What Went Right With… I Told You So by Chino XL?

A review of the Chino XL album I Told You So by What Went Wrong Or Right With...? for

Whereas Chino XL’s début album Here To Save You All was a relative success due to magazines like The Source and TV shows like Yo! MTV Raps plugging it, his follow-up album I Told You So unfortunately went without any fanfare and recognition. That was very unfortunate because Chino’s second LP was in many ways a more rounded album. If you don’t know who Chino XL is or haven’t heard any of his music, I’d recommend listening to I Told You So rather than Here To Save You All as it contains some of his most-accessible work.

From the intro “Rude Awakening” onward, Chino XL does what he does best; complex rhyme schemes laced with braggadocio and witty punchlines. From the first song to the last, Chino brings his unrelenting wordplay and flawless delivery song after song, and despite there being a few lacklustre tracks, this album is more good than bad.

Production-wise, I Told You So wavers between songs with both credibility and cross-over appeal (“What You Got” and “Don’t Say A Word”) and more stereotypically “underground” sounds (the mean, bassy beat in “That Would Be Me” for example). There’s also the use of vocals to create a melody (the haunting, cathedral-like singing in “Last Laugh” or the one-word sample in “Nunca”). The title track although simplistic, is a very satisfying song, and the sexy vocals during the chorus turns the bare production into something memorable.

There are however a few instances of mediocrity when it comes to the production, for instance “Baby Momma”, “Chino XL”, and the corny-as-hell “Be Here”. There’s also a few songs where the listenable production is let down by the chorus (“Sorry” with its sentimental content for example). And since this album was released in 2001, there’s of course some late-90s-early-00s Hip-Pop sounds (the slightly radio-friendly style of “You Don’t Want It”, the slightly mediocre chorus in “It’s My World”, and a Nate-Dogg-like chorus by Saafir in “How It Goes”).

Lyrically, there’s not much wrong with this LP. When it comes to comedic punchlines, Chino XL is of course the master, and they are present in pretty much every track. In “What You Got” (which contains a line from Viggo Mortensen’s character in Carlito’s Way during the chorus) there’s lines like “Don’t start me, you’ll be the only entertainer with less groupies than Biz Markie”.

There’s of course many instances of celebrity dissing such as the simile “Black when it’s convenient like Mariah’s ethnicity” in “You Don’t Want It”. In “That Would Be Me” there’s the stereotype-reinforcing line “I’m Puerto Rican, I got enough relatives to buy me Platinum living with me” and there’s also some race-based commentary in “I Told You So” “Battling Chino is like Africa, yeah niggas talk about it but they don’t really wanna go there”. There’s also some music industry politics such as “I been rhyming since 1986, when R&B wasn’t feeling us. No rap on Soul Train, motherfuck Don Cornelius” in “Don’t Say A Word”.

Chino also manages to blend controversial or slightly offensive comedy into his lyrics. In “Last Laugh” (featuring B Real of Cypress Hill) there’s the celebrity news referencing line “I’m hungrier than chicks tied up in Rick James’ basement” as well as “Take beef personally to your villa steps like Versace” in “Nunca” and “Always float to the top unlike the son of John F. Kennedy” in “Let ‘Em Live”. And speaking of controversy, there’s “Chianardo DiCaprio”, a song which contains heaps of misogyny but misogyny done with flair. With lines like this you can easily argue sexism but for me it’s more of a case of egotism and exaggerated conceitedness; “Chicks asked to touch my hair, seduction[s] what the game is, I intimidate ’em ’cause I’m prettier that they is. And in bed I’m gifted, and I assume every woman’s in love with me ’till they tell me different”. When it comes to ego and vanity, and sexual self-worth, Chino XL brings it in spades. In “How It Goes” he raps “I got women fingering themselves thinking of women fingering themselves that are thinking of me”.

Aside from comedy, sex, and controversy, there’s also examples of Chino’s lyrical complexity on this LP. The track “Nunca” (which translates to “Never”) has a chorus that contains a slight anaphora (“Never love my enemy, You could never take my history, You could never block my destiny, Never did love follow me, and I’ll never return to poverty, Never fooled by Satan’s jealousy, until my heaven inherits me”). This song is an example of Chino’s lyrical excellence; his flow, delivery, wordplay are second to none and along with a head-nodding beat and classical sample this is a perfect song.

