When I was a kid my teachers would call my mom into school and tell her, “he’s got such potential, if only he’d pay attention he could really be something.” Damn, I’d get furious when I heard that. Allow me to channel my inner-Kanye for a moment: it wasn’t that I didn’t want to be something, it was that I didn’t want to be their something. I knew I was smart but I wasn’t interested in reading Dickens, I was interested in listening to Common.
Read some other reviews of Hurricane Chris’ debut album 51/50 Ratchet and you’ll find the word “potential” plastered all over the place. The Louisiana native came out of nowhere to drop a song so popular even my grandma holla's out “Ay Bay Bay!” at the nursing home. Hurricane Chris didn’t come alone, he brought a whole ratchet culture with him. Part crunk, part hyphy and all Louisiana, ratchet music is heavy on the kind of bass and swagger that has older hip-hop heads calling Chris a one-hit wonder while moaning the death of hip-hop. Do they have a point, or should they shut up and get down with the new ish?
If you haven’t heard Ay Bay Bay you’re probably living in the same cave as Bin Laden. It’s no mystery why the song smashed, it’s got all the components: a slinking and stuttering beat, an addictive catchphrase, and an MC with easily memorized lyrics soaked in style. Hurricane Chris deserves more credit for Bay Bay’s success than he’s gotten. He can legitimately flow and he proves it among some pretty heavy company on the obligatory "Ay Bay Bay" remix. Chris sounds like a boy among men next to the track’s veteran roster (the short list includes The Game, E-40, and Jadakiss) but at 19 years old that’s exactly what he is. Chris isn’t on their level yet but he does have some—dare I say it—potential.
That is as long as he does better than "Hand Clap." I really want to defend Chris against one-hit wonder status, but it’s hard when "Hand Clap" hasn’t even cracked the top 50 charts. There’s a fine line between catchy and annoying and this song crosses it. More than a minute of this beat and I don’t want to clap my hands, I want to throw up in my mouth. Chris doesn’t help his cause any with lyrics that literally quote “row, row, row your boat,” but everyone’s allowed to make the occasional mistake. A better choice for a second single would have been "Walk Like That," a stomping and grinding track with the appeal at least somewhere in the same neighborhood as "Ay Bay Bay." The synth-heavy beat is tight enough to set off a club—I can see the dances now—and Chris’ flow is enough to keep it moving. So lyrical content isn’t his strong point, witness “I walk this way cause I got a lump in my pants,” so what? At his best Chris can spit with a precision that echoes none other than Luda.
What does this all mean for Hurricane Chris’ future? Stardom or obscurity? Frankly, it could go either way. "Doin’ My Thang" boils with some serious heat; I’ll still guarantee the track will suffer the same fate as Huey’s "Aye" or Mims’ "Like This"; decent follow-up songs that never went anywhere. The most memorable thing about "Doin’ My Thang" is Chris’ use of one of the stranger boasts in hip-hop history, “I got the pants from Pakistan, so expensive that they came in a can.” What!? Someone, please explain that to me.
On the flip side is "Getting Money" which despite its painfully generic title is surprisingly unique. Guest singer Nicole Wray keeps the soaring production firmly grounded with a beautifully dirty chorus and Chris comes with his strongest lyrics on the album, touching on everything from his parents’ divorce to the need to prove haters wrong. Where is this rapper on the rest of 51/50? If this version of Chris showed up on the Mr. Collipark produced track "Playas Rock" it’d be a hit, the same goes for "Touch Me." Unfortunately, Chris resorts to the same thug-love rhyme styles already used by rappers like Plies.
So who’s the real Hurricane Chris? The forgettably gimmicky rapper or the technically skilled and creative MC? The sky’s the limit for Hurricane Chris, I’m just not sure he’ll even make it off the ground.