Pretty much every year Quelle Chris has dropped an album in the past five years, I’ve had it in my top 20 of that year. In 2017 it was Being You Is Great, I Wish I Could Be You More Often, 2018 – Everything’s Fine, 2019 – Guns, 2020 – Innocent Country 2. Each one of his albums are incredibly bodies of work, encompassing Quelle Chris’ unique artistry. He is a master of his craft, creating animated worlds of dystopian realism, with intricate wordplay and vivid, surreal imagery over some of the most experimental production around. As a producer, he is able to bring dark, eclectic sounds and sometimes muffled, abrasive production, complementing his surrealism and animated presence to perfection. His new album is titled DEATHFAME, and may be my favourite project of his yet.
The 14-track album starts off strong, with the brief intro “TEYC” and then “Alive Ain’t Always Living”, which is probably the most joyful sounding instrumental on the album, with contributions from Chris Keys. The warm keys are complemented by a subtle beat and a reflective verse from Quelle Chris, who simultaneously brings optimism via gratitude and a candid reminder of people’s struggles in the same breath. The track then makes way for one of my favourite records on the album, “King in Black”. The muffled vocals, droopy instrumental complement Quelle Chris’ incredibly infectious flows are just perfect and braggadocious, claiming “Keep it one hundred bucks, I birthed a lot of emcees / While you lames nerf the fuck out the art of emceeing”. His ability to flow effortlessly over off-kilter verses he himself produced. Art. After the short interlude “PS1 (Pontiac Sunfire 1)”, we get to the hard-hitting “Feed The Heads”, another incredibly confident and witty tune. My favourite line is “You tryna be like Mike in the nineties / I’m tryna be like Mike now, a dickhead in Levi blues”, a hilarious bar relating to Quelle Chris’ indifference to fame and societal perceptions of success, portraying himself as someone more low-key and introverted. “So Tired You Can’t Stop Dreaming” is another one of my favourite tracks off the album, with a swirling piano sample and a groovy beat that gives both Quelle Chris and feature Navy Blue to paint pictures with their rhymes. I’m not sure I’ve heard Quelle and Navy on a track together yet, and it exceeds all expectations. The way Navy Blue floated on that beat is just crazy – “My parents made marijuana babies / And my momma don’t smoke and she don’t eat bacon /
It’s no swining and dining for me / Keep a eye on the prize and a eye on the grief / Sis say, it’s the diamonds for me”. He’s always special with the pen. The centrepiece “DEATHFAME” is a special moment on the album. Quelle almost sounds pissed off, as he spits his frustrations about life after death and what that holds for artists – “Greedy wrist, posthumous spit / Let these corporations sink their fangs in my legacy’s neck before I did death fame” is a visceral image. The disorienting and dark “The Agency Of The Future” is another great track, reminding us of his greatness. After the brief instrumental of “Help I’m Dead” comes another piano-led melody, assisted by Chris Keys, where Quelle Chris sings in a sombre, muffled tone, with weird imagery that suits the disorienting, almost drunk beat. “Cui Prodest” is another standout on the album, and includes one of my favourite features, with Denmark Vessey bringing the heat. It’s more so his energy and flow that makes it work for me, and J Jig Cicero’s feature is also stellar. “The Sky is Blue Because the Sunset is Red” is produced by Chris Keys & Knxwledge, and features stellar contributions from Moruf and Pink Siifu, who share their own experiences and observations on life potently throughout the track. The closer “Excuse My Back” features Cavalier and has this muffled, disorienting beat that sees both emcees rhyme as if they were about to die (the concept and the abrupt ending to Quelle’s verse suggests this. He dies at the end of the track, thus linking back to the theme of the album and how corporations and people in positions in power take advantage of artists’ death so they can profit off of them). It’s a powerful way to end an incredible body of work, and one that truly captures the extent of Quelle Chris’ artistry. I’d like to think that I’ve been giving Quelle Chris his flowers, but have some more!
Quelle Chris is a master of his craft and a hip-hop legend. DEATHFAME is an incredible body of work, combining an eclectic sound with Quelle Chris’ unique concepts and surreal, dystopian lyricism that makes for an animated, engaging listen. Go support!