The song “Let ‘Em Live” featuring Kool G Rap (and which therefore features two of the all-time great rappers together) is somewhat disappointing. Given that two of the most lyrically-gifted MCs are present on one song, I expected something more impressive. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a decent song but it’s not the best example of either rappers’ skills (especially G Rap’s). And whilst on the topic of disappointing songs, the song “Sorry” featuring Shaunta, is like a feud but without resolution or point, and “Be Here” is simply corny Hip-Pop, turning a sample of Rhythm’s “The World Is A Place” into an embarrassing Pop track especially with its singing hook. This song is so bad it single-handedly almost drops this LP’s rating down to a 7/10.

There’s a track titled “Water” that didn’t make it to the finished album because of “copyright issues” with the Prince song “Something In The Water (Does Not Compute)”. This is no loss however, this average song was best left off the album. On a side note, the CD version of I Told You So which I own contains slightly different track names compared to the version now available to buy or stream (“Concert Skit” is now called “A$$hole Intro”, “Beef” is now called “A$$hole”, and “Outro is now called “Skit”) but I guess that doesn’t matter too much.

There are a few problems with this album, the main and most obvious thing is that there’s too many skits, you could also argue that there’s also too many tracks. Chino delivers his unrelenting lyrics again and again, and in some ways that itself becomes a slight problem – it gets a little repetitive after a while – at times it feels like the songs don’t vary enough in terms of content. Of course this could have easily been fixed, if the weaker songs were taken out of the tracklist, the album wouldn’t feel so long and the monotony of content would therefore be unnoticeable. If all of the unnecessary skits were removed (all of them except for Chinophone parts 1 & 2), if disappointing tracks like “Baby Momma”, “Chino XL”, “Beef”, and “Be Here” were also cut, this would easily result in a better album. That being said, I Told You So is well worth listening to, it contains such impressive rapping that you can easily ignore its shortcomings. When multisyllabic rapping is done right as it is here, it’s worth copping the LP just to witness flawless rapping.

Ignoring the album for a bit, I have to say that Chino XL is a grossly underrated MC. As many people in the underground Hip-Hop community have noted, he pre-empted the style that is wrongly attributed to Eminem; comedic punchlines, comedic disses, celebrity name-dropping, multisyllabic delivery and high-pitched vocal tone. If you listen to Chino’s first two albums it’s easy to hear that he’s the originator of this style, and in my opinion he easily surpasses Marshall Mathers in terms of skill and the quality of his witticism (but of course, you’ll never hear this acknowledged by mainstream rap fans or by the mainstream media). So forget what you’re told, forget what you’ve been taught, listen to Chino XL yourself and you’ll instantly hear who’s superior.

I Told You He Told You So.

Beats: 7/10

Rhymes: 9/10

Overall: 8/10

14 replies »

  1. “Chino XL” was a decent track . So was “Let ‘Em Live” featuring Kool G Rap , “That Would Be Me” and “I Told You So” . This album had several classic lyrical masterpieces — “Nunca” , “What You Got” , “It’s My World” , “Don’t Say A Word” and “You Don’t Want It” . The skit / interlude “History” was amazing .

    Chino’s last album “The RICANsruction : The Black Rosary” deserves an article of it’s own . It is probably his best work yet . I hope he drops another album very soon . I’ve been waiting over 5 years . (I’ve also been waiting on R.A. The Rugged Man , Cage and Goretex for almost 4 to close to 5 years for new albums .)

    I was in the Greater Toronto Area recently and I met my friend who is a big fan of Eminem’s old stuff . He said that Chino XL overuses schemes with “like” or “as” in his lyrics (and on his last album had several corny bars / punchlines) whereas Eminem pre-2000 had “flawless , effortless multis ” . When I showed him your Eminem article he said , ” I don’t fuck with racist shit . ” . As in you were racist towards Eminem .

