Batten down the hatches, pull down the shutters, say your last goodbyes…I think the apocalypse may be coming. No, I didn’t just get my hands on a DVD copy of that hopeless disaster-of-a-disaster movie 2012, instead, I’m listening to the album Hypergraphia from Chokeules. So what’s the deal? Well, it’s a rap album, and I kinda like it.
My motto used to be that I’d listen to ‘anything except rap or country’. However, in recent years I’ve felt the need to redefine that motto to being ‘anything except gansgta rap or 99.9% of country’ (the 99.9% being all those guys in cowboy hats on CMT singing the same songs about their truck, their dog, their gun and losing their girl.) I switch-off to rap music for similar reasons that I ignore most of country, that being the repetition of tired and unappealing themes, especially songs about money, bling bling, ‘bitches’, and, uh, popping caps in people. Chokeules, a member of London, ON hip-hop trio Toolshed, brings something a little different to the table with his debut solo album, with creative lyrics, and rhymes that don’t sound worn-out, and really, these should be the essential qualities of any MC. Choke sounds off on this very topic with the penultimate track “Not Enough” – “too many MC’s, not enough skills” – and the tracks that come before this have enough lead to add the necessary weight to it all (and I’m talking about pencil lead, that’s the best form of ammunition for rap, let’s forget about guns.)
The opener “Life Twice” has a bouncing fresh vibe and does a great job of summing up the whole ethos of the album – “We write to live life twice” is an inspired rhyme, and much more high quality writing can be found throughout Hypergraphia, which is appropriate given the album’s title (hypergraphia is an overwhelming urge to write.)
Don’t expect to see Choke in a music video throwing money at the camera, “money talks but its not my language” is the key line from the lyrical powerhouse that is “So Money”, and his openness about being a skint, normal guy like the rest of us adds to the appeal for me. In other areas Choke goes all motivational, especially with “Feel Free”, another lyrically outstanding track, and the words are spat out with enough venom to make it both powerful and, once again, real. “Feel Free” is the Rocky montage underdog anthem of the album. There are definitely some values here but Choke can pull these off without sounding like the Fresh Prince Will Smith, and while this isn’t gangsta rap neither is it straight-edge, and their is also plenty of fun and wit with lines like: “let’s crank it to charbroiled, then get stoned all day like a Gargoyle” (“Lyrical Dope”).
The creativity and the energy is reminiscent of early Eminem when he was at his most pissed-off and raw, but the lyrical content is far less disturbed, equally as real and easier to like with a clear conscience. This is the freshest thing I’ve heard from North American rap in a long time.
© Brian Banks, Music Vice