Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Chiddy Bang - The Swelly Express

There's something about the idea of a hip-hop concept album that immediately appeals to me. And if it's a debut, packed with tasteful samples and creative flows, then all the better. The Swelly Express is the tale of a group of striving college-ages and their experience breaking into the music scene.

Musically, these kids couldn't be more ready to break out. I can't think of anyone else who could go from sampling this to Sufjan Stevens to Joe Strummer to MGMT all on the same album, twisting and molding their featured songs into completely new melodies. Refreshingly, there's no underlying booty thumping, dancehall drive present, and no beyond-sick spits or turntable radicalism either. Chiddy's front man Chidera Anamege seems to deliberately circumvent the typical rapper tropes, leaving out the trite verses about cars, money, ho's, and the ubiquitous hard-knock past. It's a sign of our times that rappers are writing about working hard and not hard times.

It's hard to talk about a major rap album without mentioning collaborations, and while Chiddy Bang don't have options like Timberlake (guests on every track, producers playing musical chairs), the collabs they got stand out. Fellow east-coasters like Passion Pit and The Roots' Black Thought add some appreciated sparkle--the Pit track is one of the album's highlights. It speaks to Chiddy's talent that their song-making unit is so self-contained.

I could write an entire post just quoting Anamege's best rhymes--rest assured, Express is full of genuine chops. With a group so young it's hard to tell where they'll go next, but they'll definitely go far. Even in today's brimming musical landscape, it's plain unhealthy for labels to skip over talent like this. But for now, it's not too late to get on board The Swelly Express.

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