    • It’s funny that your friend listens to Eminem’s early stuff but his earliest stuff was racist. He then turns around and calls my article racist… can he be consistent with this opinion? I assume your friend’s excuse for Eminem’s early “black girl” lyric is that he was young and made a mistake but surely that should apply to me too (since my article was over 4 years ago). Either that or your friend abhors all forms of racism in which case he should despise Eminem as well as my article. And by the way, when someone is racist that’s the perfect time to be racist back, that’s just equal retaliation, that’s not racism. I don’t go around on a daily basis shouting “cracker” but when someone says bigoted shit I have the right to say bigoted shit back to them.

    • Chino’s dropping an album with Madlib soon.
      Holy shit I’m so excited that’s one of my top ten rappers and open 3 producers collaborating on a full project.

  2. I meant to say , “The RICANstruction : The Black Rosary” . In my opinion Eminem totally bit the lyrical stylings of Chino XL . Name dropping / dissing celebrities and mentioning current popular culture (mainstream media events – like the O.J. Simpson Trial , Tonya Harding , Lorena Bobbitt , etc . ) events in songs. He also bit heavily from Insane Clown Posse , (early) Cage , (early) Twiztid and Esham when it came to the horror core subject matter for his “Slim Shady” persona .

    Chino XL never mentions Eminem ripping him off . And never has . I don’t know why . Chino is the rapper Eminem copied the most . I know that a 1992 to 1997 Eminem was listening heavily to all those artists that he bit from . You can add Nas, Cormega , Treach , Nature , Tragedy Khadafi , Grand Daddy I.U. , Canibus , King Sun , Inspectah Deck , Raekwon , Maestro Fresh Wes , Ghost Face Killah , GZA , Redman , Boot Camp Clik , Craig Mack , EPMD , Brother J , AZ , Awesome Dre , Organized Konfusion , Cella Dwellas , Kool G Rap , Rakim , Masta Ace , Big L , Lord Finesse , Graig G. , Agallah , Kool Keith , O.C. , Jaz-O , Artifacts, Ras Kass , Freddie Foxxx , Onyx , M.O.P. , Brand Nubian , Wise Intelligent , KRS-One , Smoothe Da Hustler , Jeru The Damaja , Lakim Shabazz , Black Sheep and Big Daddy Kane when it came to biting multi-syllabic rhyme schemes .

  3. I would like to hear your thoughts on Chino XL’s remaining silent about Eminem’s biting . Marshall ripped off his whole style and made hundreds of millions of dollars all the while refusing to give dap to and to collaborate with or sign credible underground / independent rappers . I think he was scared that he would get outshined by the likes of Apathy , Gift Of Gab , Cage , Aesop Rock , Slug , Celph Titled , Vinnie Paz , Ras Kass , R.A. , Wise Intelligent , One Be Lo , Ill Bill , DZK , Goretex , Virtuoso , Immortal Technique , Diabolic , Canibus , Copywrite and Chino XL when it came to being on a track with any of them . Chino and Eminem were both on Sway and King Tech’s ” ’99 Anthem ” and Chino had the better verse . Although , it wasn’t my favourite Chino verse by far .

    • Either Chino doesn’t hear the similarity or he doesn’t want beef with Eminem, Dre, and all his fans (of which there might be a crossover fanbase). Like someone mentioned under my Eminem article, Mathers only beefed with average rappers who he’d know he’d “beat”. This is very fishy, the mainstream media made a big deal about him being “better” than mediocre rappers but nobody with skills was ever compared to him, rappers with skills never called him out on his biting or his racism either. Aside from K-Rino, I don’t even think anybody mentioned it (aside from Benzino of course).

  4. Diabolic said , “… Hey , I’ve mad mistakes but I’ve never made racist tapes …” , on his “Role Model Freestyle” . The Last Emperor dissed Eminem on a whole track . So did Destro of Oldominion and The Boom Bap Project . Cage on several bootleg tracks and in several radio interviews claimed Eminem bit his “crazy drugged-up white boy style” .

    I think Chino XL shares a fan base with Eminem is some way . Chino has done stuff with Proof (Rest In Paradise) , D12 members , Royce Da 5’9” , Crooked I , Joell Ortiz , Joe Budden and The Horseshoe Gang .

