The album’s production is strong. It’s lush, layered and nuanced in all the right places. It melds classic hip hop beats, strings, scratches and gritty rock guitar samples making the sonic journey both unpredictable and familiar to fans who want new and old school in one solid package.
Track to track, it serves up banging and head-bobbing personal anthems and mixes in a series of juicy, slow jammin’ and soul-drenched love ballads where Rhymefest and company play the suitor and wooer. Without a doubt, Smith rhymes with the deftest of wordplay throughout, which is expected from a rapper who once beat Eminem at a rap battle. That said, beats and rhymes are fresh and energetic, and prime for the club dance floor, or soaking up solo between your headphones.
One of the best tracks is the white-hot and grooving “Prosperity” that takes aim at opportunistic and selfish religious leaders who try to cash in on salvation and leave their congregation with empty pockets and bankrupt souls. Rarely does Smith pull punches, and on “Talk My Shit” and “One Arm Push Up,” he flexes his newly found rebirth of career clarity and self-confidence with zero hesitation. On “City Is Fallen” with help of rapper Slique, Smith raps about the promise of future filled with even though his current situation and surrounding might be dark and bleak. It wouldn’t be a Rhymefest with out a track specific about his hometown, and “Chicago” he waxes poetic about his love/hate relationship with the Windy City. During “Chocolate” he mixes insightful metaphors about “the ladies” and “career paths,” while he philosophizes about the sweet and tough choices we must make in life.
All expectations and the long wait considered, for the most part, El Che only lags when the storytelling gets confusing, or when Smith’s empowering and community-based social message gets contradicted by his tendency to fall victim to rap cliche. There aren’t a lot of these awkward lyrical moments, but when they do happen, they suck all the power out of the song and really make you go “huh” and ask yourself why did he need to go there?
If you didn’t know already, Rhymefest is prolifically thoughtful and always engaging on his Twitter page and blog. You can follow along for as he releases more videos and mixtapes downloads at ElCheTheMovement.com.