Everyone who is familiar with Quelle Chris’ existence in hip-hop knows this man is incredibly unique. His rap and production styles are distinct and his rhymes are laced with a nonchalant wit and embedded messages that you only realize later. He’s Quelle Chris; he does what he does differently than anyone else out there and that’s just how it is. His originality has also granted him the uncanny ability to achieve cult success without compromising his idiosyncratic vision, garnering a loyal following with his subversive, sarcastic raps and unconventional beats.
While some of his earlier efforts were more chaotic in terms of structure and production, DEATHFAME is probably the most straightforward Quelle Chris album yet. But despite its simplicity, the album is far from basic. With DEATHFAME, Quelle Chris doesn’t waste time heaping praise on himself, his rap skills or the industry in which he’s trying to make a name for himself. Instead, he uses the platform to take a hard look at what success means and how hollow its pursuit can feel—particularly when that pursuit begins to interfere with other things in his life that matter more.
Despite the lack of ego and bravado, Chris still manages to deliver some of the best bars of his career. His flow is steady throughout, but it’s his delivery that truly shines: on “Alive Ain’t Always Living,” Chris’ voice slows down to a standstill by the end of the track, as if exhaustion has caught up to him, while on the title track, “Deathfame,” he declares “Let these corporations sink their fangs in my legacy’s neck” over a soothing melody.
Quelle Chris is a stickler for details, and his emceeing on DEATHFAME finds him at his most disciplined. He’s rarely wasted on this album, picking his words carefully to get across the meaning he intends. His rhymes are surprisingly direct, even when he’s diving into the abstract. Even when he’s talking about complex philosophical ideas, he avoids sounding detached from the subject matter. It’s not difficult to imagine him sitting down with a piece of paper and a pen, writing out the lyrics line by line and crafting each one carefully.
Beats—courtesy of Quelle Chris himself, Chris Keys and Knxwledge—range from warm and wavy to foreboding and unnerving, with an emphasis on abstraction. The music is smooth and electric, carrying a sense of solemnity that perfectly accompanies Chris’s deadpan flow.
In the end, DEATHFAME is a masterful album that stands apart from what we’ve come to expect from Quelle Chris, but it’s also an album that should be appreciated on its own. If you’re coming into it with a lot of expectations, they may not be met, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a good album. If you go into it looking for something different, you might find yourself surprised by the beauty and meaning hidden within.