Barring Eminem, Big Sean, and others who hastily eclipsed regional boundaries, Detroit rap is a self-sufficient concern. J Dilla shaped the sound in his own image in the early ‘00s with milky kick-clap patterns, and recent acolytes include workhorses like Black Milk and Guilty Simpson – even the young Boldy James at his most blue-collar and the retrospective moments on Danny Brown’s Old honor this lineage. Rapper/producer Quelle Chris, meanwhile, exists within this nucleus, but just barely, never going more than a couple of minutes without doing something out of that context, straight goofy, or even absurd.
Chris’ second album of the year, Ghost at the Finish Line, is unsurprisingly fun, but usually in less-than-predictable ways. We get oddball quips (“We shakin’ babies, we kissin’ hands”), practically comic production moves (the bellhop pinging of “Super Fuck”), and a good chunk of the 13-song outing focuses directly on partying. Though, there are no designer drugs here, or even designer clothes. Instead, Ghost’s relevance comes from the sticky-mouthed, altogether agreeable Quelle Chris himself.
The 29-year-old is, refreshingly, not in need of a reality check. He knows that if this indie rap shit is rewarding, it’s only so after there’s been struggle. On the astral “Loop Dreams”, he lays it bare: “Tryna accrue the wealth that I promised myself/ Fans treat me like I made it, I ain’t made shit.” Later come “PRX II” and “King Is Dead”, which are danker and more workmanlike, even if they don’t announce it. The title track, which closes the festivities, is both dynamic on the musical end (it burbles like a DJ Mustard beat) and notable on the lyrical tip. “When I get money, everything will be okay,” he theorizes, but it’s clear that even he doesn’t believe that. What matters is that he’s sure the next level will accommodate him soon enough, offering a whole new set of challenges.
Essential Tracks: “Loop Dreams”, “PRX II”