Harrisburg hip hop artist Chames (Jon Chambers) primarily tackles global projects – themes which involve the majority of humanity and for the most part empowers people. He pulled it off brilliantly and intelligently with the release of the “Siddhartha’s Revelations” mixtape, and now comes back with his 2017 ten track project, “Self-Actualization”. “We are living in a time of great divisiveness, judgment, and fear,” explains Chames, in the mixtape’s liner notes. “We all want the same thing, and that thing is happiness. We point the finger at things in our external environment, and believe that we’ll be happy once everything changes according to our will. The truth is that the journey to happiness begins with the self. Be the change you want to see in the world. This mixtape is a musical depiction of that inward spiritual journey.”
This mixtape contains pretty much everything that I look for in a body of work: Versatility, lyrical content, style, beat selection, and storytelling. I also really appreciate how Chames has some sort of a positive message in almost all of his songs (some of which are less obvious then others) and still be able to make them sound great even by mainstream standards.
There is a very good balance between the types of songs he has, meaning that the mixtape isn’t overly contemplative or playful. Chames has many different styles, his voice is clear, the beats match his personality almost perfectly, and he manages to hit you with deep, intelligent, and interesting lyrics and metaphors throughout the entire album. I would say that Chames has definitely solidified himself as one of the top underground conscious MCs with this mixtape.
To be honest Chames is at the forefront of a revival of real hip hop and by that I mean poetry from the heart not A&R dictated themes that conform to a corporate model about being radio friendly and marketable. The worst thing about today’s music is the message its either dumbed down nonsense over hypnotic production or some studio gangster who shoots all day and night and never reloads his guns.
That’s not the case here; this is that pure form that started the love for this music in the first place. And that feeling hits you right from the opening track “Inside You feat. Ellis (prod. DG Beats)” with its atmospheric piano-driven beat. At the same time you will be impressed with Chames’ easy-going flow.
To even think this mixtape gets better from thereon out is almost frightening, but such is the case. “Pray For Me feat. J-Hunta (prod. Beatfella)” delivers a stunningly catchy beat that has its hook in a mesmerizing saxophone line. Chames is a thoughtful writer, making sense of human sciences and unorthodox philosophies with elastic rhyme schemes, gently massaging them to suit grand proclamations about society’s shortcomings or personal explorations for spirituality.
His mixtapes often boast heart-wrenching rap songs, and on “Self-Actualization” the 26-year-old rapper has not strayed from the confessional and introspective brand of stargazing that make him one of rap’s most interesting voices.
Here he emerges as rap’s preeminent intellectual, besting most of his peers by upping the ante with sensational bars and soulful beats. Catch it on “Nobody Knows feat. Nick Arter (prod. One Tone)”, “No Tomorrow (prod. Kid Jimi)” and “Listen to the Kids feat. Uncle Barack”. The wordplay, the concepts, the instrumentals, everything on this project is exactly what the doctor ordered for the genre.
This is Chames coming out of the gates to show the world he is not messing around. This is Chames showing the world that no matter how bad things may seem, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. He does a great job of expressing his emotions through his clever wordplay that makes the listener sit down and pay attention to what he is saying to truly find out what he means.