Rapper Quelle Chris balances humor and introspection

By NIKITA SHTARKMAN | October 19, 2017


CARL POCKET / CC BY-SA 2.0 Quelle Chris’ album features a beat made by famed producer The Alchemist.

A lot of life is dedicated to the age-old cliché: finding yourself. This is a topic that rap, one of the most personal art forms, hasn’t really touched upon.

In most rap projects, the rapper doesn’t question himself at all. In fact the very concept of being questioned is seen as disrespectful.

This is why Detroit producer and MC Quelle Chris’ quirky, fun and thoughtful project Being You Is Great, I Wish I Could Be You More Often released on Feb. 10, 2017, feels like a novel and exciting album.

I think the first song (and my favorite track) “Buddies” is the perfect introduction for the trippy journey that Chris takes the listener on.

Braggadocio is nothing new to rap, but this song takes it to a wild extreme. Chris plays with the idea of “feeling yourself,” being confident and the self’s relationship with itself.

It’s exactly as weird as it sounds ­— the pronouns “you,” “me” and “we” are all used interchangeably. But it works.

Chris raps in this choppy, one-line-at-a-time flow that would sound forced and off-beat for any other artist who doesn’t have his goofy voice and confident delivery.

The lyrics are so simple, but loaded with faux self-praise: “I fuck with myself/I fucks with myself/Might bring myself some flowers/I’m in love with myself.”

The song becomes something more than just a rap track; it evolves into a trippy chant of self-love: “I might just jump back and kiss myself,” the chorus drones over and over.

You can’t help but laugh at the lyrics. Chris somehow perfectly captures the falsity of blind self-confidence and self-love — you can feel the cracks in the foundation as the song goes on.

“Buddies” flows perfectly into “Popeye,” where, over a beautiful choral-backed instrumental, Chris takes the little cracks he set up in “Buddies,” and spreads them wide open. Suddenly the feeling of unmitigated happiness and joy is set upon by self-doubt and an existential sadness.

“Great regrets define my image/Seems I never reach the goal, but always reach the finish,” he mumbles, lamenting his bent for procrastination.

“Popeye” shifts the viewpoint from introspective to the perspective of others: “They say I’m a good guy/ I guess I’ll take they word, it’s more a burden to deny.”

While widening the view, the album continues to get more and more personal. It almost feels like the ripped out pages of a diary or notebook that have somehow been shared with the world.

The song, “In Case I Lose Myself in the Crowd,” is written like an even darker chant; “If I can’t find peace of mind/put a piece to my dome,” are two of the most overtly harsh lines on the project.

Even though its extremely personal (almost self-confrontational), Chris still finds ample opportunity to be funny. The most overtly hilarious track is “I’m that Ni#%a,” which plays with the template of blinding confidence that is so prominently present rap.

Chris’ name-drop heavy first verse has killer one-liners such as “Gordon Ramsey came over and cooked up a n**** a festival/He’s like Q you that n****, I’m like yo get off my testicles.”

Denmark Vessey, a frequent collaborator with Chris, follows up with an equally hilarious verse that starts with, “Ay I hate to brag, I hate to gloat, I hate to lie yo/ I just came to use your wifi ‘cuz mine’s slow.”

The next few songs deal with darker anxieties. “Birthdaze” is a thorough look into loneliness and mortality, with the cleverly devastating hook — “Feels like my birthday today and those are the worst days/If it’s a race for the end, then why come in first place?”

With each song, Chris seems to be falling further and further into this self-loathing and depression, despite his innate sense of humor.

The climactic turn of this album is on the last song of the project, “It’s Great to Be.” Chris portrays a true spiritual awakening on the track.

Quelle Chris has gone through an Odyssean journey through his psyche, traveling from the false confidence he represents on the first song with fake-sounding statements, to an actual song of true self-affirmation.

The goofy overtone of “Buddies” is exchanged for a clear frankness. Chris goes so far as to re-record the “I fuck with myself” chants, but this time there is a spiritual eagerness behind each statement.

The vocal chops on “Encore” show that “It’s Great To Be” is the true last track of the project and the next two (nonetheless great) songs are bonus tracks.

There are few albums that are as personal and unique as Being You Is Great, I Wish I Could Be You More Often. Quelle Chris made a project that takes us through his mind, showing us every aspect of being human.

Concept albums can easily become too lofty and hard to listen to — but Chris somehow perfectly captures the fickleness of the mind without ever falling into the trap of using inappropriately obtuse references and confusing words to make himself sound deeper.

Instead, Chris goes the opposite route, making every single song simple and clear, yet profound and interesting. I think that this is an important project that anyone can listen to — hip hop fan or not. 

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