Of all the words you could use to describe Rick Chyme, perhaps the one that best characterizes him is “genuine” – which is important, given his purview. Anyone espousing the type of unapologetic positivity he does, but failing to meet that bar of authenticity, would be dismissed as a one dimensional cliché, gimmicky, or worse; corny. And yet the enigmatic, tall & lanky Michigan-based MC is as plainly genuine as his beard is long.
If you’re unfamiliar with Rick or Nixon, then you haven’t been paying attention to the local music scene. Even if you’ve somehow missed them, you’ve probably bumped into their made up word somewhere along the line – and either shouted, or had shouted at you: “5IVEIT!!”.
Veterans of the Michigan music scene, their new album Bald Since Birth represents their latest entry in a lengthy and respectable catalog. It also represents a significant and surprising change in tone for those familiar with their previous work.
Now would be a good time for a disclaimer: I’ve known both Rick and Nixon for years and consider them friends. Like any good writer, I do everything in my power to remain objective, but no one is entirely immune to bias. I mention that history here to convey just how surprised I was after my first full listen to Bald Since Birth.
Despite my personal history (and familiarity) with their previous work, I wasn’t expecting the heavy, cerebral, nuanced work presented in Bald Since Birth. A marked departure from earlier efforts, this new album finds Rick exploring a much more personal narrative, addressing issues of mental illness, family, and failed relationships. He also addresses attempts to reconcile a growing public identity as an uplifting and positive force in the lives of children with his own fears of being unworthy of the recognition he receives for it.
5iveit, this is not.
Somehow I’ve become a symbol now / parents stop us, telling us ‘thank you for helping Cindy out’ / I’m honored and I’m humbled no question but to be honest / I’m unsure if I’m who she should look up to but still I promise… – Amaya’s Scowl
Helping to keep the heavier subject matter balanced, Nixon took to the boards to turn in some of his best work to date. Beyond crafting every instrumental on the record, he also serves as a creative sparring partner (and arbiter) for Rick’s lyrical output.
Discussing the record with Rick, he was quick to give credit to the many choices Nixon made in shaping the sonic aesthetic. From creative uses of panning, repeats, and pacing to his ability to marry Rick’s verses and choruses with the underlying tracks, Nixon has crafted an album you can listen to over and over without fatigue.
The chemistry between the two is beyond obvious, as shown by their litany of work together, and in this instance, it’s absolutely vital to the success of the record. An album this personal, stripped of the interesting, layered, and driving instrumentals Nixon provided, would run the risk of losing the listener.
Conversely, you almost can’t imagine a beat like “Amaya’s Scowl” hosting any lyrics other than the ones Rick puts over it. Bald Since Birth is a perfect example of two very talented people pushing each other to their best places.
Immediately noticeable about this record, and unlike Nixon and Rick’s other collaborations, is the fact that beyond some harmonica work from Griff, it features no other artists. There isn’t a guest verse or chorus to be found anywhere.
Asking Nixon about this choice, he explained that it wasn’t a conscious decision not to include others, but that as the record began to take shape and it’s subject matter became more defined – it would’ve been almost disruptive to feature anyone else. I think this was a very wise decision. One of the things I enjoy most about the album is that it feels like a “baring of the soul” to an extent, and any additional voices would’ve only served to muddy those waters.
It should be noted however, that this album is not entirely deep-thought and personal subject matter. Although you’d be hard pressed to categorize any of the songs as “bangers,” real hip hop heads will find more than enough head-nodding beats and lyricism to keep them locked in.
“Pull Me Back” features an absolutely hypnotic, chanting chorus over a diffuse and distorted guitar riff perfectly placed by Nixon. Rick is at his best making it sound almost effortless, skipping back and forth between complex rhyme schemes while riding the off-beat and echoing the melody in his phrasing. In terms of technical precision, it’s almost flawless – while remaining incredibly interesting and engaging; a very difficult line to walk.
Con-tin-ue like metalsmith school for felons / trying to find my heart, Dorothy’s claiming she isn’t jealous… – Selfpsychoanalyis
There is no getting away from the fact that this is a very personal record, but that shouldn’t be confused with it being one dimensional. Rick and Nixon manage to meld the very personal, at times vulnerable, and consistently honest lyrics with extremely addictive beats, catchy choruses, and a keen sense of pacing that results in a uniquely engaging album.
For all of its heady depth, the album closes on the perfectly orchestrated and optimistic note of “Today.” Like a well-timed palette cleanser, “Today” sees Rick looking forward to another day, and invites listeners to look for the best in any or every day.
This is classic Rick Chyme: humble, grateful, and name-checking the many people who inspire and motivate him daily, and it leaves you wishing you knew all the people Rick mentions in the song. Moreover, it makes you stop and wonder about whether or not you’ve been appreciating the people in your life enough.
This is a testament to the power of Rick’s message. At his best, Rick inspires us all to find the best versions of ourselves, and (perhaps more importantly) to be that person every single day. It’s a tall order, and with Bald Since Birth, Rick acknowledges that he doesn’t always measure up to his own message – but we begin to understand that the point isn’t in whether or not we meet the mark, but that we try and keep trying.
It’s not a new concept, but it’s a timeless message that Rick and Nixon manage to put their own spin on.
“We become our routines”
“Every line means just what it means”
“Every person’s important, that I’m sure of”
Rick’s philosophy is simple and without pretension, and Bald Since Birth is a perfect vessel for it, one that deserves to find heavy rotation in any music fan’s library.