Chinx Is Impressive and Heartfelt on Debut Album ‘Welcome To JFK’
It sucks as a music fan when a promising young artist is taken away by senseless violence; there's really no other way to put it. That's what happened on May 17, 2015 when Coke Boys MC Chinx was fatally shot eight times while stopped at a red light in his silver, late-model Porsche on Queens Boulevard and 84th Drive in his native borough. Just 31 years young, the Queens native was taken far too soon and the hip-hop community felt it deeply. To compound the loss, Chinx was finally getting ready to make his formal debut after a four-year prison bid and years of playing sidekick in Riot Squad and Coke Boys to Stack Bundles and French Montana, respectively. The role player was finally about to step out onto the main stage with the release of his debut album Welcome To JFK. But now Chinx won't be here to celebrate the occasion, as Welcome To JFK is out today as a posthumous project rather than one that could have turned a local New York rapper into a national name.
The 12-song album is impressive, boasting a litany of melodic street anthems and how-to pointers for the underdogs of the world. Welcome To JFK starts off very heavy with "Experimental," the intro track where listeners find Chinx, real name Lionel Pickens, crooning the phrase, "I hope this will last a lifetime" on the hook. The gravity of the loss only amplifies with "Far Rock," which features fellow slain Riot Squad member Stack Bundles, who was himself gunned down in Far Rockaway, Queens in June 2007. Two of the Rock's finest team up on the second track, which contains a snippet of Chinx being asked about continuing Bundles' and Riot Squad's legacy. "I just keep reppin' my gang, I keep also making sure that people know that Chinx is Riot Squad first," he says before the last verse begins.
The strength of the LP is undoubtedly in its replay value. Songs like "YAY," "Thug Love" featuring Jeremih and "Your Body" featuring Meet Sims showcase Chinx's growth as an artist from his previous bigger hits, such as "I'm A Coke Boy" and "Feelings." However, nothing encompasses his crisp sound and songwriting ability like "How To Get Rich." The record is inspiring and the most stirring on JFK; it's the feel-good story you wish Chinx were here in person to tell. ("Can't nobody teach you how to make it/Ain't no shookers, ain't no golden roads/Can't nobody teach you how to believe in yourself, even when no one don't.")
There are downsides, however. If you're looking for variety, there really is none, while certain songs off the LP come off as lackluster in the long run ("Pray," "Don't Mind"). Chinx has certainly evolved as an artist from his straight-ahead dope boy beginnings, and it's clear that he's an above-average songwriter at his best. But his sing-rap delivery is more a product of being with French Montana for so long rather than his own innovation. It's not a huge negative, but it's a gimmick listeners have heard before.
"Die Young" finds French Montana and his brother Zack Kharbouch, as well as Chinx and fellow Riot Squad member Meet Sims their expectations that they won't live long. This serves as the album's outro and eerily marks another standout on Welcome To JFK, with Chinx's verse the most poignant and heartbreaking: "I pray I be okay when I grow up a little bigger/If I don’t, tell my babies daddy was a real nigga," R.I.P. Chinx. Hip-hop misses you. —Emmanuel C.M.