  5. * “… Hey , I’ve made mistakes but I’ve never made racist tapes …”

    ** I think Chino XL shares a fan base with Eminem in some way .

    • I remember the Miilkbone, Everlast, and Uno Dos diss tracks but I didn’t remember any that mentioned the racism specifically, thanks for letting me know about Diabolic and Last Emperor. You should embed YouTube videos under my Eminem article of any tracks that criticise Eminem (especially his racism).

  6. I will embed those videos when I get a chance . The ones from Diabolic , The Last Emperor , Destro (of Oldominion and The Boom Bap Project) and Chris Palko / Cage . Did you hear the diss song “Air Strike : Pop Killer” from Canibus’s album “Melatonin Magik : Deluxe Edition” ? It features DZK (a better version of Eminem who no longer raps / is retired [I didn’t like some of DZK’s cynicism and some of the anti-religious / Bill Maher-esque remarks that were in his music]) and D12 . Canibus , DZK and Warbux fooled D12 into sending them feature verses for a hardcore hip hop track . They reworked the verses into an Eminem diss track with D12 featured on it. They did this in an Atlanta studio in mid to late 2009 and the album dropped in early 2010 . After the song’s release D12 got very angry at ‘Bis and DZK and sucked up to Marshall even more . DZK disses Eminem pretty bad on the track . He does the “intelligent lyrical tough guy battler” approach that Chino XL uses . Although Chino XL has way more street cred than DZK ( DZK is from the mostly white suburbs of Washington , D.C. ) . Apparently DZK claims that he could have dissed Marshall much worse than he did on “Air Strike : Pop Killer” . He has a fear of flying on planes . The morning before he took his short flight from D.C. to Atlanta (where Canibus now lives) he got drunk and drank cough syrup . He thought it would calm his nerves for the flight . When he arrived in Atlanta and met with ‘Bis he forgot most of his ultra-vicious bars for Eminem . Hence DZK’s verses were mild at best . ‘Bis went in on Marshall real hard , though .

    You can call DZK – and Copywrite before him – biters of Chino XL’s style . I mean they did use Chino’s “intelligent lyrical tough guy battler” motifs for some of they best known work . Chino never gets his fair due for almost creating the ideas of modern battle rap used in all English speaking rap battle leagues . His first album from 1996 and his singles before that and his stuff in Art Of Origin was so influential to hardcore hip hop heads .

    Chino was doing the “intelligent lyrical tough guy battler” stuff since he first heard Rakim , Kool G Rap and Big Daddy Kane in 1987 . Chino , Eminem , K-Rino , Ganksta N-I-P , Canibus , The L.O.X. , Lin Que , Queen Pen , King Just , Kurious , Heather B. Gardner , Free Marie , Queen Latifah (old Queen Latifah) , Apani B. Fly , Papoose , Ahmad , Saafir , Shyheim , Black Rob , U.G.K. , Necro , Proof (Rest In Paradise) , Royce Da 5’9” , 8 Ball and MJG , Outkast , Goodie Mob , Common , Tragedy Khadafi , Blaq Poet , Mobb Deep , Onyx , M.O.P. , Jay-Z (old Jay-Z) , The Rascalz , Terror Squad , Swollen Members , Killarmy , Sunz Of Man , Twista , Bone Thugs and Harmony , Crucial Conflict , Do Or Die , Reks , Akrobatik , Camu Tao (Rest In Paradise) , Dru Down , E-40 , Copywrite , Cage , Jakki The Motamouth , Black Thought , Pumpkin Head (Rest In Paradise) , Dead Prez , Little Brother , Jus Allah , K-Solo , Big Punisher (Rest In Paradise) , AZ , Too Poetic (Rest In Paradise) , Yukmouth , The Jacka (Rest In Paradise) , Murs , Nas , Tech N9ne , Brotha Lynch Hung , Keith Murray , Smoothe Da Hustler , Nine , Craig Mack , Mad Skillz , Wise Intelligent , R.A. The Rugged Man , Big L (Rest In Paradise) , O.C. , Party Arty (Rest In Paradise) , Biggie (Rest In Paradise) , Tupac (Rest In Paradise) , RBX , Kurupt , Ill Bill , Q-Unique , Boot Camp Clik , M.F. Doom , M.F. Grimm , Coolio , Xzibit , Esham , The Wu-Tang Clan , Red Man , Busta Rhymes , Nature , Cormega , Jaysaun , Edo G. , Hieroglyphics , Freestyle Fellowship , Organized Konfusion , Cella Dwellas , The Fugees , Afu-Ra , Jeru The Damaja , Illegal , Group Home , Arrested Development and Ras Kass were the next stage in the evolution of hip hop . All of those guys started seriously writing rhymes in ’87 after Rakim’s first album dropped , Boogie Down Productions and Marley Marl’s “The Symphony” dropped .

