This month we’re turning Tuneage over to Beirut based MC Chyno’s debut solo album Making Music to Feel at Home, which is being released this month. Not one for lists, we asked the man to take us through five tracks that influenced the album. We then let him know that we need six records and told him to attempt to review his own album without looking like a dick. Here’s what he came up with.
Growing up as a broke young buck in Damascus, this song was the motto my crew and close friends represented: an Armenian from Glendale, California who looked Mexican; two Serbian brothers who had fled the Yugoslavian war; and a Syrian Alawite who spoke in west coast slang. Looking back, we were really big Wu fans. There was a little hole-in-the-wall CD shop in Bab Touma, Damascus, run by a young Syrian/Canadian who got all the Wu affiliate albums and made sure we knew whenever they were done bootlegging. The Wu was a movement which went beyond just Hip Hop. It was an entity of its own and brought the weirdest people together. Ask the Fareeq. We are all big Wu fans.
Da Art of Storytellin’
Outkast feat. Slick Rick
Outkast teaming up with the King of storytelling and my favorite rapper from the Golden Era of Hip Hop, Slick Rick. You just knew something magical was bound to come out of this collaboration. Andre 3000 is one of my favorite rappers of all time, and his verse was a story about a girl called Suzy Screw and one named Sasha Thumper.
“Talking bout what we gon’ do when we grow up,
say, what you wanna be. She said:
So many storytelling songs out there, but when I heard this, I remember thinking to myself, even as a youngster, ‘I want to tell stories like that’. Fun, Hip, vivid, and minus the preachiness.
(Live on Chappelle’s Show)
In the late 90s and early 2000s, I would bump anything by Rawkus records, and Black Star was at the forefront of that label. This performance was a Chappelle show exclusive. If you’ve ever heard my radio show Bar Fight, you’ll know that I’m highly influenced by Dave and always loved his selection of music, but Mos Def and Talib outdid even themselves on this one. The topic they tackled was the misconception of what “Beef” is in Hip Hop. And once they put that general perception against the grander scale of what “beef” really means in all walks of life, they made you realise how useless “beefs” in Hip Hop are.
“Beef is oil prices and geopolitics.
Beef is Iraq, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Some Beef is big, and some Beef is small,
but what ya’ll call Beef is not Beef at all” – Mos Def
Put You On Game
I’m a big fan of first person narratives and Lupe does it so well. Especially in this album, ‘The Cool’. I listen to a lot of Lupe songs and take notes. My album’s first single, OPP, is a first person narrative about a suicide bomber, and another song on the album called Neverlands narrates two child soldiers from different parts of the world reflecting upon their respective realities. I also wrote a song called I Don’t Feel Like Talking in which I try to step into the shoes of people who are close to me and are explaining why they don’t want to speak to me. But back to this song. It’s confusing at first, but the instrumental intertwined with Lupe’s cadence, tone, writing and delivery gets you mesmerized. I remember the first time I heard it back in 2008. I was in Damascus in a car with two friends. From the intro to the last gun shot at the end, we were utterly speechless until one of my friends said, “Imma bring it back.”
All Falls Down
I’m gonna get a lot of heat for this, but Kanye fathered all of the new rappers coming out right now. He started the whole “introverted” and “sensitive” rapper style, while the rest of Hip Hop was on that “masculine-I’m-the-shit” tip. To me, as an avid Kanye listener since he was fresh on the scene, I saw that super-ego of his emerging and wasn’t the least bit surprised about it. He wanted the fortune, he wanted the fame, and what made me appreciate him is how he articulated that honestly. He was open about what he wanted to be, and now he is honest about who he is: a douche. I ain’t mad at that, but I can understand why other people would be. But his beats. Yo, son! Those beats he did in his first three albums, almost every single one is fire.
Making Music to Feel at Home
Review my own album? You know this is quite ridiculous, right? But fuck it. I’m convinced. Already put money on it, why not my word. The concept of the album and its title are very important to who I am at this moment in my life, so I tried to make sure I did it justice. Conceptually speaking, the start of the album is very rough and harsh sounding, whereas once you progress through it the soundscape becomes smoother and more soothing. It’s meant to portray that feeling of comfort (like being home) the more you get exposed to the music. Sound wise, it’s not boom-bap, it’s not trap. There’s a lot of catchy refrains and bridges that don’t repeat much, so you miss them once they’re gone. Lyrically, I didn’t want to be another self-victimising Arab rapper. I wanted to reflect my world. Raw & uncut. Sometimes self-critical. Sometimes I’m the shit. Sarcastic, but not patronising. There are audio messages recorded in it from people I know all over the world to make it feel as authentic and honest as possible. If there’s one thing I take most pride in, it’s the arrangements on the album. It’s pretty bizarre, but they fit the emotions being conveyed. Accompanied by “let’s-cuddle” strings, samples I manipulated the fuck out of, “let’s-take-it-outside” synths, and eerie audio sound bites, it’s a pretty interesting ride. So go get it when it’s out.