Peruvian-born singer-songwriter Alejandro Chal has made a name for himself as the poet laureate of enlightened debauchery. His new mixtape ON GAZ is the latest and most stylish addition to a substantive catalog of antihero anthems. It stands as a testament to A.CHAL’s ability to captivate and stand above the fray, especially in an R&B universe where rappers-turned-singers are cooing about the same drugs and the same lost loves. The project provides a glimpse into an artist on the cusp of fame who, instead of relinquishing aspects of his identity to climb the shaky ladder that is the music industry, has chosen to double down on them. On this project, it seems that A.CHAL’s time behind the scenes as a songwriter and composer has provided him with a perspective about the pitfalls of acquiescing to the whims of industry stakeholders.
While Chal alluded to his Peruvian roots on Welcome to GAZI, he more directly references his Latinidad on this project. The first standout track, “Cuánto,” features A$AP Nast and, as its name might suggest, showcases A.CHAL rapping and singing in Spanish. “Cuánto” is haunting and brooding, perhaps the most candid exploration of the hardscrabble childhood that has shaped the darker edges of his psyche. “I remember being six/they hit my tío’s spot for a lick/abuelo took me to the side and told me/’Be careful who you let inside.’”
Second single “Matrix” is a warm ode to the mysterious and amorphous GAZI lifestyle, Chal’s artistic philosophy. Preaching a code of ethics shared by his closest kin, the lyrics on “Matrix” reveal a man who is more interested in creating culture than engaging in the kind of blind money grabs espoused by an industry hell-bent on earning capital. In his words, “It’s not about the bag/it’s how you make it last/I never bent down when they threw the cash.” The production is pensive and self-assured, an apt soundtrack for A.CHAL’s internal dialogue.
“Love N Hennessy,” on the other hand, is a bouncy homage to turbulent relationships that make little sense until drinks are poured and layers of clothing peel off. The defiant and playful FKi 1st production, a swirl of tempered trap elements, is reflective of the tornado of emotions that come with on-again, off-again relationships.
Throughout ON GAZ, A.CHAL puts all of his cards on the table – the end result is a sleek and stylish soundtrack tailor-made para la madrugada. As pop artists and label heads hustle to quench the thirst for watered-down dembow and dancehall riddims, A.CHAL has instead managed to explore his Latinidad simply by delving into the depths of his own story. Through the lusty nights with resilient lovers, the numbing life lessons from his abuelo, and the fluidity of Spanish and English, ON GAZ will likely speak to fans’ own experiences of Latinidad.
A.CHAL’s ON GAZ is out now via GAZI World. Watch our mini-doc with Chal below.