The first time I listed to ‘Rift Valley 773/312’ by Chai Tulani, I used my earphones, and when I was done, I knew I had to listen to it on speakers. Second time around, I bought an aux cable and like how fries are tastier when reheated, the project got even better the second time.
If you’re interacting with Chai for the first time, the basics are that he’s an Afropop artiste based in Chicago. A self-taught artiste, his dedication to his craft has seen him tour nationally and internationally. In addition to his own shows, he has opened for legendary artistes artists such as Wyclef Jean, Jay Electronica, LION BABE, GLC, The Original Wailers, and Skip Marley.
8 albums and 2 Extended Plays in, ‘Rift Valley 773/312’ is his 9th album. I remember the first time I heard his music and told him he sounded like Tory Lanez in ‘Say It’, (in hindsight and with everything going on, I’m not sure that was wise of me). Now, he’s found his style, and having learnt the art of enjoying albums from intros to bonus tracks, I even bought an aux cable to enjoy his art better.
Here’s why the 12-track album is worth your . The sequencing is actually very good, the art of knowing where to place a party track, and what comes after a sexually-laced track (so your listeners don’t think you’re a horny bastard who lives and breathes coitus) wasn’t lost with Rebxl Music, Chai’s label. I especially loved that I could see Rebxl Music’s name as the tracks went by, showed me that if you believe, and work hard enough, on your dreams, they’ll come alive.
- Ginger (featuring ONU)
I found ‘Ginger’ to be a soulful intro. Angelic background vocals, and positive affirmations. I usually put up Chronixx’s music to wake me up in the morning and this track definitely makes it into my playlist that I need to fight whatever Nairobi throws at me.
- Wake Up (featuring ONU)
Chai comes out swinging on this track, and I like the consciousness. As a Meek Mill fan, I expected him to come on at some point tbh, and the preacher background sermons were really a stroke of genius.
- Angel Wings (featuring Trapula Ase)
This felt to me like the most emotional song on the album. It feels like therapy for Chai, as he spits about ten cuss words a minute. The Trapula feature was a really good fit here, and it shows me how much artistry involves, because every feature has to make sense.
- Chat Chat
My picnic song. That’s the vibe I got from this track. A slow Sunday afternoon, sandwiches in the picnic basked, and my drink in mason jars, thankful for life. I also like how much Chai uses his voice as an instrument.
- Dear Lord (featuring Trapula Ase)
A confession song. I liked the ‘mule and forty acres’ inference, because even if I’m in Africa and reparations have nothing to do with me, young people in America realise how much self work needs to go into making the community better. If you need to fight your demons, this is a really good jam to dim your lights and play in the dark as you think about what you need to do differently.
- Divine Greatness (featuring JazzStarr, Leximonee, ONU)
I loved the poetry on this track. It feels like a marijuana-filled, vests and open shoes intimate show. It made me want to quit my non-existent job and apply for a grant, and chase my dream of being a sculptor. My boy really knows how to choose his features, again I remembered a show where Charlamagne Tha God said that Young Thug uses his voice as an additional instrument, bending it to fit the flow and vibe he needs. Chai has learnt how to use that too, you can feel the anger, the passion, the emotion, even when the beat is really good to start with.
- Angels Follow (featuring Joslyn Marie, ONU)
This is definitely a jam you’d expect to play at a Black Lives Matter walk. It’s blue-sy, and although it’s not a pop track, it makes you feel like everyone recorded their verses fists in the air. As a resident, I also particularly loved the Nairobi shoutout.
- Heart Feels (featuring Obywan Music)
There will be many children born to this song. Haha, my boy was in the mood for this one, the innuendos, the bpm, the sample; they all scream red bulbs, silks sheets and a lot of lube. You listen to this track a little high, and you ask Chat GPT to write you a get-back-together text with your ex.
- You Know (featuring Rhymes)
This is the jam that introduced me to a rapping Chai Tulani. Also, the background vocals, sheesh! This album reminded me why I like to listen to young, hungry musicians, because there’s a passion you can’t pay for. The energy and commitment that goes into hitting those high notes. Easily my favourite track on the project.
- Zuke (featuring Joy Jaimes)
The happiest track on the album in my opinion. No Malcom X vibes here, just Nairobi slang, positive vibes and a faster bpm. The Caribbean vibes on the track are beach-like, they make you feel like you’re stepping on soft, white sand, with a coconut drink in your hand and your phone’s battery died hours ago, but you’re having so much fun you don’t care. Again, the features, I love how freaky Joy Jaimes sounds, so much that I’m on my way to Instagram, she has earned my follow!
- Agua (featuring Naglaa)
A coffee-café type beat. Low key lofi too, and the horniest track on the album by far, haha. The breathing, the “seating on your face” lyrics, the sultry voices. You play this to your person, and they hop on the next Uber to you, with an overnight back and a rag to wipe the drool they’ll leave on the seats.
- Solution (Bonus Track)
An indie ending to the album. I felt like this is the track I’d expect to hear when I get to an indie festival, especially when I get there early, when the foot stands are just setting up, and you can walk around without bumping into people or litter. The rhyme scheme is catchy and easy to sing along to, and Chai signs off making me feel like he needs to apply for NyegeNyege next year and perform to 15,000+ fans of authentic, experimental Afro art.
There you have it. Chai Tulani’s 9th album, that’s consistency right there and I will definitely give it a third and fourth listen and add it to my playlist. Let me know what you think about his project and if you have any projects you think I should review.