By Daniel Paiz
Sometimes A Week’s Worth Review takes a gamble and picks a wild card artist and/or album to review. This week takes us across the pond to checking out Denise Chaila’s newest release entitled GO Bravely. These 11 tracks are an intriguing listen for me, as I hadn’t heard of Chaila until incredibly recently.
For some reason the comparison I want to make for this emcee is one many might conclude is a contradiction. If you’re a fan of one artist I’m thinking of, you might not like the other artist coming to mind; and of course, vice versa. For some reason, my first instinct is to state my odd comparison. That is to say, Chaila kind of reminds me of both Noname and J Cole.
Hear me out before heading down to the comments section
Noname’s delivery and wittiness are not duplicated often. Chaila doesn’t deliver her rhymes like Noname either. It’s just, that’s who I think of when I hear these rhymes. The J Cole part arises in terms of the instrumentation and musicality. I suppose there might be some similarities in storytelling abilities as well, but for me it’s the sonic side of things.
Like I said, fans of one and not the other might emphatically disagree. Fans of both might laugh at the irony if they hear what I hear. What makes Chaila stand out is her range of strength and vulnerability and how subtle it all truly is.
For starters there’s are some bars that are just like…did I hear/read that correctly? Spin that back. When an artist makes me listen to something again out of a curiosity to make sure I heard things right, that’s skill. Chaila does so on Chaila:
Broke cycles every time that I spoke so I took the training wheels off
Tour de France, covered new ground for all the hope that pain cost
Not all who wander lose their faith and not all who wander are lost
I know my heart and I know my name and I know the path that I walk-verse 3 on Chaila
The first line is the scene grabber, as it’s a double entendre that’s hiding in plain sight. This is what Chaila does in her music, sneak in lines that are seemingly ordinary; upon second look it’s like oh my…okay I get it now. It’s not every double entendre either that’s as seemingly ordinary when it’s first rapped. There’s no pattern to when a line is emphasized and when it isn’t, which I think is part of what leads a repeat listening.
Immigrant narratives aren’t a monolith
This Limerick-based rapper is like many immigrant persons: a story that’s not the typical narrative. The Zambian-Irish rapper arrived in Ireland with her family from Zambia as a youngster. There’s reflections of these two identities throughout her rhymes, but they aren’t performative lyrics that many stereotypically expect. Figuring out one’s identity isn’t always going to be a public process, but when it is there’s no one right way to go about it.
Weaving one’s family background and experiences growing up is difficult enough without unveiling how two cultures interact. The Limerick rapper shows how she’s done just that on the third track Rí Rá:
I do the dam thing like Ardnacrusha
I’m too Kaunda too Mandela
Too Seán nós and too griot
Too Fionn MacCumhaill too Sidhe and
Skip to my Angelou
I only, I only answer to
I made a promise to never limit my view
Why keep the gate when I could walk through it
Why Spin the track when I could pirouette
Walking down these emerald isles
I’ll bet my family name on this
I don’t die on hills I move mountains
I know my joy is in Zion
Set my intentions then lap them-verse 2 on Rí Rá
For American rap fans some of the names listed above might not be that familiar. The point is the converging of impactful people and cultures that are intersecting for said rapper. The effortless feeling I get from hearing these lines delivered is another part of the draw to this project. When unveiling who she is, she both has critiques for whatever topic is on deck while also deciding on where the narrative is going.
Lately it’s felt like some rap I’ve heard has been one or the other, which adds to the appeal Chaila clearly has.
Go Bravely listen
The final verdict on listening to this album is it should already be in your search bar. The replay factor of this project matches only a handful of other tapes out in 2020, and all of those other tapes are from Hip-Hop veterans. That’s big for a newer artist. Venturing outside of your normal soundscape is so important, especially when it comes to exploring your favorite genre. Ireland might not be a place one expects emcees out of, but Denise Chaila is one of several who is changing that narrative.