    It’s with those artists that lyricism in hip hop peaked in the mainstream . After that it was all down hill with 50 Cent , Lil’ Jon , T.I. and Lil’ Wayne .

  7. I should also have mentioned Talib Kweli , Mos Def , Remedy , Aesop Rock , Homeboy Sandman , Slug , Eyedea (Rest In Paradise) , Viro The Virus (Rest In Paradise) , Malik B. , Pacewon , Young Zee , Guilty Simpson , Elzhi , Kottonmouth Kings , Apathy , Celph Titled , Diamond D , Cam’Ron , The Beatnuts , Flatlinerz , Insane Clown Posse , Virtuoso , MC Esoteric , Freddie Foxxx , Twiztid , Paris , Scroobius Pip , Sage Francis , Brother Ali , El-P , Lecrae , Tunnel Rats , Cross Movement , L.A. Symphony , Saigon , Termanology , Joell Ortiz , Crooked I , Joe Budden , Mr. Lif , Memphis Bleek , Freeway , Peedi Crak , Beanie Siegel , One Be Lo , The Dayton Family , Tonedeff , The Cunninlynguists , Twisted Insane , Cannibal Ox , Styles Of Beyond , Madlib , Cypress Hill , House Of Pain , Divine Styler , David Banner , Artifacts , The Juggaknots , Hurricane G , Yo-Yo , The Lady Of Rage , Clipse , Jay Electronica , Ruste Juxx , Royal Flush , N.O.R.E. , Capone , Lil’ Flip , Z-Ro , Trae The Truth , Paul Wall , Chamillionaire , Lil’ Wyte , Hussein Fatal (Rest In Paradise) , Haystak , Jelly Roll , (all of) Non Phxion , Mr. Hyde and Three Six Mafia (before Juicy J sold out) as part of the greatest generation . There many more solo artists and collectives / groups / “Clans and Cliks” I forgot to name . There are so many from the 1990’s and early 2000’s .

    I CAN see why younger white people venerate Tupac . The man was bigger than hip hop . He was a flawed person but he repped the culture as best he could . It didn’t help Chino XL any career-wise that he viciously dissed ‘Pac before his tragic death .

    I CAN’T see why these younger white hipster types venerate Black Thought , The Wu-Tang Clan , Biggie and Nas . The heydays of all those guys are long behind them . Save Biggie and O.D.B. , obviously .

    It’s their middle class / upper middle class hipster self-glorification I think .

    These rich spoiled (mostly) white (/ college/ university / hipster) kids could never appreciate Chino XL , Ras Kass or K-Rino . The thought of a super-smart , virile black man intimidates them .

    I’ve never heard Chino XL spit a whack verse . I own all of his stuff (in digital format) from The Art Of Origin single from 1991/1992 to his latest single “Under The Bridge” , which came out earlier this year .

    The same thing I can say for K-Rino and Razzy .

    Chino , Razzy and K-Rino have changed the least over their careers when it comes to lyrical and thematic content . I think they all have actually gotten better over time . You might here a below average verse from them (very , very, very rarely) . But never a whack one .

    Soon I fear there will never be another young rapper (even partially) inspired by Chino XL again that receives any substantial mainstream recognition in the industry or on social media (makes a career out of rapping) . Very sad indeed .

    • Jeez. Don’t have a life…all these lengthy comments! Either you are Hiphop fanatic or idler

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