(N.) from the Greek "icon" (meaning "God or Image; an object of uncritical devotion") + "clast" (meaning "to break or destroy"); literally, "image destroyer". 1) One who destroys religious images or opposes their veneration, 2) one who attacks established beliefs or institu- tions.
I have no idols, no one that I look up to," proclaims Chino XL. "Just think of music as a classroom, and every album as a different student. My album is the album that stands up and says, 'Man, fuck this shit, you're all wack.' I'm tired of hearing people talking about shit at home, but then they won't come to class and say it. I'm gonna stand up, raise my hand and say it. I speak for all the things that everybody thinks and whispers but refuses to speak out loud because they're scared. Nobody has the balls to say it; they don't want everybody to know how they really feel. I want everybody to know exactly how I feel about everything" Who else but Chino XL would have the balls to say the following: "I'm leaving the crowds happy like OJ Simpson when he got his first white pussy." "Avoid battling me like I'm Eazy-E's blood samples" "My style is welfare: Half a' you bitches is on it." "I hate Maddona more than Tupac has to say 'Your Honor/Maybe I'll kill myself and a be a legend like I'm in Nirvana" "Your career is George Burns, I can't believe you ain't dead yet." Whitney, Houston. Oprah Winfrey. Hillary Clinton. Martin Luther King. No one is spared Chino XL's wrath and incisive on his solo album debut, "Here To Save You All." Quincy Jones declined a sample clearance for one song because, as his representatives said, Chino was talking about "Quincy's friends. Even Russel Simmons and Rick Rubin are equally slagged (the line that goes, "my company is fucking me like Arsenio does Eddie Murphy," is one of American-owner Rubin's favorites)
Is it any wonder then that, without so much as one record in the stores, people are talking about Chino XL? In 1995, his unreleased songs "No Complex" and "Riiiot!" made The Source magazine's coveted "Fat Tape" list in three different months. and the #3 Record of the year on King Tech and Sway's nationally syndicated rap radio show. He's won the admiration of rap legends like KRS One and Kool G. Rap. Some have called him the "King of III Lines and Punchlines."
Childhood through Success
This new recognition has been a long time coming for the young rap lyricist from East Orange, NJ. But Chino's musical roots go back much further than rap; they're literally encoded in his genes: "My uncle is Bernie Worrell from Parliament/Funkadelic, so I grew up on tour with them," says Chino. "I mean I was on tour with them, straight-up, all over the country 'til I was about 7 remembers Chino. The child of an African-American mother and an absentee Puerto-Rican father, Chino was raised alone by his mother in places unfriendly to children of mixed ethnicity (a painful upbringing brought into sharp focus in Chino's brilliant, autobiographical "What Am I?")- Chino's P-funk childhood and his identity crisis growing diverse musical sensibility, encompassing what he calls a "rock aesthetic: "I don't really fuck with funk too much, because that's what I was raised on, so I went off into rock. I always liked KISS's imagery and I always liked rock shit." Chino first graced a stage with mic in hand back in 1987 durin g a talent show at Clifford Scott High School. Chino's first recorded compositions came when he hooked up with a beat-producer named Kern Chandler (a/k/a Kaoz), who also rhymed. Togther they formed Art of Origin whose story goes something like this: In 1990, their demo found it's way into the office of an A&R rep at New York's Profile Records named Dan Charnas.. In 1991, Charnas was recruited by Rick Rubin to run then-Def American Recordings' rap department. The Art of Origin demo was the first one Rubin heard. Rubin liked it, and The Art of Origin became the first new debut rap artist on a Rubin-run label since Public Enemy. "It made perfect sense," says Charnas. "The Art of Origin was musically a hip-hop group, but they had the visual imagery of a metal group like Slayer. Rick was the only person who could have understood them." The group recorded two albums' worth of material, but their existence was documented only by two 12" singles: "Into The Pit" b/w "No Slow Rollin..." (1992), and "Unration-Al" (1993) . And yet the group's dark, atmospheric visions were the blueprint for the sub-genre that would later emerge in 1993 and be dubbed "Horrorcore." They were the creators, the originators. "But we had no consistency and I had no support from my partner," states Chino. "There was a lot of miscommunication and we were young, I mean I was fuckin' 17 years old. My partner really fucked it all up too, but we still talk to this day. I'm kinda glad that it worked out that way." The breakup with his partner forced Chino XL to forge a new identity for himself, beyond the occult imagery of the group. It took two long years of hard work, but Chino XL has risen from the ashes of The Art of Origin with a vengeance.
More Than a rapper
His iconoclastic no-holds-barred attitude is exemplified in songs like "No Complex," the first single that winds up as a scorching attack on the whole materialistic bent of contemporary hip-hop; or "Many Different Ways," wherein Chino's violent lyrical acrobatics end up taking out everything from Earth Day to the N.A.A.C.P, or, "It's All Bad," a cynical hip-hop morality play; or "Kreep," a scathing review of a relationship gone wrong; or "Partner To Swing," in which Chino deals with' his ex-partner just like he deals with everyone else ("Can't be productive when your partner's just a lazy bitch/Leaves you feeling frustrated like you're signed to Wild Pitch"), In addition to Chino's ruff -n-tumble verbal rumble, the album is rife with guest shots ranging from the bugged-out astro lyricism of the legendary Kool Keith (Ultramagnetic. M.C.s) and the historical breakdowns of Ras Kass (Chino's lyrical kindred spirit on the West Coast), to the.. heavyweight metaphysics of the collective known as Gravitation- "That's me, Ragedy Man, who's on RAL, this kid named Dugan Shallant, who just got signed to Illtown Records in a group called Now Just, Ab-Style, these kids his Soul Providers, this kid Deleon, and my man B-Wiz, who produces us all." For most of the album, though, Chino affects what he calls the "Chino XL Mode". "It's like I don't give a fuck about nothing, I'm on some straight-up Aries shit, just running into a house when it's on fire without thinking." So does Chino care if he pisses people off? "Not really, because art is supposed to turn things on their head. If your art isn't raising somebody's eyebrows, then what's the use of it? You may as well be a plumber. It's like it you've got this little R&B single and it's so perfect: It's got just the right R&B loop and just the right hook. What's gonna make me want to but your next album? It's not gonna be you, you're gonna have to keep making hit records for the rest of your career to keep my attention. But if you say something that makes me go, 'Oh, shit, what the hell? What's behind all this?' Then I'll keep following you until the next album. There's no mystique to a fuckin' politically correct single." Far from politically correct in the audacity (or blasphemy) of the album title or the rhymes therein, Chino may have accidentally created something that's all too rare in hip-hop: a concept album. Here To Save You All is hip-hop bravado taken to its ultimate conclusion. However, in the final strains of Here To Save You All, we get a hint of what Chino XL might become in the near future, beyond all the "punchline" hype: the songs "Ghetto Vampire" and "Rise" go beyond spoofing celebrities and take Chino into deeper political and spiritual territory. "I'm like a computer because I can always update myself", says Chino. "I always keep my ear to the pavement and I also keep it to the sky, so I'm always conscious of what's going on. There's always going to be a new icon. But if I'm iconoclastic I can live forever," Please welcome Chino XL: Image destroyer. Iconoclast... Her e To Save You All.