Pro Era Producer and MC Chuck Strangers releases his debut album Consumers Park today and I am pleased to report that it’s a fantastic listen. With a distinctly nostalgic vibe, this album is the epitome of smooth Hip-Hop with rich, full-flavoured sounds. The album is at times both head-nodding and mellow with soul samples and street-centric lyrics. There’s also numerous nods to the golden era with a Gang Starr reference in “Style Wars”, a Mobb Deep reference in “Peaceful”, and a KRS-One reference in “Two Pit Bulls”. In “Style Wars” Chuck raps “Niggas claiming they’re the best while Rakim still breathing” – quite refreshing for a rapper to declare someone as the G.O.A.T. other than the often contrived “Biggie and Tupac”. In that respect, Consumers Park isn’t in any way trying to fit into a standardised contemporary aesthetic, this LP is chock-full of throwback sounds and mentions. “Lorimer Street” for instance contains the line “you’re album is not in my changer” – another mention of times past – do cars even have CD changers in them any more?
In terms of production, Consumers Park contains an intoxicating mix of ingredients. “Thoro Hall” featuring Kirk Knight sports angelic vocal sounds set against a 90s drumbeat, “Style Wars” featuring Joey Bada$$ contains a piano sample reminiscent of Ski Beatz and Clark Kent’s production in Reasonable Doubt. There’s an electric guitar in “The Evening” and in “Syl’s Song”, “Class Pictures” contains a theremin-esque sound, and “Riis Beach” features a slow, Portishead-esque drumbeat with a loungey soul vocal. But that’s not it; “Two Pit Bulls” has that old-school Kanye-style sample, “No Dice” has a traditional head-nodding Hip-Hop beat (and the topic of a dice game hasn’t been this enjoyable since Kool G Rap’s 4,5,6). The final joint “Fresh” has a violin sample that sounds like an early 20th Century black and white film, the beat then switches to a more orthodox sound. Safe to say that this album easily pleases both traditionalist and experimental Hip-Hop fans alike. “Peaceful” also features Issa Gold of The Underachievers bringing some Arabic to the table, yet another ingredient that shows a sense of uniqueness.
Lyrically, Chuck Strangers brings a mixture of introspective and extrospective, reminiscing about the past and punctuating his verses with amusing metaphors. On “1010 Wins, Pt. 1 & Pt. 2” for instance, he humourously raps “I’m Angelina Jolie, I keep my lil’ niggas by me”. In “Backwood Falls”, a very short intro song, Strangers declares that this is “the ill shit to let you know the illest shit is coming” which is a good description of this opening song. From the first track to the last, Consumers Park impresses, and although Chuck isn’t a wordsmith known for his dexterous lyricism, what he possesses is a sense of credibility and listenability, in fact vocally he kinda reminds me of Black Rob.
Now of course, you could say that this is a slightly disjointed album with occasional non-rap songs and short tracks, you could also argue that the mood feels lethargic rather than laid-back, especially during “Riis Beach”, but if you feel that way I urge you to relisten to this LP. I’ve now listened to Consumers Park three times and each time it gets better.
At 44 minutes long, this isn’t an overly long album but with only 14 tracks (with 3 of them under 2 minutes long) Consumers Park weirdly feels much lengthier. After the first listen, you’d swear you’d been on a deep musical journey through the streets of Brooklyn. In that respect, this album has the ability to endure past the first few listens, there’s a feeling of longevity here like the rappers and albums which are referenced by Chuck. Just like Hard To Earn and The Infamous have staying power and the ability to make you want to revisit them long after the hype, Consumers Park has a similar feeling which is nice to hear in today’s throwaway society.
The standout tracks for me are “Thoro Hall”, “Style Wars”, and “Peaceful” but the whole album is worth listening to, and like the other notable release today (Elevators by Bishop Nehru) this is an LP that works as a complete piece like Hip-Hop albums from the golden era used to.
This album brings back memories of old-school LPs back when beats were dusty and raps were gritty. There’s a slight feel of Smif-N-Wessun’s “P.N.C.” from Dah Shinin‘ (mellow yet rugged) and the electric guitar even brings back memories of Prince’s Purple Rain. It may be a bit early but if this album keeps a momentum until summer, Consumers Park for me also has that throwback summery vibe similar to Black Moon’s Enta Da Stage, in fact the whole Pro Era have been bringing that dependable, close-knit Boot Camp Clik style to the game for a good while.
As a producer, Chuck Strangers has an obvious talent and when he occasionally appeared as a featured artists we had the inkling that he was also proficient at rapping, but now we can unequivocally say that he can hold his own in a solo project. With a few more individual and collective Pro Era albums in the pipeline, hopefully Chuck can follow this debut LP with more releases for all the consumers out there, bring a sense of credibility back to the Hip-Hop genre and win the…