s get down to business, shall we?


01. Watch Out -
I like how this begins, no real intro... A couple of lines, then a VERY large Illmind beat starts. Our host spends no time feeling the beat out and gets right to work. Looks like we're off to a strong start, and LORD knows I am thankful for the lack of the bullshit rap album intro.

02. Wake Up -
Again, one intro bar and bang, we have a song... Looks like this one comes in with the hook to start the song. This one sees Chaundon employing a slightly slower flow than normal. We're reminded that he is an MC, and a master/workaholic at that. Illmind's beat is as big on this one as it was on the first track, but I am left with the feeling that the beat was a LITTLE too loud compared to the vocals.
I don't dislike this song, but I surely don't LOVE it.


03. Role Player -
Directly to work on this one, from DK The Punisher (who I have NEVER heard of) the beat is kinda futuristic sounding. I like it.
Chaundon takes the role of a dope man, it seems. Something between New Jack City and mid-90s rap.
Oh wait, I think that was the point of this.
Now he is a gun runner on the next verse.
Suffice it to say, I think this is my favorite track on the album so far, based on the story and the concept, basically the exposure of rappers with such tales as full-of-shit authors playing cops and robbers.
Yeah, I like this one.

04. No Excuses Ft. Carlitta Durand -
Title track time... I am not sure I like how this song begins... Oh wait, that thing quieted down.
We have a story of triumph in the face of critics. What critics he speaks of, though, I cannot imagine. Not a SOUL I played the first album for had a bad thought for it, even those who "don't listen to that kinda rap," whatever that means.
This is the kind of rapping I am used to hearing from Chaundon and I have a soft spot for Carlitta Durand, so I like this song, just not as much as I did the prior track.

05. Strangers -
This one begins with ZERO intro bars over a huge beat again. Rap topic #1,359,146,.236874 - "fake friends," and I am not a fan of the interpolation of the Goodie Mob's Cell Therapy in the hook. This song isn't bad, but is not as good as it kinda pretends to be.

06. Motion Picture Ft. Erica Thompson -
Long lead-in on this one... The beat is describable as "epic" in my mind. The idea here is that Chaundon's life has seen its share of drama. I am not a fan of the hook, though I do like the beat. The rhymes do a good job of conveying the point of the song, and that is a good thing. You tend to believe that he has been through the shit he describes, a fact made a little easier by the fact that it is not shit that you would lie about, especially as a rapper.
I almost didn't like this song, but my opinion of it changed as I typed this review of it.

07. Nice Girl Ft. Bishop -
Crap, a rap love song?
What album am I listening to right now?
I will let this one ride out, perhaps something will come of it to redeem…
… maybe.
PLEASE?!!?

Well damn, I spent enough time hoping for it, but I just didn’t think I would ever see Chaundon do this to us…
next

08. The Blacker The Berry Ft. Erica Thompson -
Intro bars from everyone's favorite colored-people movie, Friday... This better be good.
Wait, what the hell? This is 2 love songs in a row? I'm inclined to like this beat, but not so much the hook. Comfortable with our host's ability to carry a song, I will say, again, that I cannot hate this song, but this is one I am not able to say I even like.
Wait, was this a metaphor for cell phones? I will listen again.

09. Looking Glass Ft. Big Dho -
I want to be able to say that this beat reminds me of something I have heard before, I would consult the Googles for--... oh shit, we're rapping.
C'mon, son... Is this another love song? I am convinced, listening to this album now, that Chaundon will be announcing a wedding or something in the near future if we are to allow the sequence of things to drive our opinions.

10. Crazy -
No longer in love on this one, this time we’re greeted to a “crazy groupies” tale, over a beat that makes me think of Halloween and not in a good way. I am impressed with the host’s ability to paint the picture with the story told in the song, the problem is that this is a story that we’ve heard before.
I am not terribly fond of this song, and I think it has just as much to do with the beat as it does with the topic at hand. The story was cool, but the application did not do it for me.

11. Open Your Eyes Ft. Carlitta Durand -
After a short break in the proceedings, we're back into the Quiet Storm section of the album... Of all of them, though, if a gun was at my head and I had to choose one, this is my favorite of the "love" songs, and no that is not only because of Carlitta Durand's involvement. This song is legitimately good, especially compared against the ones ahead of it.
HOLY SHIT!!!
This was not a love song... It pretended to be one for 2.5 verses, then it became a cautionary tale about proper investment in the preservation of your most prized organ.

12. Yall Don't Want It Ft. Carlitta Durand -
This sample makes me like the song already...
As much talking as he does at the beginning, he better be rhyming his ASS off on this.
Yep, he is. It is not missed on me that I have not seen Khrysis or 9th wonder beats on this whole album to this point.
This beat feels like that point we've all been through where you're talking about someone -- be it good or bad -- just before you realize they're in the room.
[Phlip note - get it?]
Prior favorite has fallen back a step, this is now my favorite song on this album, but I am a little salty that I have had to listen to 86% of the album before making that decision.

