From the very start of his decade-long career as a producer, emcee and would-be cloud rap mogul, Pi’erre Bourne has never been ashamed to admit that his own artistic trajectory was shaped by a fascination with Kanye West. The obsession goes beyond Bourne’s successful pivot from in-demand beatmaker to established solo artist and jack of all trades, cribbed straight from West’s playbook. From his sophomore Heir to the Throne mixtape—a bizarre quasi-diss record through which a young Bourne pitched himself as Kanye’s Myspace era scion—to the title of his flagship The Life of Pi’erre series, much of his early discography was a self-admitted ploy to catch West’s attention. Though the persistence initially paid off, landing him writing credits on Ye and Jesus Is King, Bourne has begun to distance himself from both the Donda Industrial Complex and Playboi Carti’s production team to focus on developing his own answer to G.O.O.D. Music: the SossHouse label.
Boston rapper Chavo seems to be SossHouse’s most promising prospect. Son of The Source founder Benzino and brother of Coi Leray, he brings valuable industry ties into Bourne’s orbit, and he’s an adept songwriter as well. His second collaborative mixtape with Bourne—2020’s Chavo’s World—was loaded with undeniable underground hits like “Michigan” and “Had a Feeling,” effortlessly catchy tracks in which Chavo’s laid-back charisma pinballs through a gauntlet of glimmering synths and distorted 808 bumps. Three years later, the third entry in the Chavo’s World series arrives in the midst of what appears to be Pi’erre’s attempt to recreate Ye’s Wyoming era. It’s one of three full-length SossHouse projects that have dropped on back-to-back Fridays this month, a risky gambit that has backfired on the emcees involved.
Bourne lacks the veritable army of engineers, tastemakers, and sycophants it takes to carry out an auteur’s vision at this scale, and thus the instrumental backing of his label’s new batch feels uncharacteristically cobbled together, as if he’s pulling caffeine-fueled all-nighters to meet self-imposed deadlines. Despite flashes of the duo’s usually potent chemistry on Chavo’s World 3, poor mixing and an abject lack of polish leaves Chavo sounding lost within a fog of murky production that doesn’t suit his voice or artistry.
To its credit, the LP gets off to a promising start with opener “I Love It.” The beat is classic Pi’erre: De-tuned saw synths that would fit seamlessly into the Earthbound soundtrack melt into a soft, woozy drum pattern, providing contrast to Chavo’s nimble, frenetic flow. “Damier on the tag, I just threw the receipt out the sunroof. I look at my neck and see Cuban on Cuban on Cuban, that’s what this shit’s come to,” he spits triumphantly. The track creates total immersion through simple instrumental loops that are just quirky enough to sound fresh with each repetition, while the rapper probes the beat for roomy pockets to unfurl in.
But mixing quality makes or breaks vibe-forward music, and this immersion quickly shatters with the subsequent string of songs. On “B.M.D.,” the higher frequencies of the entire master track are muffled by sub bass that doesn’t offer enough texture or rhythmic variation to warrant its volume. Pi’erre has often experimented with lo-fi timbres and eclectic sounds, but the music feels more unfinished than exploratory. Chavo’s vocals barely register above a whisper, which stifles the energy of what should be a fun, flex-laden verse. Lines like “She said she wanna do lunch, I told her all I do is hunch” don’t really hit if you can’t say them with your whole chest. Things sound even murkier on “Up Up Up,” which is a shame, since its harpsichord-like synth lead and Chavo’s goofy, infectious hook should add up to one of the duo’s best efforts.
Despite these technical difficulties, a few choice cuts do stand out from the bunch, making Chavo’s World 3 worth at least a quick spin to pick out some favorites. The tape’s transition into “Procedures” is arresting, leading with dreamy synth pads, piano, and drill-adjacent percussion that guide Chavo into melodic territory. Even a few corny, overly clinical lines like “She put her mouth on my penis” aren’t able to drag down the track’s atmospheric allure. “Postman,” which features Detroit’s Veeze, plays to Chavo’s strengths well, with its droning chords giving him a blank canvas on which to flex in his signature, conversational demeanor.
After the release of his lengthy solo album Good Movie in late 2022 and a subsequent world tour, it’s evident Pi’erre’s pushing himself hard to churn out new material, but phoning in projects featuring your still-developing roster of artists is only hurting SossHouse in the long run. The slick production and fully-realized songcraft of Chavo’s early mixtapes helped garner him a niche following among fans of Bourne and Playboi Carti in search of similar sounds, but with output this inconsistent, they might as well listen to leaks. If this is an attempt at emulating G.O.O.D. Music’s “surgical summer” of 2018, it feels more like medical malpractice.