South Seattle native and resident Chev’s new EP, Avalon, is a short, earnest rumination on hard-earned hope. The EP follows the rapper’s 2011 debut, the slept-on album Charles. At the time, Chev’s name was familiar to many via guest verses on songs from the city’s two most visible groups: Common Market’s “Certitude” and the Blue Scholars’ “NxNW Remix,” which featured production from Jake One and a verse from Macklemore. The rapper still shares an affinity for brightly hued, time-tested beats with those past collaborators, but while the aforementioned groups use the template for wide-lens social critique, Chev gazes inward; he writes memoirs of a person deeply affected by the systemic forces swirling around him.
The MC’s voice carries a natural heft, and it must, because Chev rarely says anything lightly. It’s apparent that big questions—of loyalty, growth, empathy and human connection—are never far from his mind. The songs play out his internal struggle to gain a perspective he can live with. That’s why Chev’s brand of positivity resonates more than that of the beers-and-barbecue rap that Seattle has produced ad-infinitum over similar production. For him, hope itself is something to be nurtured, respected and earned because hopelessness is an equally viable option.
Redefinition is a theme. The title is a nod to Avalon Ridge, the low-income housing complex in Renton that he lived in during the mid-’90s. On “New Life,” he wonders whether we can “evaluate then redefine hustling, ’cause right now what it means is disgusting.” Later, on “Thousand Stars,” he asks, “If this is how it is, and none of us co-sign, then what we about to do to make it work and redefine?” These moments recur and reveal the EPs heart: a man deeply concerned about the health of his community.
This full-heartedness is a strength, but at times it dulls the music’s potency. Chev doesn’t preach, but in his efforts to convey emotional weight, he sometimes describes his feelings rather than the specific details that create them. In these moments his beats, which depend on their ability to execute an established form, struggle to maintain momentum.
That said, Avalon is a heartening listen. The majority of its production, handled by Portland’s Angel Morales, encourages receptive, open ears. Its songs, anchored by full-voiced hooks sung by vocalist Camila Recchio, and supported by able guest spots from Ra Scion, Qwel, La and Chima, remind us of Seattle’s capacity for self-aware, trend-damning sincerity.