13. Home Sick Ft. Darien Brockington -
Hmm...
Not sure what to expect from this, given the intro bars, as they pick up new elements.
This song is the 'damn, fuck rapping' kinda thing we've come to see on albums of late. That said, the title of the song should make it obvious as to what it is about. The redeeming quality is the voice used to emote the message. As ever, it is believable, you really believe that the person telling you that the life he has chosen and continues to lead is as bothersome as those of us human beings.
Wait a minute... As I typed that sentence, my opinion of this song -- which was mediocre at best -- changed for the better. It has as much to do with the revelation I just made in that sentence as it did with the coincidence of the story changing for the better in the last half of the last verse...
That said, this song was pretty good.

14. Farewell Ft. Darien Brockington -
Given how we came off of the last song, which would have been a fitting end to the album, I was not expecting much more than a standard rap album outro...
Luckily, this ain't that.
Chaundon is rapping his ASS off on this song too. "Cocksure" is a word I would employ for the style used on this song, and that is what I have come to like hearing from him. You actually believe that he is as great as he tells you he is. The song is titled "Farewell," and it is presented as a goodbye to the album, and to a list of things that bug our host (and your author here, for the record) about rap music these days.
He seems to be saying he is done with hip hop on this song, but I will not invest in believing that until I see it.
I actually like this song as well, we'll place this as my 3rd favorite on the album.



Gonna be honest here...
I am going to buy this album, but not because I found it terribly enjoyable.
The "who" of this album will supersede the "what" of this album with me. To draw a parallel, Common's One Day It'll All Make Sense is among my top 10 albums all time in any genre for what it was to me at the time of release, and was my favorite album for many years. THAT fact sold me Like Water For Chocolate (didn't regret that fact) and then Electric Circus (okay, now we need to think about this thing). From there -- and thanks to the ready availability of high speed internets, I have made a point of test driving EVERY album he put out since then before buying. Of the three since, I own ONE of them.

[Phlip note - and his movies are painful to watch too, but that is not a tangent I will go on in this post]

I say all that to say that I will buy this album out of respect for the artist in spite of my finding it only marginally enjoyable -- especially compared to prior output -- but only this time. It's not the issue of parting with $10, as what with working 2 jobs and not having had a beer in almost a month, I HAVE that to spare.
HOWEVER
Any subsequent product will be test driven and a decision such as this will be met without a purchase. Out of 14 tracks, I am not expecting to tell the album art on my iPod -- as if the artist can somehow hear me saying it -- "YOU'RE BETTER THAN THIS" 9 times.

[Phlip note - confession, I took one of those back, so we'll call it 8]


I say that to say that I will HAVE to listen to Carnage on the way to work in the morning to make myself feel better. If it sounds like I am disappointed, it is because I am. While I was not coming into this expecting Carnage 2.0, I was NOT expecting someone who had been consistent to this point to release something so... well... flat. With someone who has had features on other peoples' work as well as his own that made you stop and rewind, I find it hard to swallow that there are just none of those moments on this album, not even on my favorite of the tracks.
Sad, though, I just don't know WHAT I expected on this presentation.

Bear in mind, now, that this version of the album came from my downloaded screener’s copy, of course -- found on the other side of some exhaustive Google Work -- and the review of course will be duly updated next week, when I can make it to FYE between the FT and PT and provide them the requisite $10.74 to be allowed to remove an item from their retail establishment if the album is any different.
Looking over the track listing, I noticed that this album would surely be different from previous offerings – albums and mixtapes and such – from the artist, which on the surface I thought would be a good thing, suggesting some growth as an artist. I would be lying, though, if I said that I was not a little disappointed upon first-read of the tracklisting with the omission of names such as Sean Price, Median and L.E.G.A.C.Y., as well as the missing names of Khrysis and 9th wonder as far as the beats go.
I guess that is how one keeps from being pigeonholed or otherwise placed in a little box, but what do I know?

Checklist...
  • Rappers are fake?
    check!
  • Love songs (perhaps involving a potentially confusing metaphor)?
    yep!
  • I can rap better than you?
    naturally, and luckily history has shown this to be a plausible claim for the artist in question.
  • Wild groupie/crazy broad tales
    got it!
  • "the rap game is some ol bullshit'
    your wish is my command!
  • Fake friends?
    present and accounted for!
This album, more than anything I might expect of the artist in question here, was a bit paint-by-the-numbers, and that is the major source of my disappointment. Also, the album was a bit short as well, and for the short length, I was left only able to name 3 songs that I LOVED.

Held against a debut album that is a classic in my mind, one might say I am a little salty about the wind being knocked out of my anticipation.

Oh well, Sophomore slumps do happen, and I am surely calling this just that until the next one.
3/5 stars
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