With a style and sound that defies neat categories or definition, Quelle Chris has risen from relative obscurity to become Detroit’s latest hometown hero. An emcee who methodically works behind the boards in a manner comparable to elder statesman Madlib, his eclectic Influences (Soul, Jazz, and Rock amongst other genres) place him at an advantage that risks leaving competition behind. Perhaps intentionally going over the heads of casual listeners and only taking a straightforward approach on a sporadic basis, the Crown Nation affiliate seems to be in full control of the moves that have his following hyped albeit puzzled as to which direction he’ll take when inspiration strikes him. Ghost At The Finish Line is Quelle’s latest full-length release, a quick follow up to this past spring’s Niggas Is Men.
With 2011’s Shotgun & Sleek Rifle proving him a worthy member of the thriving Mello Music Group regime, Quelle Chris continues to fill his niche as a square peg in generic Hip Hop’s round hole with Ghost At The Finish Line. The album best functions as a sobering look at an underdog determined to win on his own terms, its minimalist aspects reflecting the human struggle to elevate on both personal and professional levels. “Loop Dreams” starts with the hopeful proclamation, “I’m telling you, this the year we blow” before Quelle tells of his plight with, “Trying to accrue the wealth that I promised myself / The fans treat me like I made it, I ain’t made shit / Hands out and I cant even hand my family nothing / Trying to convince my lady that I’m gon’ be big shit.” Fighting complacency to live up to his potential, he addresses the all too familiar theme of commerce clashing with independent art on “Undying.” Answering, “I thought you do it for the love” with, “Well nigga I love life / and since it’s all connected than I guess you got it right,” here Quelle’s often appreciated wit takes a backseat to the salient instinct of survival.
As Quelle Chris’ devoted audience has come to expect by now, Ghost At The Finish Line shines due to diverse facets and subliminal layers separating him from most vying for his piece of the spotlight. The varying production makes for a lack of cohesive sequencing, (examples include the aggressive “What Up” furnished by Oh No, which precedes the spooky self-produced “Wait A Minute”), which is a minor flaw in the greater scheme of things. The lead single “Super Fuck” runs through an exercise routine with loaded double entendres, a difficult moment for the untrained ear given its Funk leanings. Bringing about a balance, the melodic “Look At Shorty” works in Quelle’s favor as a near ballad provided by rising LA beatmaker Knwledge—the hook borrowing from Busta Rhymes’ classic “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See.” Capable of holding his own without depending on guest appearances, the Motown native shows love to Guilty Simpson on “PRX II” (accentuated by heavy rock guitars and a double time verse by Alchemist) and “Coke” where he and Black Milk talk gritty over scattered electronic noises, paying tribute to their city’s musical legacy.
A more unique presence than the run of the mill aspiring Rap up and comer, Quelle Chris sneaks wise messages around his trademark confident posturing on Ghost At The Finish Line. Straying from the beaten path to create from pure passion, he masters the avant-garde without fully distancing himself humorous boasts like, “So cool he look GQ hopping out of Toyota Corollas” on “King Is Dead.” Before the self-titled closer, “Life Beyond” thanks everyone within his circle who contributed to his success, this humbled gratitude being key to his ongoing strides. The same creativity that goes into Quelle’s quirky sample choices and abstract rhyme patterns are sure to keep him revered as he aims to grow past the layman comforts of playing the people’s champion.