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One of Champaign’s finest artistic acts, the incomparable Trouble Chasin’ (comprised of local legends Truth AKA Trouble and Chase Baby), have dropped their hotly anticipated TC2; the hype has been very real, and as usual, the tunes do not disappoint.

Right away, it’s immediately apparent how confident they are at this point in their careers. After a radio skit intro track (very reminiscent of WBALLZ from the classic Doggystyle), “The Greatest Show On Earth” and “Bora Bora” set up a dynamite one-two punch of instant singalong hooks and hard-hitting verses over smooth sailing beats. Picture yourself on a beach or in the grit of NYC and the music works equally well. You’ll be singing along for weeks.

Don’t settle in too quickly to the bombastic party vibes though: “Wrong System” is a subdued, pensive rumination on life, the struggle, mental health, and the despair so many of us feel when we contemplate existence. It’s this ability to juxtapose massive, hook-centric bangers with sensitive, vulnerable portrayals of raw emotion that truly set Trouble Chasin’ apart from the crowd.

It’s really something how the subject matter at play here can turn on a dime. From partying and reckless decisions to navigating anxiety and a troubling world, this duality of TC2 is truly a marvel. Songs like “Deep Down” get really intense and address the alienation and loneliness that drives some people to think the world might be better without them, as well as the different versions of ourselves the world sees: the real person vs. the social media accounts. It’s an intense and haunting experience.

When it comes to the aforementioned sensitivity, in “Woman of My Dreams” we see the artists’ appreciation and respect for the women in their lives (with a healthy dose of the trademark Trouble Chasin’ humor) and women in general. Hip hop has always gotten a bad rap as though it was the source of objectifying women, so it’s really excellent to see this kind of just straight-up positivity.

Much of this review has focused on the lyrics, but don’t let that fool you. The beats here are delicious, particularly on tracks like the spastic and winding “More Bass” (in this author’s opinion, an absolute standout track all-around), and the sultry, slinky “Set the Vibes.” Hip hop of course needs lyrics to function, but if you don’t have good music underneath, who’s going to listen? Luckily, this problem does not present itself here.

This is a true rollercoaster of an album. Just when you think you’ve ran the emotional gamut, they drop “Days Like This” and blast your brain with that sweet nostalgia flavor and make you yearn to be young and unaware of how hateful the world can be, all while mourning the innocence and friends lost along the way. 

Honestly, this album felt less like listening to music and more like going on a voyage into the collective mind of Trouble Chasin’. Confident but aware of hard times ahead, wistful for the past but steeled against the future, hopeful but not naïve, TC2 is a massive leap forward for the duo. If you’re not already on this train, you need to get on board.

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Andrew Howie lives in Champaign and hides his pretentious music taste behind self-deprecating humor. If you seek radio hits, this is not the column you're looking for. Come here to find the acquired tastes, the obscure albums, the innovative and bizarre.