On the intro track of his debut EP, DMV native Chaz French tells the story of his temporary homelessness, struggles with alcohol and troubled youth through his experience in a nearly fatal car accident. It’s a hell of a way to introduce yourself to an audience, but it also sets the tone for Happy Belated, one of the most honest, personal hip-hop projects we’ve heard in a long time. French paints a pretty vivid picture of himself with his music employing a verbal dexterity and variety matched by few emcees over strong, diverse soundscapes. More impressive than his savvy on the mic, though, is the cohesiveness of his EP taking the listener through life’s up and downs.

Happy Belated has a distinct trajectory almost divided into three acts. “Intro” leads into the downtempo, introspective “Watcha Know” before French transitions, through the slightly more upbeat “YNN,” into a booming trap section seemingly capturing the joys and struggles of his demons. Exiting the highest energy portion of the tape, Chaz calls on fellow DMV emcee and one of our favorites, GoldLink, for the memorable “LMGLML” and the two have a chemistry that is extremely promising for future collaboration. The tone of the final few songs come out as overwhelmingly positive considering the pain expressed prior tying together with “Before I Die,” about redemption and getting himself together for his people.

Although its vastly different musically, Happy Belated has the autobiographical, coming-of-age feel that Kendrick Lamar‘s Good Kid m.A.A.d City had in portraying what its like to grow up through adversity. Through a broad range of expression, Chaz French is able to provide a candid, sincere depiction of himself in a way that is sympathetic, rough around the edges and inherently human. Listen to a few of our favorites from the mixtape and grab a free download of this evocative project below.

Download: Chaz French – Happy Belated

’Chaz French – Intro (prod. by Super Miles)’

’Chaz French – YNN (prod. by Kal Banx)’

’Chaz French – Erryday Stuntin’ ft. Eddie Vanz (prod. by Hovey Benjamin)’

’Chaz French – LMGLML ft. Goldlink (prod. by Kris Minor)’

’Chaz French – Primavera  ft. Eddie Vanz (prod. by Hovey Benjamin)’

’Chaz French – Before I Die (prod. by Super Miles)’
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Chaz French