Detroit rapper Quelle Chris fucks with himself.
Chris drops off his new record Being You Is Great, I Wish I Could Be Your More Often, which is nothing short of an eclectic warped therapy session for one — backed by some tremendous jazz beats. The mood of this project rests on a downbeat you want to put your ear to. Quelle Chris brings an intriguing detached delivery to almost every verse and assembles a “Rap Legion” of artists for the features. The album taps into emotions you didn’t know you had, without asking. This project is oddly thought-provoking, which is why it’s time to stop sleeping and listen to Being You Is Great, I Wish I Could Be Your More Often.
The first cut “Buddies” is the perfect example of cracking jokes to get through pain. A song all about self-love, there’s a natural cynicism added to the track from the dusty notes of Quelle Chris’ voice. You’re inclined to believe him when in the midst of call-and-response horn accents, he raps: “might get myself some flowers, I’m in love with myself.” At the same time, he sounds very comically disengaged on this track. In that breath, this song sets a good precedent for the rest of the album as it teeters between a dark mood and one more tongue-in-cheek.
The unexpected emotional know-how in Chris’ delivery is ultimately what makes his lyrics and this album as a whole accessible and cohesive. For a majority of the project, the beats are intriguing yet skeletal loops which give Chris plenty of room to pack in challenging ideas and images. On “BS Vibes” we have simple percussion and these twinkling keys, all of which are tucked behind the warm crackling of a spinning record. The production on this cut manages to build atmosphere without getting too busy, which lets us focus on Quelle Chris who “just stepped in from outer space.”
Make no mistake: this project can swing. Not every beat on this album is as sparse and not every verse carries a spoken-word energy. Standout track “The Dreamer In The Den Of Wolves” features the most energy on the verse and the best horn leads from the whole album. Chris brings a fresh syncopation to his delivery, weaving around the instrumental with each bar. The winding horns on this beat are so infectious and jazzy, you can’t help but leave this cut on repeat.
After the energy of Dreamer, it becomes apparent that Chris’ distanced delivery hurts more than it helps on certain tracks. “Birthdaze” and “Dumb For Brains” feel miles away from us, but this could also be attributed to the way those tracks were mixed. Since the album clocks in at 15 tracks, not counting the “Intro” and “Encore,” there’s still room to trim away cuts that don’t exactly hit after a few listens.
Looking at the feature list, this album brings some of the best players in underground hip-hop. For the most part, each featured artist carries their own on the track without outshining Chris or sounding out of place. Jean Grae steals the award for best feature with her performance on the sinister sounding cut “The Prestige.” The track features a horror of a synth lead, a solid verse from Chris, and then Jean Grae comes in with a two-minute tour-de-force verse.
Even the project’s tracklisting has a high level of tact. “It’s Great To Be” serves as a superb album closer, bringing together a handful of the earlier tracks and themes into one neat outro. While there are no official bonus songs, Quelle Chris adds the smart “Encore” track to introduce two extra cuts that didn’t necessarily fit in with the rest of the project.
Overall, Being You Is Great, I Wish I Could Be You More Often is wonderfully heady. Quelle Chris turns his eccentricism into a cohesive and ambitious album. It’s an unexpected odyssey of self-discoveries you were not prepared make. While on certain tracks he is his own worst enemy, this project is a perfect distillation of all the best qualities of the Detroit rapper. So I’m calling it now: it’s time to stop sleeping because this album is going to sneak its way into a lot of year-end lists.