Chill Smith was inspired by “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” and “Black Panther” to create his new EP, “Friendly Neighborhood Rhyme Slinger,” which looks at racism, homophobia and other social ills through the eyes of a black superhero. PHOTO BY CONNI FREESTONE
Unlike most of his rap brethren, Chill Smith is not afraid to express vulnerability, which on his latest EP, “Friendly Neighborhood Rhyme Slinger,” ironically is in the role of a black superhero, Spider-Blackman. Inspired by “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” and “Black Panther,” the Jersey Shore rapper inserts himself among a cast of comic book characters that include Superman, Clark Kent, Kingpin, Danny Rand, Mary Jane Watson, Scorpion, Poison Ivy, Deathstroke, Skeletor, Mumm-Ra, Bruce Wayne, and, of course, Peter Parker and Spidey
Recorded at the rapper’s Chillville Studio in Bayville and co-produced by Bravestarr and Urban Nerd Beats, “Rhyme Slinger” opens with “Superhero Shit!,” the Makin Waves Song of the Week at AsburyMusic.com, Radio Jersey and the Makin Waves Spotify and YouTube playlists. The opener looks at how the black community is filled with superheroes who survive poverty, starvation, systematic unemployment, a racially biased criminal justice system, and the bullets of corrupt, racist cops. I love these lines: “No Black Atom or Black Tom or black man. I’m just a black boy with a mask on to get my platform to be a superhero on a rap song” and “Chill Smith, I’m red hot. I’m the Ice Man and the Human Torch. What you so fantastic for?”
On “Battle against Skeletor & Mumm-Ra,” villains from Masters of the Universe and Thundercats, Chill brings the superhero to the dance floor with a hypnotic chorus and irresistible beat, while criticizing black celebrities, such as shameful Bill Cosby and clueless Oprah Winfrey. The three-song outing’s closing “Superman>Krytonite” makes a statement about anxiety and depression in comparison to the interplanetary substance that can kill the Man of Steel. Yet, the tune sports an optimistic outlook as an expression of the superhero that can be found in each of us surviving day-to-day in an increasingly hostile and cruel world. I particularly like the last verse, which may be the EP’s strongest: “Listen! You know life’s a mission. Fuck humble or being submissive. My main goal is to live and take out super villains. Maybe that’s my power: self-expression. Take all these lyrics I wrote and make a weapon – target homophobes and bigots, fight depression. Probably want me down on the ground. I won’t let them. Be like Bruce Wayne, when he climbed out the pit. Be all Superman. Kryptonite ain’t shit!”
Prolifically chill, the rapper already has followed up the EP with a single, “Blasphemy,” which compares the peacefulness of creativity to heaven and everlastingness of art to Jesus. An LP will follow in September and sandwich gigs on Sept. 6 at Black Suburbia Music Group’s Suburbia Fridays at Asbury Park Music Foundation and Oct. 5 at FM Bar in Jersey City for Makin Waves’ JC AP Mash Up, the lineup for which also will include Murdock. The JC rapper has a similar manic, breathless vocal style and a deep passion for comic books and super heroes. I hope to the Rock Gods they collab on some superhero shit! That bill also will feature Cyclone Static, Experiment 34, Chris Rockwell and an act to be named later.
Bob Makin is the reporter for MyCentralJersey.com/entertainment and a former managing editor of The Aquarian Weekly, which launched this column in 1988. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. And like Makin Waves at www.facebook.com/makinwavescolumn.