Chali 2na - Fish Outta Water
Record Label: Decon Inc.
Release Date: June 23, 2009
With a nickname spawned by parallels with a propagandist cartoon fish, Chali 2na has found a style so unique, distinctive, and eclectic that his followers can rarely predict his next move. With Fish Outta Water they can rest at ease. By working with DJ NuMark, Cut Chemist, and other familiar collaborators, 2na has managed to use a familiar musical threshold as a vehicle to convey his new skill sets. Without a consistent umbrella of rhymesmiths he sounds a bit naked, but a list of "who's who" guest appearances including Damien and Stephen Marley, Anthony Hamilton, and Talib Kweli add a variety of flows, new ideas, and a breath of fresh air from the billowing baritone's staccato delivery.
In addition to a foreseeable support lineup, Fish Outta Water strays from sterility by interjecting the snippets of soul and altruism that put 2na on the map. His days with the Jurassic 5 are fondly reminisced by long time fans, but in retrospect seem to have been the bottom rung of a latter that progressed to Ozomatli, then escalated to a potentially noteworthy solo career. Though the latter became public with a personalized mix tape that was viewed through a hyper-skeptical lens, this highly anticipated solo debut displays an ability to rekindle acclaim with tracks like "Lock Shit Down" and "Keep Goin'".
Picking up the pieces after a lull in his career (due to a more avid pursuit in visual artistry) took time and effort. Even after Fish Outta Water faced more than one release delay, it is all too likely that avid fans of the Jurassic 5-era Chali 2na will find their way out of the woodwork and share an old favorite with a large group of new listeners. Flintstones epoch symbolism ("Brontosaurus bass sick as Barney Rubble's sweater") and rhymes about life-altering issues such as extramarital sex ("when he opened up the door, it was the sign of his life, saw his brother on the floor with his wife") are small keepsakes that are multiplied by the the overall message. Confidence, especially in the face of struggle, is the ethos of both the album and Chali 2na's career.
The strong persona on the album is highlighted on "Comin' Thru," an anthem that depicts 2na's perception of his place in the current hip-hop game. For one reason or another, when rhymes about stature are pushed through this man's voice box they come across as genuine. It could be the lack of direct bashing, the poetic honesty when speaking on a given topic, or the snippet of his voicemail box on "F.O.W." For all intents and purposes, it's the flawless combination of the three in conjunction with the addition of multitudes of other concepts that unfold more and more with each listen.
Fish Outta Water doesn't come across as fresh; rather, it represents a new game face for Chali 2na that respects his past while setting the footwork for albums to come. It drowns out the agitprop political scenery in a time when it is vital by focusing on the humanitarian concepts that appear as reoccurring riddles throughout a lifespan. Consistent reminders of respect, unity, and basic morality create a welcome barrier that protects a mentality of kindness that we all need to be reassured still exists.