Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Quite Often Underrated: Chino XL

He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper
He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper

Art of Origin: "Into the Pit"
from the No Slow Rollin 12" 1993
Chino XL: "Dark Nite of the Blood Spiller"
from white label 12" year unknown
Chino XL: "Kreep"
from Here to Save You All 1996
Chino XL: "I Told You So"
from I Told You So 2001

Before Eminem charmed the charts with his insult-laced rap fare, there was Chino XL, the mean-spirited battle rhymer that could offend Quincy Jones, Chris Rock, Brandy, Monica, Chaka Khan, Master P, Kirk Franklin, Ving Rhames, Eddie Murphy, and Ray Charles in the space of 3 minutes.

Back in 1991, Chino was one half of The Art of Origin, spitting early forms of the lyrical diatribes that has become his trademark alongside slow-drawling rap partner Kaoz. Chino's charisma and engaging style overwhelmed the less-lyrically-equipped Kaoz on songs like "Into the Pit," "No Slow Rollin" and "Mad at the World." Art of Origin traded rhymes with dark humor and inside jokes, and despite the dope production and doper verses, rap radio wasn't ready.
"Comin' into the pit makes Happy Days like Henry Winkler
Shootin em in the head and watch blood gush out like a sprinkler
I don't know whether it's some kind of schizophrenia
Or Chino-phobia or Art-of-the-Origin-mania"

- from "Into the Pit"

While artists like Big L ("The Devil's Son"), Gravediggaz, and the shortlived Flatlinerz are credited for the creation of the "horrorcore" genre, Chino XL had equally large contributions to the darker side of hip-hop with 12"s like "Dark Nite of the Blood Spiller," and other doomsday lyrical content.

Chino's solo debut "Here to Save You All" appeared on Rick Rubin's Def American label a few years later, and is considered a rap classic by those who revere Chino's complex flow and pop culture satire. Guest appearances by the then-on-fire Ras Kass and Kool Keith augmented the lyrical tour-de-force. Chino also expanded his content by addressing his childhood ("What Am I"), and in "Kreep", adopting the Radiohead chorus with a Chino XL twist.
"Your love counterattacks, unrealistic terroristic acts
Like the Oklahoma Federal Building I collapse
I want her back, but I know that I can't force her
Thinkin bout takin my own life like Marlon Brando's daughter"

- from "Kreep"

Several years lapsed before Chino returned with "Told You So" in 2001. As with most other artists that will appear on the "Quite Often Underrated" column, Chino's classic debut was followed up by a frustrating crossover attempt that tarnished his legacy (see "Rassassination", 1998). To his credit, the cynical humor was still intact, and he no doubt offended more than most artists are able to do in a career. R&B choruses and sub-par club beats mar this release, though true Chino fans will enjoy the lyrical content on most of the album.
"I'll leave your brains hangin out like Chris Rock's adam's apple
I'm so rare, battlin Chino's like Africa:
Yeah niggaz talk about it but they don't really wanna go there"

"You ain't an X-Man like comic books, you an ex-man like RuPaul
Run through y'all leave y'all stiffer than Ken dolls"

"I leave rappers confused like homeless cats on house arrest"

- from "I Told You So"

What's next for Chino XL is anyone's guess. He's been making moves in Hollywood, apparently. You may have caught him as "Flamenco Dancer #2" in the Kate Hudson romantic comedy "Alex & Emma." Word is that his third solo album is set for a 2005 release, entitled "Poison Pen."


At 4/18/2005 5:29 PM, Blogger Donkey Patrol said...


Chino XL is totally underated!! I always thought the dude had some flavor to add to the rap community, but no one gives the dude airplay. I remember back when creep was out on the radio..the dude has skills. Maybe his horrible dreadlocks further contribute to his non-presence in the rap scene, but on the whole, you need to look past that and see the man! Rap on Chino XL!

At 4/18/2005 5:44 PM, Blogger The Rap Pundit said...

Chino's underrated-ness is plain as day--I don't blame him at all for running to Hollywood to pay the rent. You make the point that his looks have contributed to his lack of success in hip-hop--he addresses that his mixed heritage confuses the rap audience in "What Am I"...check out the last verse here.


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