First of all, I would like to apologize for the lack of activity here lately. I just haven't had much time to post any reviews.
Anyway, you have already read my review of Chino XL's sophomore release, I Told You So (or, at least I think you did), so now let's go back to where it all began for the "lyrical messiah": Here To Save You All, Chino's debut.
Of course, Here To Save You All is home to the track where some feel Chino XL was dissing 2Pac (you can read about that here), "Riiiot!," which features Ras Kass, but that is far from being the album's only notable (even though it actually is the best song on the project). Here To Save You All is much more than a record by a new artist just looking for attention (as many 2Pac fans felt/feel Chino was trying to do in the aforementioned "Riiiot!").
To put it plainly, Chino XL's first album is a masterpiece on many levels. Lyrically, he displays that he is in another stratosphere (I already mentioned in my I Told You So review that he is a part of MENSA, so that should explain that). Not only is his vocabulary astonishingly extensive, but he does a wonderful job of invoking true emotion into his songs, not to mention that he just doesn't give a damn about who he insults. In terms of production, the project is, in my opinion, outstanding, although some actually criticize it, saying that it is too bland. Whatever.
But I can sit here and fawn over Here To Save You All all day, so I'll save your eyes some straining (and perhaps your stomach some nausea) and just jump right into the review.
Okay; you can knock the production on this album all you want, but if you seriously rip this beat, then something is wrong with you. Produced by the fairly well-known KutMasta Kurt, "Deliver" contains an eerie and urgent feel with banging drums (and I mean "banging" in every sense of the word; well, every sense except that, you perverts), and Chino XL's intimidating mic presence is evident right from the start: "Clear the runways, 'cause I’ma make you rappers my examples, avoiding battling me like I’m Eazy-E’s blood samples." What an effing way to introduce yourself to the rap world.
2. No Complex
This was the album's lead single, and it marked the time where Chino first made himself known to the public. Chino XL raps his ass off for four minutes and forty seconds over a bouncy, fast-paced beat by B Wiz. "Euphorically, categorically, Chino rips shit historically," he spits early on. And he does just that on this cut.
3. Partner To Swing
B Wiz lays down another good beat for Chino XL on "Partner To Swing," throwing on some tough kicks and snares over varying background sound effects. "Surrounded by more mysteries than the Stone Hedge, warning your friends, Chino X could make the coroner cringe" is one of the many sick punchlines Chino comes up with on this track.
4. It's All Bad
This is another B Wiz production (he produces most of the songs on Here To Save You All). It's somewhat similar to "No Complex," but better. As evidenced by the title of the record, Chino XL explains all of the unfortunate things that have happened to him throughout his life on "It's All Bad," and states that it takes an intelligent individual to understand his music: "The ill eagle, twisted, war novelist, the problem swallowed us, it takes an activated mind to follow this." Oh, and Chino also manages to work his SAT score into the cut. He got a 1430, so I guess it isn't all bad.
5. Freestyle Rhymes
I love Bird's beat on this. It's simple, but it encompasses hip-hop to me, if that makes sense. "I show more blind rage, than Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles wrestling in a steel cage," spits Chino right off the bat. He then follows that up with: "Reject my single I ain't mad at it, like O.J. getting married again, I'll takes another stab at it." Who else would come up with that?
That brings us to the 2Pac "diss," as Chino XL raps, "By this industry, I'm trying not to get fucked like 2Pac in jail," early on in the cut. Now, as I stated in my I Told You So review, Chino insists that he meant both he and 2Pac were trying not to get fucked rather than 2Pac actually got fucked, but honestly, who cares? This track is ill times infinity. Ras Kass makes a guest appearance, and both he and Chino rip Bird's sick beat, consisting of constant shakers and ominous piano hits, to shreds. "Iconoclysmic, twisted without the use of fiber optics, knock his eyeballs out their sockets, I got your Adam's apples in my pockets," spits Chino. Best song on the album.
7. Waiting To Exhale
I love the production on Here To Save You All, but B Wiz's beat on "Waiting To Exhale" is probably the weakest link on the project. It's just way too "busy" and detracts from the verses of Chino XL and the guest artists of the group Gravitation, which Chino used to be a part of.
8. What Am I?
This is a solid cut, as Chino XL reflects on his upbringing and how he never fit in anywhere. He also talks about his stressful move from Middlesex County, New Jersey to Newark (also in New Jersey): "Torn lives, I've never seen so many people depressed, my mental gets molested, physical takes violent threats, stress, walkin' home from school's like a terrorist test, I learned blacks could be racist too, somehow still I felt I was blessed." The B Wiz produced beat is alright.
