Eamon Whalen gets more “ahhhhs” than inventors

The solitary artist is largely a myth. That’s not to discount individual genius, but groups of people i.e movements and scenes, tend to push boundaries and shake balance far more significantly. This seems especially true of rap, where theres nary a new rapper that arrives without some kind of crew to back them them and aesthetic to guide their form.

Basic affiliation and collaboration with someone more well known can do wonders for an otherwise unheralded rapper, but that artist must be similar enough to seem familiar, yet original enough to stand on their own.

For the last three or so years, the Cabrini-Green raised Tree has been on a slow but steady, critically-acclaimed rise with a pair of mixtapes, a recent EP and a slew of production around the Chicago scene. His Muddy Waters croak and stripped-down, north meets south production style makes for some the more distinct rap music one can find. He calls it “Soul-Trap,” and if you keep up with him on social media, branding is of utmost concern.

Enter Chris Crack, a rapper in his early 20s from the West Side of Chicago. He reps The New Deal crew, entirely separate from Soul-Trap, but also serves as Tree’s hype-man during live shows. He recently released TreeSwag, a seven track EP that’s the first in a series of four Tree has planned to produce for other artists, all under the Soul Trap banner.

So just like on the cover of the EP, Tree plays the background, acting as piano man to his former understudy. The production shifts from somewhat generic synth-heavy trap and street rap by Tree’s standards to far more interesting warped high-pitched vocal samples that sound as if they were dug in the same trip Onra made for his Chinoiseries.

Upon first impression, Crack raps in a high register with an aggressive sense of urgency, one that suggests he’s long been ignored and is finally able to say his piece. A confident, eccentric loudmouth, the type to call himself “Jimi Hendrix of this rap shit,” then move to selling guns off of “somethin’ and Madison” and then having sex to MF Doom.

The EP hits it’s sweet spot on opening track, “Cuts”. It is Soul Trap in a nutshell: layered vocal chops, clicking hi-hats and heavy 808s. Crack is at his most furious.

The only time Crack sounds remotely derivative are a few songs where he sports his best impression of Tree’s straight out of church, every-man approach to singing hooks. But admittedly you’d have to be pretty porous vocalist for those to sound tired out.

Football scouts often compliment some running backs ability to carry the ball as if they’re “running downhill.” With Chris Crack, it’s as if he’s rapping downhill, especially on tracks like “Off Da Pot” and “Way Past Pimpin”. His verses build with a remarkable energetic momentum — he has the technical proficiency to keep up with himself.

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