I’ve reviewed Chew’s music before, when I reviewed Drip Or Dropped, the project released by his collective $econd Nature earlier this year. There, I complimented the rapper’s demented, grimy flow and eerie, synth-laden production. He’s just as strong as a solo artist, and on his latest project Nu Life he’s amped all of these existing qualities to unforeseen levels. ‘Pop’ is a classic mixtape opener, announcing the artist’s arrival with plenty of drama before revving straight into action. The Memphis rap inspiration is as strong here as it always has been, but it’s much more of a welcome homage than any kind of crutch to lean on. ‘First Place’ is an early highlight, as Chew is joined by Vcid High for a dark, ethereal trap joint.

On every track, words fly from the Bakersfield native’s mouth like he was born to spit with the outstanding balance of eloquence and grit that he so often displays. Working entirely with his own beats, Chew attains a perfect symbiosis between the two sides of his art. ‘Violence’ is tough, highly technical hip hop with a more metallic edge, finding a satisfying level between trashy bro-rap and some of the more serious lyrical moments found elsewhere here. The best example of this is ‘Misguided’, which painfully recalls a life of addiction and poverty. Sonically, the vast majority of these songs follow the same themes found on Drip Or Dropped, from the ghostly backdrops to the razor-sharp songwriting. This feeling is enhanced by the two tracks that feature fellow $N artist Cam Kron, the first of which is ‘Speakin On My Name’. By far the most anthemic track on the project, ‘Speakin’ sees the latter rapper contribute one of trademark hooks in intense, blaring fashion.

Moon’ is a far more personal offering, there’s a whimsical vibe to this one that’s a nice change of pace. As well as being more fleshed out length-wise, the song features some genuinely stirring lyrical moments and some very pleasant, jazzy flourishes. Nu Life is a stunning solo achievement from an artist known to have worked so successfully as part of a group, and it reminds us that even the strongest voices need time to perfect a really standout musical work.

Listen to the project in full here.

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