Note: This is the first official solo album from the MC known best as a member of Jurassic 5, but also as a founding member of Ozomatli in the ‘90s and a prominently featured artist on hip-hop tracks throughout this decade.
Sound: More modern and than his throwback-heavy work with Jurassic 5. There are definitely several funky old school breakbeats, turntable scratches and soulful samples, but there are even more synth-heavy, slinky, percolating and popping beats ready for either the streets, the club or the block party.
Vocals: His unmistakable, smooth-flowing, deep baritone is one of the most satisfying voices in hip-hop, and it’s in top form here.
Lyrics: After some cookie-cutter bragging and boasting in the first couple of tracks, he raises his game on the rest of the album. He gets nostalgic for ‘80s hip-hop, r&b and graffiti, creates a true anthem for himself and gets more serious on several tracks as he dissects the dangers of neglecting loved ones and failing to nurture relationships, contemplates struggles in the poverty-stricken and war-ravaged parts of the world, and delivers a sobering tribute to his cousin who was trampled and killed when a fight broke out at a club.
Look For: On the lighter side of things, the scattered clips of legendary radio DJ Charlie Tuna—including some interaction between Charlie and Chali—are irresistibly fun.
Heavy Rotation tracks: “Righteous Way”; “Comin’ Thru”; “4 Be Be”
Medium Rotation tracks: “Love’s Gonna Getcha”; “Graff Time”; “Controlled Coincidence”; “International”; “Don’t Stop”
Recommended: Chali sounds out of his element when he teams up with thicker, more aggressive beats, but thankfully he gets most of those missteps out of the way early. He’s a tremendous voice who—more of than not—has an exceptional way with words. This is a solid solo debut for him.
Grade: A- (Top 20 Albums of 2009 Candidate)