Review: Che Noir, ‘Food for Thought’

The first lady of the underground returns with another offering to let fans know she isn’t going to wait to receive her flowers.

Buffalo rapper Che Noir flipped the game on its head with her magnificent run of projects in 2020, proving the upstate city has more to offer in the music department. It’s not easy being a female rapper in a predominantly male-run industry, but the New York native’s rhymes force listeners to set gender aside when debating their top emcees. Consciously taking the majority of last year off to hone her skills as a producer, Che Noir is back with another outstanding project that allows her dark lyricism to shine over her soul-touching beat selection.

Food for Thought prepares a graceful meal with an exquisite taste that appeals to the hardcore hip-hop fan and leaves them asking for more.

Photography: Instagram/che_noir

The project taps in to the highly spiritual undertones associated with The Last Supper for the main theme and stays true to the commitment by titling each track in accord with the main notion. On the name, Che noted: “Food for Thought is an idiom or phrase that I’ve been living by for some years now. For me, I’m a mental person. I connect spiritually to people, its never really been a physical thing. The physical is what you can see; I’m all about what I can’t see.”

The sacred essence of the project fuels the Buffalo-native to be brutally honest with the subject matter, building a deeper connection between artist and listener. All bets are off as the poetically divine emcee comes face to face with her inner demons on each track. “Communion” finds Che diving into her tragic past head first in a communion format while “Praises” attempts to strike balance in the chaotic events; all while Che manages to stay lyrically sharp and dangerous, pouring everything she has into her bars.

As we see Che Noir confront her problematic past throughout the album, it’s important to note that she acknowledges her worth as a lyrically potent female emcee. “Bless the Food” shows the emcee emphasizing value in her hustling nature through the lyrics (“I got dreams and visions, my passion’s potent / But it’s tricky when your ambition don’t match your focus”) as the star-studded “Ladies Brunch” praises a phenomenal roster of female emcees coming together to uplift their unique status. It is through tracks like these that Che is most confident, reaching new heights in the way she rhymes yet honing in on new ways to approach her records.

Though Che is mostly credited for her immaculate writing, it would be unfair to skip over her immense progression as a producer, laying more than half of the beats used on the album. The production roster features minimal outside contributions aside from beats by Cartune Beatz, Tricky Tripz & Chup the Producer. But the vision is clearer when the artist controls every aspect of the canvas. Che’s attempts at a soul-drenching and spirit-lifting sound is exquisitely executed and contributes to building the spiritual undertones of the theme. Having that close connection to the album’s main notion and sound makes the listening experience authentic, as though it feels like you’re entering the mind of the artist.

Through the thick and thin, the Buffalo emcee manages to triumph over years of generational trauma, strengthening the core of the project’s soul. What Che Noir manages to achieve on Food for Thought is an attempt at closure on a spiritual scale through brutally honest bars about the hardship’s she’s endured. “Communion” best represents this as we find Che confessing her distressing past in the middle of church and how its affected how she operates. From facing the death of close ones to enduring the dangers of her environment, Che’s bravery allows her to display vulnerability without showing any signs of weakness. These are the aspects that contribute to the emotional depth of the record, strengthening the bond shared between the artist and the listener.

In a genre dominated by lyrical kings, the first lady of Buffalo shuts down all competition and shows what good is being a king when you face a god – or goddess. With female rappers coming to the forefront in hip-hop again, Che’s hard-edged lyricism and divine flow provide a voice to a whole generation of young girls – and boys – that come from a rigorous struggle.

8 / 10

Best tracks: “Bless the Food”, “Communion”, “Table for 3”, “Ladies Brunch”, “Praises”