#MusicMonday #1 - NOLA Transplant Chris Blount

It's amazing how I continue to meet Puget Sound hip hop artists two years after I stopped writing for examiner.com. It only demonstrates how one contact can lead to so many others! Never neglect the power of networking!

The newest local hip hop artist is actually new to the Puget Sound. Chris Blount, aka The Butcher and formerly known as Cutta, recently moved here from New Orleans by way of Chicago and Dallas. He brings his own flavor to hip hop, using more than just beats and samples.

In his newest album, I Win, Chris Blount combines clever rhymes with choruses and hooks sometimes sung by him and sometimes sung by others. He references his religious upbringing, important sports figures, and political figures. And, like most hip hop artists I've met, he talks about his hometown.

As he's just moved to the area, he's working toward becoming familiar with the area and getting his family settled, but hopefully, local hip hop lovers can find him performing before the end of the year.

Here are my thoughts on selected tracks from I Win.

If "Intro" was an introduction for "Bittersweet Success", I'd say it was spot on. Who else would use the words of the head of the Nation of Islam, Honorable Reverend Louis Farrakhan? But, this is Chris' introduction to his album. He combines identifiable journeys in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam in one line to tell his listeners this is his autobiographical journey through religion and his identity as a hip-hop artist. Like many religious leaders, is the job of the hip-hop artist to dispel ignorance? Two of my favorite lines from this track?
//"If I'm not the hottest rapper, I apologize. // 'Bitches, chains, and coke!' //There! Are you satisfied?"//
//"And many came, but the fact still remains //that I'm on a different 'plain' //while they're stuck in baggage claim".//
But is Chris making too powerful of a statement? This track ends with Farrakhan saying, "By the help of Almighty God, I'm gon' be your worst nightmare". No doubt, Chris is talented. No doubt, he knows how to put style on hip hop music. No doubt, he's struggled and succeeded. But he's definitely leaving no room for questioning. Let Chris do as he says: //"Why gloat with the crow? //Let the grind speak"//.

"Naked Before My Captors".... not a title you would associate with carnival music, but that is exactly what you hear when Chris collaborates with Chicago's Northpilot on this song. And, when this song starts, you wouldn't even guess it is hip hop. Maybe a little jazz, a bit of top 40. The song sounds a bit familiar, and just when you're trying to recall where you first heard the lyrics, Chris enters in spitting with the chorus? No, Northpilot already covered that. Chris is here to reiterate his win, waking up to a sun shining affirming he is on the right path. It's short, and if you've taken the chance to blink, Northpilot is back.
Chris takes over again after another verse and chorus, long after you thought he would, with a wake up call. The carnival music? It's still running, and I now see clowns shouting at you rather than trying to make you laugh. So who's naked? And, who are the captors?  The captors are the ones you're struggling against when you're trying to make your way, when you're pushing for success when no one wants you to achieve. Chris, as a rapper, is naked because he refuses to follow the path of the typical hip hop artist. His music is "raw" as he remembers the lessons his family taught.  A new twist on the tired phrase, wearing your heart on your sleeve, Chris tells us, //"My artery beats exactly where my shoulder should lean".// The song's format and the message reminds me of Eminem's track with Jessica Simpson, "We Made You". True, Chris's words are more abstract where Eminem is specific, but still I'm willing to make a very mild comparison. It's funny: I didn't choose this track as my favorite when I first listened to the album, again showing why you should never listen to a song less than five times if you want to know if it's good or bad.

A slow guitar and a mournful male harmony starts "Bittersweet Success". Again, Chris speaks about the struggle of being a rapper, specifically the need to be real, the possibility of offending, and the reality of dying //"over something you said on track six"//. His first line brings that message with a powerful jolt:
 //"Success is bittersweet //like the disappointing fact //that Katrina made you recognize my city's on the map".// Chris brings to light how violence is the beginning, middle, and end of street rap. Even the best protection puts a rapper in danger. The male harmony dissolves into a single female voice as Chris describes the inevitable death of an artist in the wrong place at the wrong time. He talks of New Oreleans' artists, VL Mike and Soulja Slim whose gunman was released and then found dead. The music ends before Chris does, an aural representation of an artist's end of life or his career. Chris finishes the track with his shout outs over dead-air: //"I'd like to thank to God for bringing me here 'cause a lot of brothers didn't make it out this year"//. So is it worth it? Are the money and the fans enough? It's a heavy decision to choose to make your opinions public and to choose rap as the medium for how you feel.

There's a rhythm in "Respect My Come Up" that demands listeners hear Chris' story. Like all the other songs on the album, this track has its score that starts with a type of fighter introduction. The backing melody is a jazz tune that rises and falls as Chris talks again about how he won because he learned the lessons required to be a winner. One of my favorite lines in this album is quite simple, but it follows with the footfalls that make you want to put the song on repeat: //"First, they love you. //Then they hate you. //Then they love you again. //Then they hate you. //Then they love you. //Back to hatred again."

Finally, Chris leaves his Wu-Tang Clan-inspired name behind when he steps out in title track, "I Win" - //"Say goodbye to the Cut. //Say hello to Christopher"//. He brags of his success as an artist. He boasts of how he pushed through despite push-back and how others wouldn't have succeeded in what he has learned.  And women? Chris says he has the ability to seduce any woman who would just look at him or see his skills. Does he specify his different skills? No. Instead, he lets lispy Mike Tyson speak his succinct message:  "I'm the best. I'm the best. I'm not a textbook fighter or a jab right-hander. I fight to win. I do everything to win. My objective is to win". Does Chris I-W-I-N? You'll have to listen to the rest of the tracks to make that decision for yourself.

Chris Blount's album, I Win, is a collaboration with his friends who call themselves, The Gentlemen of Leisure, self-described as an unofficial "musical collective of like-minded individuals spanning across varying genres of music that have to come together with a purpose".  The primary players are guitarist and songwriter, Lawrence "Sphinx Akashaa" Duncan, keyboardist and songwriter, PAWL, emcee and album editor, Keeynote, and producer Ian F, who worked on a previous Chris Blount album. Further, along with Northpilot, this album also features Omekka from Famsquad.

The album, I Win, is available for download at Bandcamp.

Do you want to learn more about Chris Blount like I do? Follow him on Twitter. Like him on Facebook. He'll definitely let you know where to find him in the Puget Sound
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