Quelle Chris is a Detroit rapper/producer signed to Mello Music Group which, along with D.C. emcees Oddisee and Uptown X.O., has been outperforming any other MMG label in 2013. Born in New York City and bounced around St. Louis and Oakland, Quelle has picked up on the influences around him like a sponge. He has produced a number of the best tracks on Danny Brown albums The Hybrid and XXX, one of the iTunes bonus tracks on Brownsville legend Sean Price’s Mic Tyson, and has done a handful of tracks with fellow throwback Roc Marciano. Quelle recently released what is his third full length album, Ghost at the Finish Line.
Despite his album from earlier this year, Niggas Is Men, having been recorded more recently and sounding more resolved, the uneasy GATFL stands alone better as the culmination of all underground ’90s hip hop-inspired, post-Dilla atmospheres Quelle has been distilling for the past half-decade. On “Loop Dreams,” he insists on his drive to find success without the outdated major labels, ”Fans treat me like I made it/I ain’t made shit.” He later finds gain over a dirty bassline and wailing guitar loop on “PRX,” featuring The Alchemist, who cut his teeth in the ’90s producing for Mobb Deep and Dilated Peoples, and Guilty Simpson, the Motor City rapper who first grew to national prominence with J Dilla. Like the dreams on an Okayplayer message board, Quelle’s goals are not to hop on posse cuts with famous rappers, but to continue to expand the insular sound he’s established with like-minded Detroit artists.
His partner in the duo Crown Nation Denmark Vessey shows up a couple of times, and local staples Black Milk, Oh No and House Shoes are invited to color at the margins. The album is a sprawling canvass, with obscure movie samples, even more obscure jazz and funk loops, and also Kanye’s jiggy “uh uh uhuhuh” adlib sprinkled on top of “With Open Arms.” There’s the jittery, floating love song based around a Busta Rhymes line on “Look at Shorty,” the weeded out boasting of “What Up” and the half-subversive half-sincere menace of “Coke Rap War Game.”
He sounds most alluring over his own production though. “Undying” starts off with a sparse double-time kick drums, but soon Quelle’s voice is accompanied by some dusty horns and multiple vocal melodies. His words never get drowned out and his love of life – all of it – shines through: “I am addicted to getting guap, having fun, eating food, making love, waking up/doin’ doin’ break it down/puff it.” On the title track, he raps about how no one loves him but everything will be okay when he makes money, epitomizing rapper cliches only part satirical, over the space age bass of Bay Area mob music and the same squawking synth from “Yonkers.” Quelle Chris uses these isolated sounds to populate his world. He embodies all of the hip-hop elements to assemble a complete human. No one’s reinvented the wheel in 6,000 years, but we did throw some D’s on that bitch.