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Food For Thought is the confident debut studio album from Buffalo’s own Ché Noir. Words by Jon Reynolds. 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – Lyrical Dexterity 4/5

⏱⏱⏱ – Longevity 3.5/5

??? – Production 3/5

??? – Overall 3.5/5

Long before Undisputed co-host Shannon Sharpe dismissed Buffalo as having no recognisable rapping talent, there was a burgeoning rap scene spearheaded by Griselda. This was back in 2019 when Ché was building her name with collaborative projects As God Intended and Juno. In 2022, however, the city’s stock has skyrocketed and Ché Noir’s first full-length LP is her own entry in an underground anthology finally reaching the masses.

The album’s concept is loosely defined in the intro track ‘Eat To Live (Intro)’ where Ché asserts that the body requires more than tangible sustenance – it needs mental and spiritual connection. This culinary idiom unfurls across a concise nine tracks (and three skits) which unpack the role of family, friends, and lovers on her journey.

‘Ladies Brunch’ is a rap masterclass from three distinct voices in Ché and guests 7xvethegenius and Griselda mainstay Armani Caesar. Switching up her flow as frequently as she can over a self-produced string-heavy loop, it is no wonder Ché boasts “best rapper alive, shit I’m better than the dead ones too”. Elsewhere on ‘Bless The Food’, Ché flexes her pen game, as she waxes lyrical about her mentality and grounding in religion. This track’s metaphor neatly ties into the concept: by putting God at the centre of everything, whatever struggle or disadvantage she encounters, she can “make an empire from it”.

Whilst Ché outsources production on a few track to artists like Tricky Trippz on the sonic highlight ‘Split The Bread’, the beats are inconsistent and at times painfully similar (think ‘Ladies Brunch’ followed by ‘Praises’). Production on her 2020 EP ‘After 12’ felt tighter and more varied, but she might be forgiven for having attempted too much too soon on this LP.

Where Ché does revert to braggadocio on tracks like ‘Brains For Dinner’, she does so deftly, explaining her desire to out-hustle those around her: “since a kid I been sick in the head, I never talked to my peers I just whispered instead, head was overflowing with thoughts sometimes it dripped when I slept”. The competitive streak she and veteran rappers Ransom and 38 Spesh show on lead single ‘Table For 3’ add nuance to the metaphorical dish she’s serving.

Food For Thought is at its most poignant on the closing track ‘Communion’, an instrumentally-light track flush with engaging testimonies of alcohol and sexual abuse, and the trauma of losing her brother. It is no surprise that Che’s pen game is sharpest when she recounts these: “pain so deep sometimes my way to heal is to ignore it, happiness comes at a price and I still cannot afford it”.

This is a self-assured album from a rapper unwilling to lean on the well-trodden tropes of being a female rapper, instead telling stories both powerful and relatable. Food For Thought will likely make its way into year-end lists come December, but for now, it deserves its flowers as a conceptually sound body of work and a defining moment in Che’s career.

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