Review: Chuck N Lock Blue Shell Theory

By Alex P80 Parks

Delaware’s Chuck Angus and LockJaw are bringing us a new project since dropping Just Desserts, last September. Blue Shell Theory finds them shining in this EP, showing off their brand of lyrically-complex hip hop. Across 5 tracks, Chuck N Lock spit with purpose and not a wasted bar. Punchlines and metaphors abound, but they’re either thoughtful or pretty funny. And though they never take themselves too seriously, Chuck N Lock also don’t really try to come across as prophetic or overly profound, striking a balance in their content. This balance coincidentally mirrors the concepts and ideas they’ve adopted for this album and perhaps their approach to life. Versatile producer Billy Loman from Boston, lends his remarkable talents here as he produces some rich and textured beats, providing a perfect vibe for this duo. Coming off last year’s EP and several single releases which included top guest features from Crimeapple and Skyzoo, Chuck N Lock are poised to continue their rise and show hip hop fans what they got to offer.

The album begins with a Super Mario Kart starting line sample on “Controlled Burn.” Loman constructs a 90’s-era style thumper that would make Havoc of Mobb Deep proud. Rhymes like: “I earned chunks off the surplus, And you paid to suck like Kirk Cousins” are chuckle-worthy and fitting for these 2 battle-tested emcees.

Koopa Kings” has a mysterious beat with subtle, muffled drums and booming bass.  Unique imagery like “Press forward, and Don’t forget ya set of morals, I’m at headquarters, just prepping this Tesla coil” display the duo’s intent to create a vivid experience for listeners.

Hypochondriacs” is fittingly anxious and paranoid. An eerie loop plays while an echoing piano clinks through the foggy scene. The beat could easily be background music for a creepy 80’s TV murder mystery.  LockJaw spits: “Shift this round the atlas, ya outta practice, this is madness. Let’s infect the masses with these instant classics. That’s why I’m found, usually round rooms with soundproofing. Loud fumes, dropping Crown Jewels that sound cool to ya. Find me down in the vault, yeah we been keepin quiet. In the lab, cultivating this new zika virus.”

The duo describes the term ‘Blue Shell Theory’ as “actually a take on the futility of life, how in any situation albeit first, middle of the pack, or last, an unforeseen event like a blue shell can come in and shake everything up for everybody.” Adding that it’s “just a cool concept to add insight to the way we feel about navigating through all the smoke, mirrors, and bullshit.” Elaborating more about the cover art: While the blue shell represents the chaos and unpredictability of life, “The roses signify stopping to appreciate the things and people while you can.”

Fire Flowers & Rose Water” Loman elevates the vibe with muffled, dirty, and crunchy drums adding a synth-like flute loop which seems to resonate and echo for bars. It’s power lies in the simplicity of the beat. This allows Chuck N Lock to really flex their barwork and for the track to remain focused on their rhymes. They ask: “How many die without smelling the roses?” Lines like these are not just superficial in nature; they tie right into the EP’s concept and leaves the listener with lingering questions.

Victory Lap” is a smooth jazzy and orchestral track with a silky guitar sample and supportive strings. Loman arranges this one perfectly. The balance of the punchy drums with the buttery softness of the Jazz sample creates a triumphant yet slightly melancholy feel for the duo to unleash their complex lines.

Billy Loman doesn’t disappoint on the boards, laying the perfect arrangements without cluttering the beats. He leaves an adequate amount of room to breathe on the tracks for these lyrical emcees to display their talents.

In addition to releasing this EP, they also mentioned a finished project with The Custodian of Records, coming soon in addition to upcoming work with their long-time collaborator Brillo Beats. They also mentioned that they’re working with The Historian and the UK’s FARMA as well.

Blue Shell Theory is a strong EP with excellent production and some sharp, well-thought lyrics. Short, but satisfying, this 5-song endeavor showcases their wide range of vocabulary and intelligent rhymes. Chuck N Lock making smart moves with the right producers should only continue to elevate their craft and their product.

Check this and their other releases on their BandCamp page at:

https://happycampers.bandcamp.com

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