Can you tell I like The Justus League? After reviewing two projects by Little Brother, one by Edgar Allen Floe, and one by Skyzoo, Chaundon now gets his time in the spotlight, as I will be reviewing his debut album, Carnage.
Chaundon's first legitimate exposure to the rap world came back in 2005 when he rapped on the song "Fallen" off of 9th Wonder's Dream Merchant, Vol. 1 album. I remember when I first heard that track, my initial reaction was, "Who is this dude?!" At the time, Chaundon was only 19, and he already had plenty to say.
Three years later, 'Donny rounded up his fellow Justus League producers (Khrysis, 9th Wonder, and Illmind) and put out Carnage, an LP that gained him instant notoriety in the underground world. While he doesn't exactly possess the lyrical dexterity of a Skyzoo, Chaundon is extremely blunt and knows exactly how to get his point across on every track. The main difference between Carnage and Skyzoo's debut solo record The Salvation, however, lies within the production. While 'Zoo's album maintains a soulful feel throughout, Chaundon's project is filled with absolute bangers.
1. The Greatest Warrior
Illmind kicks things off here with the typical braggadocio intro, and Chaundon comes out swinging right off the bat: "Listen, I'm the nicest in here, I don't even write rhymes, words assemble themselves out of fear." The production fits the mood perfectly. Great way to start the album.
2. Don't Take It Personal
I really, really dig this one. A producer named Analogic (I had never heard of him before until I listened to Carnage; now I want to dig around for anything this dude has put out) drops his first of two consecutive beats on the album, and he impresses immediately. R&B singer and frequent Little Brother collaborator Darien Brockington absolutely kills the hook (I swear; this man puts down some of the sickest hooks in the business), as Chaundon kind of makes "Don't Take It Personal" and extension of "The Greatest Warrior," as 'Donny continues to boast: "I just took my time and moved silent, the game got cold, I came and changed the climate, grabbed onto the ladder of success, kept climbin', forced y'all to step down without gettin' violent."
3. 3 Kings
Chaundon, Torae, and Skyzoo all on the same track? Whew. Analogic is on the boards again here, and once again, he delivers, as all three Justus League members rip this to shreds. Chaundon stands out the most, though, first spitting: "Natural born heirs, big shoes to fill, but I brought my own pair, I don't need to wear theirs," then rapping: "Rock with the best of 'em, my exploitation of rap has been declared as a form of terrorism, and we can go to war if you dare to oppose, I'll personally pillage ya town and ravage ya hoes." Damn.
Khrysis is in the building, and he's killing it like usual. Chaundon's content is pretty archetypal, though, as he raps about growing up on the streets of New York and hustling on the corner. Nevertheless, Khrysis' production makes this a certified banger.
Here is another sick beat by Khrysis (the dude came to play on Carnage). "Angie" seems like Chaundon's version of Ludacris' hit, "Runaway Love," as he raps about a teenage girl who gets pregnant and has to endure the trials and tribulations of life thereafter. 'Donny executes this concept well.
6. Everything Ain't Easy
Some dude named Foolery produced this track, and this dude killed Khrysis, 9th Wonder, and Illmind and put them beneath the ground with this beat. It is simply incredible. It has an exceptionally soulful feel to it, and a rapper called Charlie Smarts stops by to assist Chaundon. Like Foolery, he kills his part, as well. To no surprise, though, it's Chaundon that makes this cut truly special: "Honestly, I ain't in it for the culture, ain't no love in this shit no more, game full of vultures, so I keep my eyes on the prize, go for delf, 'cause I realize I'm in this world by myself." This is the best record on Carnage.
It took seven tracks for 9th Wonder to make his presence known, but here he is, putting down a soild beat for 'Donny to rap over. Darien Brockington is once again present on the hook, and Percy Miracles (who is actually Phonte's alter-ego who sings) joins him. Chaundon talks about his struggles on this track, rapping: "It's like Job in the testament, he had it all then it was gone, but I'ma ride to the end 'cause my faith in God is strong, shit is arduous, no choice for me to make it either, I'm gonna earn it or just jump up and take it." Deep.