9. Feelin' Evil Again
Back to some great production. B Wiz lays down a beat very fitting for Chino XL's subject matter: "Slice like a Cesarean, shoot like insulin, hip-hop lives at no radio station, penetrate you like a vaccination, fascination, do you like styrofoam and crush ya, needles inserted in pressure points, acupuncture." Slightly disturbing, but absolutely ill. Great cut.
"Thousands," produced by DJ Homicide, possesses a jazzy, piano-driven beat backed by booming hours, and Chino's punchlines are more than prevalent: "I'm so full of shame, it's awful strange, local crew complain I'm spitting out more keys than an opera singer's vocal range." This is one of Here To Save You All's more laid back tracks, so it represents a great change of pace.
This was the cut that got the most airplay on Here To Save You All. On the chill, jazzy beat by Erik Romero, Chino raps about how his girl did him dirty, and now he feels like a loser (I mean, he actually says he's a loser in the hook, so those aren't my words). If you just broke up with your girlfriend and want to listen to a sappy, all-love-is-lost type of song, you can't go wrong with "Kreep." That's not to knock it, though; this record is really good. Oh, and how about this punchline: "I'm throwing you off the deep end, you better pray shit floats." Damn.
12. Many Different Ways
"I'm knockin' niggas out like they homosexual boxers." Think about that line for a second, and then tell me how sick of a punchline that is. This cut, produced by B Wiz, knocks; even the female vocal sample on the hook is great. Chino XL spits three extremely violent and, unsurprisingly, disturbing verses on "Many Different Ways," going through each of the, well, different ways he can wreck you. This is ridiculously good.
13. The Shabba-Doo Conspiracy
Outside of having a very stupid name, this track is pretty nice. The famous Kool Keith is featured, but he is rendered subpar by Chino XL's effort: "I be the receiver, of strange mind patterns, no type of compassion, endless my thought process is like a dark cavern, I was bred of toxic parents, embryonic stages, underdeveloped fetal pages that I burnt like phasers." The smooth, head-nodding production is done by (surprise, surprise) B Wiz.
14. Ghetto Vampire
Okay; this song is seriously creepy. B Wiz's beat, which changes three times throughout, is very, very eerie, and Chino's hook simply adds on to the overall spookiness of the track. Chino literally talks about himself as a vampire for the duration of the cut, once mentioning how he'll "consume your blood and leave you dead" in order to keep his health. Despite the fact that it may cause some 10-year olds to lose some sleep, "Ghetto Vampire" is a classic record, as the production combined with Chino XL's lyrical performance makes for an incredible listen.
Nice segway, Chino. No; seriously. He goes from talking about being a vampire to his spirit rising when he perishes. This song really is fantastic. "Rise" demonstrates the most introspective you will ever hear Chino XL, or any rapper, for that matter. Throughout the record, Chino refers to The Great White Throne Judgment, him being murdered (hypothetically, of course), and then him returning to earth in spirit form with the intent of taking revenge on his killer, but then refusing to do so because he does not want to "destroy another man." Dan Charnas' illusory beat fits Chino's concept like a glove, helping make for one of the best songs on the album. Great finish.
Here To Save You All is, without question, one of the greatest albums in hip-hop history, in my opinion. Chino XL excels (no pun intended) in every possible category that pertains to an emcee: lyricism, flow, breath control, voice, mic presence. You name it, and Chino does it seamlessly on his debut album.
The production is very impressive throughout Here To Save You All, as well. Nearly each of the 15 tracks contains a solid, head-banging beat, this despite the fact that the production was handled, for the most part, by lesser-known producers. Each beat suits Chino perfectly, and he proves he can sound comfortable over essentially anything.
What I also love about this project is the limited guest appearances. Only Ras Kass, Kool Keith, and Gravitation are featured, and Chino's collaboration with Ras is one of the best I've ever heard. Clearly, Chino XL knows how to construct an album.
While Here To Save You All mainly contains battle raps, Chino also engages in some great storytelling and picture-painting, as seen particularly on "What Am I?," "Kreep," "Ghetto Vampire," and "Rise." Despite what some of his critics may say, he is a versatile artist who can adapt to any circumstances.
This album tends to be very overlooked, and that may have something to do with the fact that diehard 2Pac fans have buried Chino XL so much that many people don't even give him a look because they're listening to the general public. That really isn't fair, because Here To Save You All is a timeless classic. Many great hip-hop albums lose their sense of relevance as time progresses, but this record does/will not.
TOP FIVE TRACKS
4. Many Different Ways
5. Feelin' Evil Again