I’ll be real: at first I dismissed these dudes, mostly because their music seemed underwhelming to me compared to the marketing copy, which still talks about them like they’re gonna be all things to all people, this confusing angle about not being gangsta OR backpackers, conscious but not nerdy, etc! Post-‘benz and a backpack’ that was just too bandwagon for me.

But that’s unfair because I think their music is actually good, and the copy is just selling it short. They were signed to Universal this year and two new tracks just leaked, “Favorite Things” and “Chocolate Tie,” following in Kanye/Twista’s footsteps by rolling with smooth and soulful grown-n-sexy mature style. Although most of the tracks I’ve heard slot comfortably in this vein, I’m looking forward to the album if only because of how ambitious they come across in interviews.

Qualo – My Favorite Things
I’m not wild about the interpolation for the chorus but the rapping is on point, Twista-style double-time and rolling, inspired production. A little bit of entertaining narcissism: “Gettin’ head to my own damn song.”

Qualo – Chocolate Tie
Here’s a quick take: “Post-“Slow Jamz,” Qualo pull off a mature trick recycling neo-soul with unexpected vibrancy.” This has quietly become the sound of Chicago – Rhymefest’s new album has Cool&Dre, Mark Ronson and Chicago producer No ID among others, and between those tracks, “Brand New,” Qualo, Common’s (mostly boring) Be, Lupe Fiasco, GLC and Bump J singles, it seems like this new Chicago underground is reveling in that Kanye-inspired smooth, relaxed & ‘soulful’ vibe that allows chart-ambition, underground style boom-bap/nostalgia. Right now I think its a style worth exploiting, but it could easily become insular and dull if some folks don’t step up and do something totally different on the production tip.

We’ll just have to see who gets out of the gate first, and if any of these neo-Chicago dudes can move from semi-hype to platinum. (The real question, then, is – where are Traxster, CWAL mob, EC Illa? Stay tuned.)

Here’s their song with Twista.
Qualo feat. Twista – I Ain’t a Pimp

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