Review Summary: I'm pretty sure Anthony Fantano is Cal's ghostwriter, but I'm not sure...
So Cal Chuchesta made an album. I know what you're thinking, "oh wow, seriously"" Yep. Much like the Pink Guy mixtape that dropped a while ago, Anthony Fantano has found the need to take his searing criticism of music (and music culture) to new levels by attempting to parody some of its more popular outings from the last year or so. But while Pink Guy had been established in his own right as a somewhat competent lyricist and Joji himself had some degree of Ableton proficiency, the Cal Chuchesta character really only has a sweater and a somewhat endearing ignorance of almost everything. Without the worldbuilding of a "Pink Guy" or the studied competence of a "FrankJavCee," where does "The New CALassic" fall in the whole "musical comedy" spectrum that the aforementioned (both featured on this album) have set up"
Well, it's a bit hard to say. The songs themselves present themselves as cheap parodies, a funny voice over well-known (and well-chosen) beats. Cal's rewrites of popular songs like OT Genasis's "CoCo" and O.G. Maco's "U Guessed It" tick most of the boxes to be funny, but don't necessarily frame the humor in an original or gripping way. For the song "hot dinner," Fantano likely thought to himself "wouldn't it be funny if Cal rapped about hot dinner over 'Hot Nigga'"" and took the idea to its weak conclusion without much consideration.
Even some of the most original or inventive ideas here remain locked in a creative limbo where Fantano is either too afraid of losing credibility or too stuck on his idea of making something mediocre that he fails to push the ideas to their limits or into the realm of capital-C critique. The most glaring example of this is on the tracks that allude to Cal's place in the music industry at large, with A&R exec "Doody" playing up Cal's star potential all the way until he's drops a dud of a freestyle and loses credibility. What could have been a "Forrest Gump gone wrong"-style tale of a naive dreamer getting used up by a saturated and stagnating industry ultimately turns into a mushy narrative of Cal just being stupid. And while Cal being stupid isn't unexpected on a tape like this, what makes it truly frustrating is just how close it comes to being greater than just a compilation of parody tracks.
And another thing that truly upsets me about this tape is again how close an aspect of the mixtape comes to being spectacular. Some of the bars that are delivered here are surprisingly deft and funny, and not in a "oh Cal" kind of way. On "i am angry," Cal raps "when I'm mad at you you get the cold shoulder/so I hide my anger like a porn folder," a line that sounds so catchy and corny that it could've came from a Childish Gambino release. On "parody," Cal spits this winner: "rapping with myself 'cause no one on my level/so if you see me in the park lookin' kinda disheveled/talking to myself like [I'm] possessed by the devil/just leave me alone I swear I'm not goin' mental!" Again, the line itself comes across as just as braggadocious and heavy-handed as something Drake would've said on the same beat (or that Quentin would've told him to say!)
Despite these nuggets that allude to what could've been a huge comedic surprise ("OMFG Cal can actually rap!"), a lot of the bars become not just spotty but all around bad to the point of being unfunny. "I need my friends" is a really good example of this, with Cal's desperate pleas for friends not really registering as funny unless you're truly invested in the whole narrative of the tape (which, as I mentioned earlier, is unlikely).
Still, this tape just barely rises above the riff-raff to be a good tape thanks in large part to two things: the guest verses and the production. While Cal himself as a character isn't quite fleshed out enough to have a strong narrative or comedic arc (and Fantano largely misses the chance to establish one here), the characters that show up here from other internet circles really lend the tape an extra comedic edge. FilthyFrank and Pink Guy bring the same brand of absurdist comedy that was on the "Pink Guy" tape to this tape, with the "Cocoa" remix standing as one of the funniest and most original moments on the tape. FrankJavCee's guest spot on "I need my friends" helps to take the song up from its whole "friendship is MAAAAAGIC" message, and his production on "sad boy" is the second best thing to having Yung Gud actually reproduce "Kyoto." And the rest of the beats here are well-chosen too, with "friend from the apple store" taking Pusha T's "Numbers on the Boards" beat and putting it to good purpose. The Chuck Inglish beat on "be my bae bae" again stands as an impeccable beat choice.
So, having said all of that, I'm feeling a strong 5 to a light 6 on this. Transition.