Shark Wrestling: Chris $pencer Keep Killing

Douglas Martin takes a look at 'Blessed,' the latest from Vic Spencer and Chris Crack.
By    August 24, 2017

chris spencer

Cats are hating on Douglas Martin and missing moments.

As the individual careers of snarling, microphone destroying Chicago beasts Vic Spencer and Chris Crack continue to burrow up through the soil and dirt of the underground, there’s a part of them reticent to indulge in the spoils of their rising status in the rap game. On Blessed, both Spencer and Crack are just as suspicious of overly solicitous fanboys as they are of dismissive haters and opportunistic peers. Rather, so-called peers who feel their talent measures up to or even supersedes that of either man. At this point, there aren’t many artists in rap that can truly say they measure up to Crack or Spencer bar for bar.

Both men possess great talents they display independently (read: Vic’s skill for detailed narrative, Crack’s haunted introspection), but come together primarily in the service of steamrolling beats and blunts.

There’s Crack, in a Prada ascot and snorting eight-balls in twenty minutes, with a cracked howl when he’s feeling a little joyful, while later wearing a mink in Los Angeles whose lining is as “hot as two bears fucking.” On “Numb,” Spencer wears pineapple-colored alligator shoes while listening to the O’Jays and the Whispers and makes fun of cats that listen to Coldplay in 2017. (Such a proposition was dicey even ten years ago, but I’m guilty of that sin and have since repented for it.)

Blessed opens with Crack and Spencer triumphantly stepping on a rooftop alongside an Ugly Boy Modeling chorus referencing rap songs of fairly recent vintage like they’re baggies of dope. Spencer’s got a duffle bag full of money on the table and cracking lobster tails like clavicles. Crack’s pimp hand is charged up, and his eyes are looking forward to a Fader cover. Both rappers suffer other rappers’ bad breath and bad music, their proclivity to hate on them just because they’re increasingly successful, and indulge in those rappers and haters’ mothers’ pie, both literal and euphemistic.

There’s such a wealth of moving images gliding through the ghostly, warped synths of “Bacon.” Crack speaks on his trap house being raided, David Gray putting him onto game (presumably not the guy who released White Ladder, but he may have a few tips for kicking bars to a girl if ever you’re backstage at Top of the Pops), and boasting more goons than Bumpy J, which is a very lofty claim, to say the very least. Spencer drags his 16,000-pound pen and pad to the workplace of your mother and proceeds to receive brains like the 1974 Chevy Nova in Pulp Fiction.

Chris $pencer exists in that time-honored tradition of writing acerbic bars in the service of making other men very insecure about themselves. But that’s what bad guys do, right? Neither Spencer nor Crack ever work under the pretense of riding in white hats. On “Shark Wrestling,” Crack spits, “Hell yeah, I’m a wolf if these niggas is sheep.” There’s something lost in translation when rappers are too congenial, too welcoming. Rap was made to be antagonistic and confrontational.

Exhibiting musical adventurousness ever since they flipped Screaming Jay Hawkins’ eternal classic “I Put a Spell on You” to cross-reference “Kick in the Door” and turned it into the thumping “No Biggie,” Chris $pencer are no strangers to filtering disparate sounds through their vision and turning it into music they sound completely natural over.

Here, they’re snarling and snipping at whatever comes within striking range over classic soul loops, foreign singer/songwriters, lounge pianos, syncopated rhythms, and ethereal R&B. The voice of Spencer, fresh off turning down a couple record deals, provides a low rumble that sits perfectly alongside Crack’s growling croak.

The height of their powers are best exemplified on the fatal one-two punch of “Trash Bin” and “Shark Wrestling.” There are girls making their jeans talk, a shout out to Big Tigger, the rattle of Spencer’s wisdom tooth, smoking out Logan Square bars with MF DOOM, Breaking Bad only with crack, “niggas that act stupid (“tell a dumb nigga ‘stay woke’ and they flat clueless”), Donald Faison, banging Mystic Stylez (The Ringer really dropped the ball on that one), and “accumulating status and that’s with no deal, bitch!”

You don’t need a near-800-word review to immerse yourself in the fruits of Chris Crack and Vic Spencer’s collaboration. They truly are kindred spirits, but that doesn’t always make for great rap music. Having great chemistry usually does, as does the ability to shine the light of your personality onto something the other is bringing in. Blessed, by a short distance, is a better album than Who the Fuck is Chris $pencer. It’s not so much an outright improvement as a refinement of their talents, and the single-minded focus of having an album full of ridiculous bars. That’s an art a lot of cats sleep on.

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