My introduction to Chicago rapper Lance Washington, known as Lando Chill, came at the start of this year, with the release of the collaborative neo-soul EP māyā. maia. mayu. Impressed with what I had found, I visited his 2017 album The Boy Who Spoke to the Wind, and immediately regretted that I hadn’t found it sooner, because it would’ve undoubtedly made my list of personal favorites from the previous year.
The Boy Who Spoke to the Wind — Lando’s sophomore album which was inspired by Brazilian author Paul Coelho’s international bestseller The Alchemist — revealed a lot about Lando and his artistry that I have come to love. Lando is of a conscious breed: he’s well-versed on the history/plight of the Black community — his community — and its intersections, as well as equally forward-thinking in the way he brings these complex issues to light through his music. Overtop an eclectic array of production courtesy of his main collaborator Lasso, Lando addressed issues like racism, police brutality, and the legacy of Western colonialism.
So naturally I was very excited upon the announcement of his third album, Black Ego, and it did not disappoint. With Lasso once again behind the boards, they team up to create another cohesive, incredibly ambitious album that takes a step forward in almost every artistic regard, from production to content. Black Ego is an even more nuanced exploration into systemic forces and their role in the exploitation of Black culture and the suppression of the history/psyche of marginalized populations.
After giving this great album a few spins, I decided to pick out some of the album’s most significant verses.
“Keep them eyelids peeled
Never healed from them old scars
Boy bogard ya fate
‘Fore they spray you from that cop car”
On the song “Peso,” Lando urges the Black collective to remain vigilant, going as far as to state that “everybody feds” in the song’s chorus. Social awareness remains a primary theme of Black Ego, as Lando shines a light on issues that range from alcohol and drug abuse, to climate change, to male privilege and sexism, to the oppressive police state, among other things. “See the shackle on ya mind, we break all them cages,” he raps on “Cess.”
“Struggle taste better brown as a white hobby
Sound is a bank lobby bound by the trend
Black skills make it bend”
Part of the Southern Strategy of the mid-late 1900s was associating marijuana with African-Americans — a stigma that has not faded. What has faded, however, is overwhelmingly widespread national resentment: as it became more marketable, marijuana transformed into a billion dollar industry. On “Fauna,” Lando juxtaposes this subject of marijuana with that of hip-hop in order to highlight how products historically associated with Black people can be commodified once it reaches a White audience.
This song plays into the theme of cultural appropriation, a demon Lando Chill doesn’t waste time exorcising throughout the runtime of Black Ego. He even addresses this topic directly on the song “Dah Vapor,” in which he sings “I know that you like my flavor / I know that you jack my style.”
“Can’t you see how the greed makes us fiend
‘Cause we all want that cream
Make us sing for that lean
Not a dollar and a dream
‘Til you squalor and you father
Every problem ever seen”
“Koolaide” is another track whose focus is on the appropriation of Black culture, but Lando takes it a step further and addresses how a system built on appropriation and capitalistic greed — the music industry — creates a cycle in which artists sell out their artistry to achieve a quick fortune, only to remain unhappy at the end of the day.
“These gatekeepers en massé
Feed great tweeters with ass on they shoulders
Bullshit in some Folgers
Gas the pyre that smolders
With the bones of the older muhfuckers who came before us
Sell you bangers
And keep the folder with the Van Gogh”
In an album breakdown with Self-Titled Magazine, Lando stated that the song “From the Hip” is a warning shot to the “labels,” “influencers,” and “non-POC/POC gatekeepers that build playlists filled with caricatures of blackness while lending to the erasure of women of color and queer folks within this cultural oil well called hip-hop.”
This album comes on the heels of a report back in July of this year that confirmed that, due to the shift of the music industry and the creation of a “clout” era, record labels are targeting people who have significant social media followings or achieve virality due to a meme — whether they are “true” musicians or not. Lando, in return, takes aim at said labels and influencers, whose seemingly irresponsible signing tactics both desecrate an art form that they were never even invited to partake in and, figuratively, throw the proponents of the culture under the bus.
“Love is bigger than the baddest muhfucka on this earth, and that’s on God
But it can’t stop a bullet, or get a nigga a job
But it can rectify how you lookin’ at all your odds
And maybe it can save me from givin’ up all I got”
Despite Lando’s fervor and insurrectionary attitude, he remains an optimist as he highlights the power of love and challenges the listener to remain optimistic, faithful, and hopeful of a brighter future, in spite of our discouraging reality. “Show love, carry on, that be the gold recipe,” he raps on the closer “Love Cold.” “Find light within dark, that be the test you can’t see / Find light within dark, that be the test you can beat.”