Very impressed by this French rapper whose voice pitch is in the perfect window between Jay-Z and Big Daddy Kane. At this point in time I won’t lend an ear to anyone above the Sadat-X octave. (Eminem, I’m not looking at you). I find rap voices need bass tones. Ichon has bass tones.
Ichon also has the overground producer sensation Myth Syzer on the boards, whose style is right in the pocket of current electro-influenced Timbaland-derived a-la-Drake R&B rap. Not always acceptable to purists but aspirations to pop are fine with me, specially when they seem secretly like self-sabotage. Ichon tries to be pop in a way Redman will never be, and never tried. The macho bravado is too grating to even gain consideration from corporate radio stations.
And that’s the strength here. Ichon can deliver verses with astounding acumen and athletic stamina. He wouldn’t be out of a place on a New York street corner where neighborhood thugs light blunts, taking turns to spit in a cypher. The problem is, he also wants to sing. The verdict is, it works sometimes.
But beyond technical prowess and limitations, Ichon displays the versatile humanity of a true artist. His music is relatable, emotional, and sincere precisely because he can balance his strengths and weaknesses. “Go” is a club anthem the way Jay-Z used to make them, with street energy inside the club (“Put Your Hands Up”, 1999 ).
“Backstage” is an atonal drill-like attempt at a beat, salvaged only by Ichon’s cartoonish flow and voice modulations (Loveni’s contribution is dismissable as usual, unless you want to wonder why meek voices attempt to rap).
The opener, “Tennessee”, sets the tone for what could be a conceptual album of Atlanta-derived sedated R&B trap music in French. Emulation is a good skill to have, and Ichon’s series of Future-inspired non-sequiturs reveal a surrealistic aesthetic, close to Outkast’s mid-career albums. It features a relatively unknown African rapper, Vent Chi, whose stutter, pause-and-go rap style gives the song mystical overtones.
The closer, “Pour De Vrai” is straight from the late 90’s Tribe Called Quest/Slum Village beat book. Ichon’s sing-along rap style works best precisely when it recalls the soulful a-la-Roots vibes of Mos Def (Umi Says, Travellin’ Man).
A solid release, labeled a mixtape, but plays like an album. I’ve had it on constant rotation since I received it, and would definitely take it for more spins as the year winds down. Ichon shows he can be reflective, careless, focused, and free, all at once, and that’s inspiring.