ARTIST Quelle Chris
ALBUM Ghost At The Finish Line
LABEL Mello Music
RELEASE DATE 29 October 2013
8.0 | 10
Quelle Chris is a self-professed nomad, with his bio on the Mello Music Group website beginning by informing us that, “Having soaked up game all over the country, Quelle has a style with no obvious lineage.” He uses his experiences across the U.S. to largely successful results, having crafted one of the most solid independent hip-hop releases of 2013 with Ghost At The Finish Line.
Even when the songs don’t succeed, the production is able to make it nearly impossible to find something not to love in every song. Take for instance “Look At Shorty,” which while lyrically perhaps the laziest thing here, Knxwledge’s production, where he double and triple and quadruple tracks Chris’s vocals, creates a really interesting, surreal moment that fits into the album’s overall aesthetic. And Quelle Chris’ ability to lay in front of us a sonic blueprint largely unique in relation to the other top rap albums of 2013 is what drives these compositions from second-rate to first class.
The album’s first half is highlighted by Chris’ and his choice of producers’ sampling of smooth, glistening guitar riffs, which help to accentuate the laid-back and old school nature of the recordings. “What Up New” offers up a chorus that is fully indebted to Kanye West’s Late Registration (2005), while lyrically he delivers some irreverent rhymes such as “I took my shot from the balcony like John Booth.” “Wait A Minute” is one of the several self-produced tracks here, and it demonstrates some impressive qualities of the young emcess. Near track’s end, he adlibs some more playful lines such as “We up in here / We shakin’ babies / We kissin’ hands,” lending the song and album some brevity as opposed to being bogged by suffocating seriousness. It’s chopped ‘n screwed after school special vocal track of a man expressing the benefits of working out is a humorous, intriguing inclusion, with the ensuing “Super Fuck” being one of hip-hop’s most humorous singles in 2013. He ends “Super Fuck” by cartoonishly altering the refrain of Mary J. Blige’s “Real Love” to sing, “I’m searchin’ for that real bud.” It’s that type of irreverence that makes Finish Line such a fascinating listen. His music can be sloppy, yet it’s also streamlined; Chris always appears to be aware of the image he’s displaying, allowing him to go places few of his contemporaries would be willing to go.
“Coke” is one of the grimiest things here, a nihilistic take on rising to the top. Black Milk’s guest verse is up there with the best guest verses of the year, delivered with a remarkable confidence and tenacity. The album’s back half is bogged down somewhat by a lack of oversight, with a couple of tracks, including “King Is Dead” and “Undying,” lacking the playfulness, lyrically and sonically, of the album’s best moments. But more often than not, Chris delivers in making a name for himself in a busy musical genre. Something tells me the best is yet to come.