Ché Noir is not a rapper you want to miss out on – Noir Or Never is a condensed lyrical plummet into a real, raw life with no delusions or insincerity to be found backed by Big Ghost Ltd‘s dirty throwback production.

Release date: March 3, 2023 | Poetic Movement Records | Ché Noir Instagram | Twitter | Big Ghost Ltd Instagram | Bandcamp

I really need rap fans to understand something: for as much as I love them, Buffalo, NY is more than the Griselda boys. I really don’t like the discussions that tend to happen around women who are rappers – those like Megan Thee Stallion, Latto, GloRilla, and now Ice Spice often have their skills and relevancy (sometimes even their humanity) lessened, especially when compared to their male counterparts, and double especially if they are comfortable with their sexuality and show it off. You are not forced to enjoy these artists or others like them as a hollow act of feminist support, but the discourse is undoubtably poisoned by textbook misogyny and the need to pit women against other women as if there can only be one in the spotlight. This ain’t Highlander.

If you’re honestly hard up when it comes to women who rap, I got a list for you and you’ll find Ché Noir high up on it. Here she is, not even 30 yet and doing big things with peers she’s garnered a huge amount of respect – and stellar features – from. I’ve been aware of her for a while, but fully on board ever since her Food For Thought album from last year which was a dense yet approachable feast for rap fans. Now she has one of the greatest gritty, grimy producers in recent years, Big Ghost Ltd, in tow for a tape/album that’s already on my shortlist for 2023’s best.

Noir Or Never is 22 minutes of raw rap realness. Noir knows no other way to keep it. It’s here that you’ll find some of her most burning bars yet, enthused by a life lived hard and fast. “Quiet Moves” starts with the following bars:

‘The ni**as that y’all hype, I feel like they don’t rap that nice
Trash bag rhymes, nah ni**a, pass that mic
And if you clap once at me, then I’mma clap back twice
And watch your body on the news as I relax at night’

But just as quick as Noir’s words put a crosshair on your dome and fire off with heartless intent, she’s liable to switch it up and show where her heart truly lies, baring soul by detailing immense loss as far back as when, as she puts it, ‘still had cartoons on my panties‘. No matter the mood, Big Ghost Ltd is bringing some awesome production to the table, specializing in boom-bap grit that a Griselda associate would own real estate on (and never forget, he was there at the very beginning). Sulky soul and jazz samples permeate most beats here with some neutral tones to be found here and there (“Resilient” and “Veracruz” stand out with almost sunny beats by comparison), but its majority is sullen and grey like an autumn sky as if bled of all color but not vibrancy. Even the darkest cloud houses extraordinary detail and texture.

Speaking of “Veracruz”, I can’t hold back any longer – this is the best rap song I’ve heard this year. It leads off with a featured verse from 7xvethegenius (pronounced ‘love the genius’), another immaculate standout from Buffalo and honestly, this is my current verse of the year. Her flow is godlike, confidence maxed out, rhyme scheme layered and ceaseless, wordplay is beyond solid – it all adds up to a feature that just edges out Noir on her own track, but her verse is similarly styled, not to be outdone by a cherished peer.

This is a regular occurrence as far as Noir’s approach goes. “Quiet Moves” is one of the nastiest tracks on here with a slurred beat rife with snappy drums and doomed piano licks. Aside from the antagonistic bars I quoted above, her lyrics are all over the place, but never falter, another favorite being a reference to the racial disparity and segregation still prevalent in modern society – ‘They wanna see us fail, it never was fair/Blacks on one side and whites on the other, that’s Cruella de Vil‘. Love a good double entendre.

Even as Noir spars with – not against – other hard-bodied rappers like the unmistakable 38 Spesh and the prolific street-as-fuck Ransom, it’s wholly apparent how much she stands out among the brouhaha and not just in the obvious ways. For better or worse, she’s more than earned her keep by living a life that demands a hardening to survive and a reflective mind that’s likely more marred by trauma than many rappers care to admit. Still, Noir’s resolve is steeled, seemingly unfazed by critique and adversity alike. It’s slice-of-life by way of a more literal interpretation that the word ‘slice’ might conjure up.

‘Where are all the good female rappers at?‘ Motherfucker, right in front of you, just look. Ché Noir is insistent this has all been a warmup for an album set to drop later this year. Even removed from that, she’s a remarkably proficient rapper and has been for a long while now. Big Ghost Ltd‘s reputation precedes him and he’s such a good fit with Noir. As she gets her producer chops up, she stands poised to be a deadly double threat, able to execute her art from any angle she wishes. These are the kind of artists that deserve their props and recognition while they ramp up to and marinate in their prime. Let’s just say I’m on my way to the florist to give them their flowers while they’re still around to smell them.

David Rodriguez

David Rodriguez

"I came up and so could you, and fuck the boys in blue" - RMR

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