The Gospel According to Cheeno Ghee

"God Don't" is a showcase of the Charlotte rapper's versatility and precision — and her unflinching sense of self-confidence.

The Gospel According to Cheeno Ghee

Confidence is a powerful thing — one that tends to have a proportionate and self-reinforcing relationship with the amount of affirmation (or lack thereof) we receive from others. It makes sense when we see widely lauded artists move with swagger and self-assurance, and conversely, when lesser-known acts seem occasionally unconvinced of their own talent and persona. As with anything in life, it’s hard to sell a vision that hasn’t been, to at least some extent, validated already. And yet, over the past few years that timeless dilemma hasn’t seemed very difficult for Charlotte rapper Cheeno Ghee.

Across multiple releases, from 2018’s Child EP to 2022’s To Whomever It Concerns, to a host of singles and feature verses in between and after, it’s true that the Brooklyn-born, Atlanta-raised, former UNCC student has yet to experience the traditional markers of breakout success (though two songs from her last album, “Bodega” and “Savoir Faire,” came close). Still, aside from the technical prowess that’s immediately apparent upon listening to her music — a flurry of intersecting, unpredictable cadences, and smart, biting wordplay — what might stand out most about Ghee is the unflinching confidence that seems to emanate from her at all times. In listening to her rap, or talk (as she did to Rap Portraits in 2021, saying “I’ve got the Midas Touch right now, so whatever I touch next is bound to surpass anything I’ve done”), one hears a sense of belief so firm and resolute, it’s almost as if ordained by a higher power. And in her case, maybe it is. 

Cheeno isn’t a Christian Rapper, but she is a rapper (nickname: “Tha Godchild”) whose work is heavily informed by her Christian faith. So it’s fitting that her return back to releasing music — her first time in two years, not counting a two-pack of freestyles over Lil Yachty and Drake songs late last year — would bear not only her trademark confidence, but a title and theme (and album art) that speak overtly to where it comes from. And I mean really overtly. Across “God Don’t”’s three-and-a-half minutes, “God don’t play about me” is repeated no fewer than eleven times, primarily on two choruses that bookend the song’s one true verse. But more than a declaration of prophecy, the song is also a demonstration of raw skill. Showcasing her deft ability to maneuver in different pockets, the song’s transition from chorus to verse feels like the apprehensive moments coasting along the top curve of a roller coaster — Ghee slowing the chorus down into a series of staccato stabs, even briefly stretching the effect into the verse, before plunging into rapid-fire sequences of words so dense that they almost become compound concoctions of their own: “I’m… so… blessedup — thatifImessup — itdon’tmesschecksup — shitdon’teventstressus.” The accordion-like stretching and compressing effect is so reminiscent of UK rap that certain listeners may find themselves subconsciously hearing it delivered in the voice of Dave, Little Simz or Central Cee (you will have to add the “fam”s and “bruv”s yourself). 

“God Don’t” is a predictably assertive, bold comeback single for an artist whose talent easily outstrips the recognition she’s gotten to date. Rather than sound dejected, Cheeno sounds as confident as ever. And for her, that’s saying something.

Listen to on Apple Music | Spotify | YouTube


MAVI in the video for "Silent Heel"
  • Bigbabygucci's label Better Temperatures released its first group album at midnight, though it only seems to be uploaded to Spotify at the time of prepping this email. If you're an Apple Music person, I guess just go back to bed.
  • Somehow it escaped us last week that a new video featuring Super Empty-favorite MAVI — just announced as a Hopscotch performer this September — and fellow Charlotte native MESSIAH! had been released, called "Silent Heel." Super Empty apologizes for the oversight, but takes credit for belatedly putting you on.
  • Themes of pressure, loneliness and pain carry the day in the newly released music video for Raleigh rapper Madrique's searching, distraught song "Goin' Thru Thangs."
  • Newman's latest release in his ongoing album rollout is here, this one called "At The Rim." Stream it on Apple or Spotify
  • There's really no argument under which producer/composer Suzi Analogue's new album, ONEZ, would be considered a "hip-hop" release, but considering that it features a single with Blu (covered here two weeks ago), and that she's the director of UNC's Hip-Hop Ensemble, it belongs in the weekly rundown. Listen to it on Apple or Spotify
  • Not a North Carolina release, but two newly released tracks elsewhere in hip-hop made conspicuous use of samples near and dear to any Little Brother fan's heart: Chief Keef's "1,2,3" ("Speed") and LNDN DRGS' "Real Original" ("Not Enough"). What you think: satisfying or sacrilege?
  • As an outlet covering North Carolina hip-hop, we are obligated to include any release from J. Cole — the state's biggest rapper by many orders of magnitude — in a roundup of this nature. So it is out of that sense of obligation that I share the link to the new J. Cole song, "Grippy." Super Empty has no further comment on the matter.