The success of Far Rockaway rapper Lionel “Chinx” Pickens first commercial album, Welcome to JFK, which debuted at No. 2 on Billboard.com‘s Top R&B/Hip-Hop album charts last week, was a “pleasant surprise,” according to executive producer Doug “Biggs” Ellison.
“It’s kind of funny because we always wanted it to be a success,” Ellison said. “I had hoped it would do this well, but I never expected it with Chinx not being here.”
Tragically, on May 17, Chinx was gunned down at the wheel of his car near Queens Boulevard in Briarwood, and would never get to see the album’s release.
For more about Chinx, click here, to read the original story on the debut success of Welcome To JFK.
“I don’t think he would have ever expected the kind of admiration that he has gotten on this album,” Ellison said. “The fact that it is so inspirational to people is no surprise to me, because that is what it was intended to do since its inception.”
According to Ellison, Chinx allowed himself to be very vulnerable and very personal while recording Welcome to JFK. Although it only took them about three days to finish, Ellison said they spent a lot of time grooming “the sound.”
“The problem with producers today is they want to go with what’s hot,” he said. “Our approach was totally different: ‘Let’s get in tune with the music and whatever direction the music takes us in, that’s where we go. Let’s not just follow what the trends are. Let’s just do us and what we know is good music.'”
Ellison said that between the musicianship that went into the project, the thought provoking lyrics and relatable message, Chinx shows how he was able to make the transition from an up-and-coming rapper into an artist/entertainer.
“When I finalized this project, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that every track on this album is exactly where it’s supposed to be,” Ellison said.
As someone who spent a lot of time working with Chinx, Salute Magazine asked Ellison what are his Top 5 most essential tracks off Welcome to JFK.
Starting from the top, Ellison said the track “Experimental” sets the tone for everything else that comes in the project. “Everything went in order for a reason,” he said. “From the gate, he shows you who he is and what he hopes to accomplish with this album.”
2. “Far Rock”
Featuring Chinx’s childhood friend Rayquon “Stack Bundles” Elliott, who was also killed in a similar drive-by shooting in 2007, “Far Rock” gives people a chance to hear the two unite again. “It did something for Hip-Hop to hear Chinx and Stack Bundles on a commercially released record,” Ellison said.
For the fans of Chinx’s earlier work with French Montana and the Coke Boys, “Yay” delivers. According to Ellison, Chinx returns with his classic “turn-up” sound that fans are more accustomed to hearing on his mixtapes.
4. “How to Get Rich”
“It’s very preachy, but not in a bad way,” Ellison said, explaining the track’s underlying message. “He’s basically telling you ‘don’t listen to the doubters and the naysayers.'”
5. “Die Young (feat. MeetSims, French Montana & Zack)”
Ellison said that if you really focus on Chinx’s verse, you can see his growth as a musician. “The way he ended his verse, it gave me chills when I heard it,” he said. “It’s heartbreaking, but it’s so prophetic that this kid was so ahead of his time, that it’s a shame he doesn’t get to be the influence that he would be.”
Although Chinx is no longer with us, Ellison said he left behind an incredible legacy of music, which he anticipates will be released sometime in the future.