Chuck Olsen sure is a guy with clear ideas.
Originally a baseball player in NCAA Division 1, he quickly decided this wasn’t for him. So he turned his attention full-time to the passion he’s been pursuing since he was 14 – Hip Hop.
His latest album Blurred Ambitions is an 11 track affair he’s produced over the past year. And it’s certainly ambitious in scope. The album features a bunch of guest appearances by fellow New York-based Hip Hop artists Isaiah Velez, Alyssa Quintana and Samizdat amongst others. But despite the various guest rappers, Olsen’s vision and production skills shine through. The result is a record that, while not perfect, is surprisingly satisfying.
Olsen cites the likes of Dr. Dre and Xaphoon Jones as influences. But treating Blurred Ambitions as a mere tribute to his idols would be doing Olsen a great disservice. Olsen does a great job of giving his music an original twist. More to the point, most of the album successfully steers clear of Hip Hop stereotypes and often uses unconventional song structures in really effective ways.
Opening number Changes offers up a contemplative mood and some surprisingly thought-provoking lyrics. But Olsen can also party with the best of them. Get It Going, probably my favourite track off the record, has a driving bass synth (is that a Moog?), while Hands Up has me bopping along as I write. LaLaLa, with it’s eponymous hook, is another highlight, and a track that’s sure to be played over and over.
In My Mind and Nyack Cypher do start delving into some self-indulgent territory, with the latter being particularly forgettable. Overall, however, Blurred Ambitions packs enough punch for these two tracks to be mere blips on the radar.
All in all, Blurred Ambitions is a great effort, especially for someone so young. Sick grooves, great hooks, thought-provoking lyrics and some really interesting arrangements. It’s thoroughly enjoyable and you should definitely check this out.