Most people know Chino XL for being the guy who "dissed" 2Pac in his song, "Riiot!," as one of his lines in said song was: "By this industry, I'm trying not to get fucked like 2Pac in jail." Whether or not this was a diss is still up in the air (Chino swears that it wasn't and that people just misconstrued the line, saying that he meant 2Pac was trying not to get fucked in jail rather than 2Pac actually getting fucked in jail), but nevertheless, 2Pac responded to Chino on his infamous diss track "Hit 'Em Up." Although it was primarily aimed at The Notorious B.I.G., Pac dropped one little jab at Chino: "Chino XL, fuck you too."
Anyway, all of that aside, Chino XL, the self-proclaimed "Puerto Rican Superhero" (he is half Puerto Rican and half African American), is a pretty sick rapper that should have garnered attention no matter what his situation with 2Pac was. He is considered by some (including myself) to be the greatest punchline rapper to ever do it, and his metaphors are ridiculously deep and thought-provoking.
Chino released his debut album, Here To Save You All, in 1996 ("Riiot!" was on the album). The project was critically acclaimed for Chino's incredible lyricism and wordplay, although some criticized the rather dull production (much like Canibus' debut, Can-I-Bus). Five years later, he dropped I Told You So, a record with much more variety in terms of beats and a Chino XL that had not lost a step as an artist.
In my opinion, Chino XL is a top three lyricist of all-time (right there with Pharoahe Monch and Canibus). I mean, the guy is so intelligent that he is in MENSA, for God's sake. You will see examples of his advanced mind on I Told You So.
1. What You Got
Nick Wiz lays down an upbeat piano-driven production to open up the album, and Chino XL opens up with some fire: "Snatch you outta your Roots like I'm from Illadelph, what I do to push your hairline back, Rogaine won't help, my quest for the wealth, like Stone Cold Austin's quest for the belt, I mention myself as a celestial cell, an extension of hell." That's nothing, though; Chino is just getting warmed up.
Over a slow, intimidating beat by Carlos Bess, Chino drops two monstrous verses, and I mean monstrous in both quantity and quality. A sample: "I spit like Ming the Merciless, blissless bliss, high risk piss, clenched fist, the masochistic sadistic from every verse on this, behold my serpent's hair like Perseus, ill impossibly, larceny, broken velocity through lightning speed viscosity, my philosophy, speak animosity, keep shit in a bag like a colostomy, I'm pro you're junior varsity." I mean, that is just effing sick.
"Clark told me to just kill it when I write rhymes, but how many murders can I commit in one lifetime?" Chino XL was referring to Clark Kent (the producer of this track; not Superman) with that line, but it's really the only thing I really remembered about this track. The beat is pretty lackluster and the rest of Chino's lines are average.
4. That Would Be Me
"I roll with killers that spent more time in the pen than ink, don't even blink, and turn your voice down a decibel, or start lookin' for studios that's wheelchair-accessible," raps a scintillating Chino over a fast-paced banger produced by Nick Wiz. The production fits Chino's aggressive style perfectly.
5. Last Laugh
B-Real of Cypress Hill drops a guest verse on this track, but although he flashes some great delivery, his voice does not mesh with Chino XL's at all, and Nick Wiz's production is just meh.
6. Let 'Em Live
Kool G Rap, whom Chino has dubbed the best rapper of all-time in the past, joins Chino XL on this Nick Wiz-produced banger. Imagine; those two lyrical beasts were in the same booth. "I'm innovational, mind unobtainable, merciful vocal verbal versatile, killing these niggas recreational, universally disperse the curse, verse controversial, illest on earth so, out of this world like Captain Kirk's hoe," raps an inspired Chino XL on his second verse. The hook on this cut is sick. This is definitely one of I Told You So's best tracks.
A producer by the name of "Rock The World" lays out a very light beat for Chino and guest artist Shaunta here, as the two artists play ex-husband and ex-wife and talk about all of the problems they've had/are having. Decent record.
