Rei’s debut album is definitely one you need to listen to. There are songs for both day and night, with reggae vibes and electronica sounds bringing the whole album to another level. This is good kiwi music in every way—unique yet relatable lyrics, talented rapping and vocals, engaging production and a bit of variety on the album too. There’s a good mix of experiences and emotions communicated across, and all with a unique yet classic kiwi vibe. As a student living in little old Welly, it’s kind of refreshing to listen to a rapper who relates and one that uses Te Reo too; it’s a bit of a change from Kanye.
The stand out track for me is “M.O.E”. The lines “It’s Mana over everything, these fellaz sounding too American, this some NZ for your benefit” slip in near the end of the track and gives an example of the classy home grown pride that C.H.I.E.F. emanates. “Peace Pipes” is similar; the bridge is well-timed with a heartfelt hometown message. The electronica beats also carry the different pieces of the song nicely to bring it all together.
The album has different elements that tie in and make C.H.I.E.F. a statement of hip hop in its own right. “The Tribe” is one of the tracks that set this out. It has dubstep vibes, and a mixture of more delicate vocals and rapping with a straight-up kiwi accent. The bridge is just golden. And if I ever graduate—this song is going to describe that exact moment.
The opening track “Step Step” is damn catchy and has the most random mixture of instruments on it, but it works. I love the chorus and the pulsing beat in the verses. I’m not exactly an expert on “how to rap”, but the rapping on this one really showcases Rei’s talent with some fast and articulate verses. “Hobby” follows this and feels like a bit of an anthem, with nice vocals making “they keep on telling me to get that 9 to 5” my favourite line.
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“Love Bite” and “Ice Cream” show another side and are sure to get girls swooning. The line “What if I quoted Drake for you?” sort of explains why on its own. “Love Bite” is a bit more restrained than the others, but even then it develops with awesome production and layering, and it really works. The final track “Culture” has its own laid back vibe with a real message about what music brings to the world. This works as a perfect final song.
The variety of songs, paces, and messages make C.H.I.E.F. an album that I would recommend, especially if you are a fan of New Zealand hip hop/rap. Along with features from Andy Fisher, Kid, and Xela, the album brings something fresh to New Zealand music that makes for a good listen—an easy four stars.