Ugh...here we go again with 9th Wonder half-assing things. This beat is absolutely horrendous, as is the guest appearance by Jean Grae. "Gone" is about a couple (in this case, Chaundon and Jean Grae) who get into a fight and end up killing one another, and the last one minute and forty-nine seconds is simply a news report describing the incident. Stupid. This is easily the worst cut on Carnage. Avoid this like you would a girl with an STD.
9. Told You That
This is another Khrysis beat, but it's the worst of the four he produced for the album. Torae makes another guest appearance here, and while he and Chaundon team up for what makes a pretty solid pump-up song, there isn't anything special about "Told You That" that gives it any kind of replay value.
10. Can I Live
Ahh. Back to the good Khrysis. He lays down a ridiculous banger for Chaundon here, as he pulls a page out of Jay-Z's book and puts together an upbeat, feel-good number: "Can I live? I ain't lookin' for permission, let a nigga do him, so as long as I'm alive there's another rhyme to scribe, mic to grab, stage to rock and a crowd to wave 'em high ya know." One of the best cuts on Carnage.
This time, 9th Wonder actually comes prepared and creates a solid beat for 'Donny and guests Emilio Rojas and M.A.G. This Emilio Rojas kid flashes some potential here, rapping: "Yeah, I know I got an ego, I'm conceited, I'm the worst thing that happened to rap since Jay-Z clicked." Chaundon, of course, kills it: "How does it feel knowing that your very best is considered less and will always be second-guessed?"
Illmind is here for the second and final time, and he goes out with a bang, putting down a sick beat that Chaundon absolutely demolishes, particularly on the hook: "It was me, not you, I built this, I'm takin' all the credit, you mad, you can go and get your own, earned my right to be selfish, this is all mine, you mad, you can go and get your own." Joe Scudda guest stars on this track, and, as usual, he adds some great flavor to the cut. Jozeemo also drops a verse, and he rips it. Outstanding cut.
Remember earlier when I was hyperventilating over Chaundon, Torae, and Skyzoo being on the same track? Well, this time, it's 'Donny, 'Zoo, and Sean Price. 9th Wonder's production is flawless here (although it does sound a bit like "Carnage"), and Sean P expectedly does his thing: "Sean Price, I don't rap like I used to, I'm much better, so it shouldn't be a question on whether I touch cheddar." I just wish this record were a little longer, as it clocks in at only two minutes and thirty-two seconds.
14. We Are Here
A producer named D-1 drops the final beat for Carnage, and it isn't half-bad. That said, I think Chaundon would have been better served having Khrysis put down the last beat, as while the production here is decent, it gets tiresome pretty fast. Three guests make appearances: G.O.D., Sha Stimuli, and DV Alias Khryst. Of those three, Sha Stimuli is the only recognizable name, so that's another bit of a blunder. This is the album's conclusion, so Chaundon should have rounded up some bigger names to rap with him on it. This cut isn't bad, but it could have been much better.
Overall, this was a fantastic debut album by Chaundon. He possesses a booming voice, similar to Edgar Allen Floe (although not to that extent) and can flow over any beat that is laid out for him. He is clearly a gifted rapper and knows how to tell a story. In that regard, he is superior to Skyzoo. While 'Zoo is a craftier lyricist and invokes more thought and musing, 'Donny has the ability to paint a picture like not many other rappers can do.
The production on Carnage really is extraordinary. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Chaundon's second (and much more strongly hyped) album, No Excuses, which was just released this past October. While I said that Chaundon can assimilate his raps into any beat that is given to him, the beats on No Excuses are just not too suitable for 'Donny's content. Generally, I find at least two to three songs that I enjoy on an album by an artist that I follow. That was not the case this time, as I actually found it difficult to get through any one song on that project.
All things considered, this is not a review about No Excuses; it's a review of one of the best rap albums to drop in 2008, Carnage. Regardless of how lackluster his second LP may have been, Chaundon displayed how talented he really is on his first, and therefore, I am confident his future projects will be more than satisfactory.
TOP FIVE TRACKS
1. Everything Ain't Easy
3. Don't Take It Personal
4. Can I Live