As God Intended by Che Noir (Album Review)
Apollo Brown. Che Noir. Features by Black Thought, Skyzoo, Ty Farris, and Planet Asia. If you know these names, you know where this is going. Simply put, Hip-hop excellence. That’s what this Apollo produced Che Noir album is. The title, As God Intended, is fitting. I doubt God ever intends anything other than greatness and God did not drop the ball here.
Hard to believe it is even possible, but Apollo Brown steps up the Detroit soul early in the album on “Blood is Thicker.” He brilliantly ties in a heavenly vocal sample, touches of somber piano, thumping but minimalist drums and a choral string for added flavor. This beat lacks nothing and yet it provides plenty of room for Che Noir and her artful display of tying vulnerability into the realities of a life entrenched in her hood’s trappings. Her first verse follows in the artistic footprints of Organized Konfusion’s “Stray Bullet” and Nas’s “I Gave You Power.” Instead of a singular bullet or gun, Noir personifies an entire neighborhood with “They call me the ghetto, the hood…”. She does not paint a pretty picture, but offers glimmers of hope with lines like “I birth kings and queens, gangsta fiends and thieves.” Noir continues to fill her canvas on the second verse in vivid detail. She knows it too. “...close your eyes, when I speak it's like watching a flick when I spit.” She concludes with the cold reality that what is supposed to be is not, but she’ll keep her head above water regardless. “...make it out the hood and then you thought your peers would follow. You was like my family now I have to burn up my bridge, blood thicker than water, that’s why I learned how to swim.”
“Blood is Thicker” is just the second song of 14 total tracks. From here Che Noir does it all. She drops Biblical lessons (“Money Orientated”), tells graphic stories (“12 Hours”), opens up to her own shortcomings as a result of father issues (“Daddy’s Girl”), explores the effects of white supremacy (“Freedom”), and my personal favorite topic pops up on “94” where she pays tribute to 90’s emcees/groups who influenced her style.
But, before we jump into her hip-hop acumen we must first pass “Winter.” It is toward the end of the album and if “Blood is Thicker” is oozing with soul, “Winter” opens the floodgates. Apollo Brown trades in somber piano for somber horns and it is delightful. The minimalist drums are back but this time with high hats & a clap sound for the snare that works to perfection. The mood is perfect for Che Noir to stand up for herself as she discusses relationship issues. She is relatively young and yet knows who she is and what she wants. Or at least she knows she is done settling. “That’s why I’m done waiting for your call. Cause if I gotta settle for some of your attention, I don’t want none at all.” It is the kind of song that makes the repeat button famous.
If you can let up on the repeat button and make it past “Winter,” you’ll find your way to the final song, “94.” You are in for a Hip-hop treat. Born in ‘94, you might not think that she would be influenced by Illmatic or Ready to Die or The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill or The Infamous. One might not think of A Tribe Called Quest playing a significant role in her Hip-hop development. But, this thinking, although logical in a sense, is wrong. Che Noir doesn’t just pay lip service homage to these artists. No. These artists have inspired and influenced her. She has indebted herself to them. This entire album sounds inspired by that mid 90’s era, and it’s great... just as God intended.