8. Chino XL
Nick Wiz is on the boards once again, and he lays out one of the top two beats on the album. This is a typical boast record, but Chino handles it incredibly well, utilizing his ridiculous breath control to rip off three terrific verses. He concludes his final verse with: "Air fair, exotic vacations, bought my mom so many minks, animal activists plot my assassination, I'm rockin from aggravation, shit on any compilation, amazin' with rhymes written while the president was Ronald Reagan." Love it.
9. You Don't Want It
When you first look at the tracklisting, you might say to yourself, "Well, this song is going to be lame," but it isn't. Nick Wiz's beat is sick, and Chino XL's punchlines are in prime form: "You soft, I'm upper echelon, the only other hot cats I seen on a plate was at a Chinese food restaurant." Damn.
10. I Told You So
Meh. I'm pretty indifferent to this one. The beat, by Mixture, is just alright, and Chino XL has spit much better verses than he did here.
11. Don't Say a Word
The late great J Dilla produced this cut, and, what a shock, it turns out to have the best beat on I Told You So. It is very laid back and, like almost all Dilla beats, will put you in another world. Chino drops three outstanding verses, highlighted by these bars in his first one: "Vocab extensive and glossy, expose a flow so expensive it could drain a small Latin country's economy, commit a verbal sodomy with a dime on Sodom, he shot at me, rappers claiming original, but sounding just like Nas to me." His flow throughout this entire track is phenomenal. This is the best record on the album.
12. It's My World
Nick Wiz lays out a hard-hitting beat for Chino XL here, and Chino does his usual thing: "360 degree of unadulterated battle rhyme, you must be inebriated wanting to challenge mine, my distance so accurate any time-lapse cameras capture it, tearing apart time's fabric, no exaggerate." The urgency of both the beat and Chino's rhymes match up perfectly.
13. Chianardo Di Caprio
14. How It Goes
This is another J Dilla beat, and it sounds like something Nas and AZ would have teamed up to rap over (that's a good thing, by the way). Saafir drops a guest verse, and both he and Chino XL rap about their game with females. Although the lyrics are pretty pedestrian for Chino's standards, the production makes this a solid cut. Also, this line from Chino was pretty nice: "So many tears shed over me, don't make a scene, make an Ark."
15. Be Here
I really like this. I can't find who produced this track anywhere, but whoever was on the boards did an outstanding job, throwing in some great guitar strums and violins throughout. The song is about Chino XL's fling with a married woman, and then she kicked him to the curb. The cut ends with the woman actually murdering her husband. Needless to say, it's pretty interesting.
I Told You So is a very good album from start-to-finish. Chino XL's rhymes, metaphors, and punchlines are on another level, and the production is pretty solid all-around. Chino's content is generally very braggadocio, but when you are able to boast with that kind of intelligence, you deserve major props.
What's also extremely impressive about Chino XL is his godly breath control. Until I first heard him rap, I thought Big Punisher couldn't be matched in that category, but Chino is right there with him. He is able to maintain his powerful voice while spitting several bars without even taking a breath in between. And with good breath control comes good flow and delivery, and Chino exhibits that on this project.
I've always thought Here To Save You All was a severely underrated debut album, as Chino XL demonstrated remarkable talent throughout the record and immediately stamped his name among rappers that no one wanted to mess with. Most people would probably agree that Chino's lyrical barrage on Here To Save You All was spectacular, but those same people would more than likely cite the album's bland production as the main reason why it isn't elite (I disagree, though, as I actually liked the beats on that project). Well, that argument does not apply to I Told You So, as the beats on this album display solid variety and truly match Chino's style.
Of course, one of the main reasons why Chino XL does not get his due respect is the fact that the good majority of 2Pac fans hate his guts. Still, even those detractors cannot deny that the man has otherworldly talent as a rapper, and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if they secretly bump Chino on the side when none of their friends are around.
I'd pick up this album, if I were you.
TOP FIVE TRACKS
1. Don't Say a Word
2. Chino XL
4. You Don't Want It
5. Let 'Em Live
Chianardo Di Caprio