“Mixed Messages” is a hip-hop album by rapper ‘Chastity’. Over the thirteen tracks, I found myself working hard to decipher the brilliance behind Mixed Messages and the themes each song was trying to convey. Although I feel like I have only scratched the surface so far, I find the album to be highly satisfying and replay-able.
The album, along with its colorful cartoonish cover, invokes a lot of MF Doom influence welded with Chastity’s unique way of approaching ideas. This rich blend of hip-hop gives way to a lot of colorful and dense ways to express concepts. Mixed Messages reveals little and hides a lot due to its dense lyrics packed with references, metaphors, and cheeky vocabulary. This gives rise to different ways of interpretation for rap enthusiasts as well as making sure that each track gets played multiple times. I had my ‘aha!’ moments every time I caught something new after replaying a track. Chastity keeps the underground rap spirit alive for most of the album.
From the get-go, Chastity starts strong with Make Do! We are introduced to complex wordplay and lexical diversity overlaid on top of nostalgic background clips and samples. Throughout the first few tracks, the themes of Mixed Messages get progressively darker and gritty. Back at it! is when Chastity gets comfortable with showing his harder side and disguising veiled threats. There are multiple rhyme schemes woven into his verses which is another nod to MF Doom. A high point for me lyrically was when Chastity alliteratively rhymed about snitches in The Fishes! Overall, Chastity brings forth the dark realities of crime and gang banging in tracks like Two World! In Alleycat! He dives deep into the mindset and motivations that force a person to commit a crime. These verses are insightful and introspective, often following the thought processes of would-be criminals and gangsters. This is where I think the idea of Mixed Messages comes through. The ambiguity of mixed messages inside one’s mind can lead to nefarious outcomes. Astray! is very much the embodiment of this dilemma. Fresh Kicks! was another high-point of the album for me. Chastity’s verse is essentially a commentary on how highly branded shoes are viewed by impressionable young people. This obsession can lead them to do anything to obtain this higher status. Nightlit! is very much the outcome of the escapades from previous tracks. It’s about spending a night in jail and recollecting what went wrong in interpreting mixed messages.
The latter half of the album deals with themes much broader than the first one. I thought this was a symbolic way to show how self-reflection after a moment of failure (the one in Nightlit!) can lead one to enlightenment. The following tracks become brighter in subject and tone. Mr. Man! was another high-point for me. It was a song containing a lot of religious references and was about coming to terms with mortality. Thanks and Praise! was a rich hearty song that served as a penultimate track for Mixed Messages. Storybook! was perhaps my favorite track out of all. It was a laidback song that dealt with Chastity’s recollections of his childhood before shouting all the ‘chapters’ (songs) of Mixed Messages.
Overall, I enjoyed listening to the album. This was one of the stronger albums I have listened to this year!