Rockin’ a chain blinged out with a gold-plated Legend of Zelda NES cartridge, you can tell that Raydar Ellis is different from your stereotypical emcee. Hailing from central Massachusetts along with new partner Quite Nyce, the two have embarked on a new direction in their underground hip hop careers with a project entitled Champs Vs. The League.
From the jump, this project has that good ol’ Native Tongues feel to it. Two skilled emcees not willing to scream, drown their lyrics in negativity, cursing, gun play, drug dealing, and misogyny are blending their sound to provide an uplifting direction to a self-destructive industry. As the LP begins, Raydar blends in the feel of jazz greats collaborating for the first time before flexing the first of 14 jazz influenced tracks that he produces. Appropriately entitled “Leading The Leaders”, Raydar and Quite Nyce position themselves as positive examples for aspiring emcees with a vibe that stresses pride and hard work while still coaxing a head bob. They realize that dropping knowledge has to come across in a form that is fun and their music is just that.
In the same way that Talib Kweli and Mos Def did years ago with their Black Star project, these two have an undeniable charisma on the mic. While Quite Nyce is the live wire of the two, Raydar brings the mellow out of his partner with his Madlib/Pete Rock/9th Wonder-esque beats that seem to pay homage to the likes of J Dilla, Blackalicious, Tribe, De La Soul, and any other group willing to liken hip hop to jazz. Raydar seems to take on a more melodic tone to his production allowing the samples and percussion to flow like a Pharcyde or Digable Planets jam and enable the duo to almost harmonize their flow to the beat rather than battle with an off-tempo style that some wordy emcees who are would-be lyricists would take on.
Though the smoothed out vibe is there, the beats are far from tranquilizing. Allowing a soulful scene to set the tone, Raydar brings his thought-provoking flow to accompany a constant desire to do the Running Man. Despite the clear desire to return people to the feeling that won so many heads over back in the early '90s and before, tracks like “LALALALA” and “Clap” have a unique upbeat style that goes back and breaks new ground at the same time. Never do the two fall into the trap of biting another’s style. Despite the similarities to other conscious emcees, they manage to have their own identity. They brilliantly use their chemistry to bore into listeners’ love nerve.
“I’m a success to me. Aight, bet, you free!”
Self-respect and reflection on the immense amount of dedication that has brought them to this world wide release on Brick Records spans the track “If I Never” which features Akil of Jurassic 5 and Solstice of Wade Waters. Chronicling struggle in the industry, the story these emcees paint shows a heartfelt scene of what ‘making it’ should be about. Hopefully, younger emcees take note and listen. This sets the stage for additional life reflection and classic storytelling on the track "Broken Pieces" where both emcees get a bit personal while trying to share life lessons.
An interesting track named “Hola Bout A Dolla”, which speaks of the ills of black business and black consumers supporting them, shows the spirit that these two emcees excel in. The lyricism is frank and eye-opening yet manages not to judge.
Sure to be favorites of fans of Little Brother or A Tribe Called Quest, songs "Love Is" and "Ms. September" are both as close to ballads as hip hop has ever gotten. Where "Ms. September" speaks of a love relationship lost with a woman, "Love Is" delves into the love of making music.
All in all, Champs Vs. The League is hip hop’s return to love. Quite Nyce and Raydar Ellis have delivered a classic that will probably be slept on but has the potential to open eyes to the beauty that positive hip hop has. Due to be released on March 24, this release is one to watch for!