Michigan is home to some of the world’s greatest acts, especially Detroit. The Motor City has seen more talent in one city than some entire states, countries, or even continents. With Gavin Christopher Tennille, known more professionally by Quelle Chris, there is this storytelling element that makes his 2013 record, Ni**as Is Men an easy on the ears but conscious journey.
Ni**as Is Mentakes the substantial ability of producing these primarily smooth sailing beats that relies on the production of Chris to direct the stage. Chris takes Ni**as Is Menin the style of a play or series of shows where a tagline is introduced on the first track, “Try To Get Over” which features DJ Groweyez. A female voice explains, “2Dirt4TV Episode two, ‘Niggas Is Men’ starting now…” as the sudden flood of these church-esque vocals create this slowly moving, but graceful piece that transitions the sound into “Long Tokes” where the the jazz and soul influenced sound comes from.
With “Long Tokes” there is this grindhouse style cinema behind the production that initiates these snare tramples and stomping movements that is not on the aggressive spectrum, but feels orderly. Chris touches the inner beauty of sampling and outsourcing to a sound that captures in essence, the ability to craft an idealistic view on being black in America. Throughout “Long Tokes” and the following, “We Eat It” features Cavalier on a saxophone-centered instrumental.
Chris adapts this velvet movement while staying actively charged in racial tension, political policies, or just the movement and ideology for the daily life. His music feels relatable with the border-line jazz frame, but gives a prime example of how perspective changes within each city and every person. The style is touching, relating to a similar fashion of A Tribe Called Quest where “Greene Eyes” has the cascading chord progression and a boom-bap percussive beat that feels smooth as butter. “Greene Eyes” features Fresh Daily, Tanya Morgan, and Cavalier with production from Messiah Musik that wraps the entire mood into one centralized tune.
“I’m tired of eating rappers, what’s next on the menu? If I don’t think you fly then why would I pretend to?” Chris explains, as the microphone is passed along from rhymer to rhymer. The track then uses some sampling and fading tools to drain the life out of “Greene Eyes” and instead, forms “Good Days”.
Tanya Morgan is replaced by Denmark and holds some strength behind him as he controls the final verse for the track which stretches into familiar territory with the piano focused instrumentation.
Ni**as Is Menforms this adaptability factor and this overbearing sense of free formed production where the music is structured in some instances, but is primarily a mix of different moving parts. Chris works well under the weighing pressure of creating this classy hip-hop sound, choosing the right rhymes, and deciding to form one of the more obscure gems in music.