In any album, 19 tracks would be ambitions. Not just from a production aspect, but in the interest of maintaining a listeners. But Asheville-based hip-hop artist Chachillie‘s new album, Goosebumps on Pangea (which officially drops on March 15) doesn’t just open, it launches into orbit. Chanting “144,000 just ain’t enough” (a reference to the prediction of the rapture), Chachillie’s voice bursts over layered synthesizer and metallic beats.
And for the next hour-plus, Chachillie (aka Charles Stewart) keeps the energy up. He doesn’t miss a step, nor does he falter in his mission — a sonic exploration of self, albeit in a troubled world. Goosebumps has more soaring moments than can be counted, and more surprises: The recorded cell phone conversation at the intro to “Remember” gives way to a smooth r&b-meets-rap treatise of a mature sort of love that mainstream hip-hop rarely considers.
In fact, mentions of smoking blunts and suggestions that haters can kiss his ass aside, Stewart’s lyrics are, more often than not, thoughtful and surprising, supernatant and free of cliche. “I never believed in all of the confusion. I guess my family was too broke to be paying attention,” he sings in “Through the Veil.” And, “It’s time for winnin cause losin got me livid,” on “Hold Your Faith.”
Throughout the album, hooky choruses sung in sweeps and creshendos drip with Auto-Tune. Posturing is juxtaposed with Judeo-Christian prophecy and philosophy on subjects ranging from environmental decay and astral projection to karma and the politicized fate of the American poor.
“Stars” is among the strongest tracks, and the title track in a way. A lithe rap name checks the prophets from nearly every major religion, and the album’s liner notes offers a glossary of terms. The elastic snap and bounce of rhymes paired with the silken tones of Stewart’s singing voice showcases his range.
Which is not to say Goosebumps is flawless. The field recorded intros feel a little bit forced and detract from the skill and artistry of the album overall. And halving the number of tracks would probably serve this album. Not because there’s a weak link, but simply because listeners don’t consume music in such large doses these days. Save those extra tracks for a next album.
Where the spoken word (not rapping, but talking) does work is near the end. A poem of sorts if recited by Stewart’s dad. His style reminds of Irish Poet Paul Durcan (from Van Morrison’s “Days Before Rock ‘n Roll”) and his delivery is warm and sincere, making for a sweet and unexpected moment.
Overall, Goosebumps is a shining success with some excellent singles, and Chachillie proves himself to be a rising star.