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Chaundon 

Carnage
(Defend Music/ H.O.J.)

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If the Justus League ever holds auditions for the newest addition to its hip-hop crew, the winner should make someone in the League swear that his record will be out within a year. Otherwise, said winner will be stuck with underappreciated guest appearances on other rappers' songs, rapping over R&B remixes or putting out mixtapes. Nearly a decade later, when the winner's album finally drops, it will no longer matter. Point is, unless you're Little Brother or 9th Wonder, being in the Justus League is tantamount to being a B-cast member on a highly-rated reality show. While your old friends are in the celebrity magazines at the checkout line, you're buying frozen burritos and pink hotdogs.

All of this should make even the most optimistic person abandon ship. However, Bronx-bred, Durham-based emcee Chaundon stuck on board, and—on his first official release, Carnage—you won't find him crying about delayed opportunities or blaming anyone in the Justus League for his situation. Instead, he largely breaks from everything North Carolina, save on one track, "Understanding," where, assisted by Darien Brockington and Percy Miracles (Phonte Coleman's alter-soul ego, apparently out of retirement), he addresses the pangs of awaiting success. For Carnage, Chaundon returns home to New York, grabbing emcees Skyzoo and Torae to declare themselves hip-hop royalty on "3 Kings." How ironic then when, several tracks later, Chaundon lifts a title and a hook from arguably the king of New York hip hop, Jay-Z, for the Khrysis-produced, flute-flavored "Can I Live." The disclaimer comes in the second verse: "'Can I live?' is the question I ask/ So what I borrowed from Jay?/ He don't care/ He makin' money all day/ I'm just trynna make me me a mil'/ And besides, you ain't hear the old sayin': 'All great artists steal'?"

Frankly, Chaundon suffers such megalomania, and, were it not for the comical shadings of his punchline collection, we'd be calling him a jerk instead of the jaunty giant he renders on Carnage. On "Gone," Chaundon teams up with a more gentle giant, Jean Grae, who seems to be the Justus League's favorite collab-lady of late. As Chaundon and his co-star trade verses from a heated argument between a cheating husband and a pistol-brandishing wife that makes for a bloody police report and a laughable domestic dispute, we hear Chaundon shine through dramatization. It's the LP's highlight.

Chaundon had all the time and a great environment in which to make Carnage. Too bad no one seems to have wanted it to reach as many sets of ears as it could have, especially considering the brawn of Chaundon's lyricism. For now, he'll have to settle for the role of best Justus League guest emcee.

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