Chuck Strangers, “A Forsaken Lover’s Plea”
By Dylan Green · March 13, 2024 Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP, Cassette, Compact Disc (CD)

Chuck Strangers’s second studio album, A Forsaken Lover’s Plea, opens with a monologue from Richard Pryor’s Live on The Sunset Strip special about Black men experiencing heartbreak. “That is your diploma,” the late comedian says with an exaggerated strain. “The kind of heartbreak…[where] you can’t even listen to music.” Though Pryor’s focus is solely romantic, Strangers’s music, from 2018’s Consumers Park to 2023’s The Boys & Girls Club EP, zooms out to examine the bittersweetness of his life from a “there are eight million stories in this city” perspective. This brand of diaristic storytelling and minimalist beatmaking has taken the rap underground by storm over the last half-decade, but Chuck’s writing is particularly somber, his memories, struggles, and victories all rendered in shades of sepia and bronze. 

A Forsaken Lover’s Plea burrows deeper into this mood. It revolves around heartbreak big and small, and the discipline and courage it takes to put all the pieces back together. For him, whatever challenges life brings are worth another day above ground. “I ain’t lost yet/ Yeah, I’ve had some close calls; don’t we all?” he says on “Close Calls,” producer NV’s soaring guitar and drums emphasizing Chuck’s relishing in the character building. Even when he gets showy with it, like on “Polish Jazz” or “Home,” it’s to make up for times when his stomach was growling louder than the frontman of a punk band and to honor people who stuck around when checks weren’t clearing. Chuck knows how to flex when he needs to—his love of money and faith come up often, and few rappers appreciate the value of a quality bottle of wine like him—but he mostly prefers to show the work it took to get there as plainly as possible. 

The beats across Forsaken Lover’s Plea reflect his grayscale approach. Chuck produces the lion’s share of the cuts here, but he’s joined by a slew of producers, from veterans like Alchemist and Animoss to fresh stalwarts like zoomo and GRAYMATTER. There are plenty of sticky sample loops that straddle the line between glib and gleaming. The grainy, bleach-white guitar strums on the self-produced “Sunset Park” play well with Chuck’s hoarse croaks about 40 Water and the healing power of spliffs. Animoss’s careful piano stabs and hi-hats give weight to Chuck and guest Erick The Architect’s ode to cocoa bread and arguments on the block on “Flatbush N****s.” Outside of a few exceptions, like the frenetic zoomo beat that powers “Home,” the production is as unfussed as Chuck’s raps, keeping the focus on precisely what’s in front of the listener. 

Forsaken Lover’s Plea’s interludes include paeans to Black community-building and commercial breaks that give the album the feel of a solemn radio play. The youthful zeal of Pro Era is long gone, and Chuck is taking stock of the pros and cons of what’s to come while navigating through 2024 as a Black man. Being a young OG can be a double-edged sword, but Chuck Strangers is taking his maturation in stride. As long as he has his wits, his people, and a good bottle of Decoy, the rest will fall into place. 

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