With a mix of cartoonish imagination, spurts of randomness, and the writing chops to swirl them together, Chris Crack doesn’t just color outside the lines; at his best, he makes you wonder why they were there in the first place. On the hilariously titled “Doja Cat Is My Least Fav Cokehead,” he renders an argument with his soon-to-be ex-girlfriend with detail that ranges from deeply introspective to comically trivial. In just two bars, he reconciles dormant emotions before plotting petty breakup logistics: “Before a year ago, I really didn’t know healing/And my hotel room better have a stove in it.”
Poignance and flippancy shouldn’t go together so smoothly, but they usually do on What Y’all Mad About Today?, a thoughtful, if scattered new album that reinforces Chris’ status as one of rap’s most unique storytellers. Checking in at 31 minutes, the LP sees the Chicago rapper sift through memories and glittering soul samples for reminiscences on dissolved love, shootouts and street fights, distilling them a type of narrative ADD that generates plenty of unpredictability.
Pairing style with the agility to assume varied flows, Chris keeps things fresh, and no matter the subject matter, there’s an undercurrent of zaniness that goes beyond the absurdist song titles. His word choices and his ability to rhyme them inject a sense of adventure into the LP. on “No Rehearsal for Empty Shows,” he rhymes gadzooks with bad tooth, using an old timey interjection just moments after reviewing a fellatio session. On “Ain’t Ate Shit Today But Drugs,” he punctures tightly wound rhyme schemes to serve up images that rival Ghostface Killah in both precision and flamboyance: “I ain’t go with GEICO, I’m on some live shit — drink and drive shit/Pouring champagne on bitches pussies while they ride dick/At the Bellagio I’m rocking fly fits, had to stop em cause I don’t buy Cris.” It’s a wild stanza that pulls you into a rambunctious lifestyle, and the frenetic mind of the man who lives it.
When he’s not flaunting nimble rippity raps, Chris cruises over retro R&B samples for his own attempts at love songs. In his best attempt, see “Tinder Dates Ain’t Relationship Material,” Chris is able to get genuine bars off in between the hooks, showcasing a knack for imagistic narratives that pull you into the scene of his frayed romance. “Wasn’t hired to babysit, I cook it on the church stove/Don’t even try to hit me with the hurt pose — I been gone/Better off with matches in the windstorm,” he raps. Combined with the cheesy chorus, the track collapses the distance between camp and solemn drama, a fun twist that sees Chris at his most inventive.
While much of the album is clever in one way or another, the production in the first half is a bit sterile; the vocal samples are often the same tone and makes things feel a bit too drowsy after a while. Chris’ scatchy vocals and varied cadences make them fun anyways, but Growthfully Developed had a bit more varied production.
What Y’All Mad About is also sometimes hindered by Chris’ lack of focus. As it has in the past, sometimes saps the project of its emotional momentum. For “McDonald’s Sprite With a Popeye’s Biscuit,” he lets loose what’s essentially a completely free associative rhyme session before throwing in a flavorless R&B chorus that has nothing to do with what he just rapped about. That tongue-in-cheek touch would be more appreciated if he hadn’t delivered a better version that was actually in context a few songs before, so it feels abrupt and sloppy.
Indeed, there’s plenty of raw, unprocessed feelings on What Y’All Mad About, but sometimes the non-sequitur verses can feel like freestyles he slapped arbitrary names on. There’s a difference between artful chaos and outright nihilism. Luckily, for What Y’all Mad About Today?, leans more toward the former.
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