For a rapper that I only learned the name of two days ago when his second mixtape, ‘Acid Rap’, dropped online, it was pretty difficult choosing a track from Chance The Rapper to post on for today. Chance is a 20-year-old Chicago local who I wouldn’t have heard about if not for the perverse local-global inversion his fanbase has seemingly inspired. Inside Chicago, and on blogs like Fake Shore Drive which hosted (and may or may not have leaked) this tape, Chance The Rapper is considered worthy of his moniker. Within the Chicago public school system, which effectively kick-started his creative career by suspending him for 10 days in 2011 (thus his first mixtape ‘#10Day’), Chance is tracking a similar trajectory to Chief Keef, another South Side local who went mainstream thanks initially to strong word of mouth in the school halls. Suddenly, there is intense interest in the cultural scenes of specific locales. Chicago rap is one of them. French electro, Kiwi hip-hop and Brooklyn rock might be added to the list. It’s now as though to be accepted into the big leagues, you have to prove your worth at a local level, dominating the Twittersphere, selling out community club shows and generally being accepted as the your city or town’s ‘next big thing’. Chance has done all of that and his recent call up to the broader American cultural narrative should be celebrated. This is big fish outgrowing the small pond and making the successful leap to big pond stuff.
‘Acid Rap’ is astounding. Punctuated by Chance’s trademark yelps and infantile scatting, it also takes in the kind of melange of influences that we haven’t heard, solidly, out of the area since Kanye West’s ‘College Dropout’. Alongside being compared to Keef (which is debasing and unfair to Chance), the inevitable move has been to draw parallels with Kim Kardashian’s hubby. That would be getting ahead of ourselves, but across 13 tracks, featuring a host of local characters (as well as Childish Gambino and Kendrick Lamar offsider Ab-Soul) and cutting vast swathes through genre like it wasn’t even a thing anymore, ‘Acid Rap’ is an impressive statement of intent. I’ve been tracking the social media response to the tape over the last couple of days and the common sentiment is “you don’t even gotta skip a song”. There are parts where he plays up his youth, rapping on girls and drugs and juice but there are still more parts, ‘Interlude (That’s Love)’ comes to mind, where he demonstrates a maturity, a lyrical dexterity and a penchant for being a rap chameleon that all belie his years. And the parts are all as great as the sum. While the mixtape continues to make an unprecedented resurgence as consumers acclimatise to the new release cycle of rap, this is a tape, like Wale’s ‘Mixtape About Nothing’ which makes me wonder how much better an album release can get (in Wale’s case, unfortunately, not very).
For its featured guests, ‘Cocoa Butter Kisses’ is the track that got the first play a couple of days ago and, although now surpassed by new favourites, seems, at a lengthy 5’07″, to best represent Chance’s expansive notion of hip-hop. Vic Mensa, from band Kids These Days that first caught my attention back in late 2010 with their jazz-infused hip-hop, is hilarious and talented. Twista, bastion of the Chicago rap scene and outright winner for the ‘Can’t-believe-he’s-still-doing-it’ award, delivers the requisite smooth section, including a handy reference to elemental physics (‘when it come to rockin fast I’m the Higgs-Boson’). But it’s Chance, 20-year-old Chance, suspended Chance, Lollapalooza-appearing Chance, Chicago darling Chance, that absolutely anchors this ship. It’s only Chance who really feels at home among the splashy cymbals, the glitchy 8-bit cameos and the heartfelt piano chords because it’s only Chance who truly understands his vision. Comfort is a quality that characterises ‘Acid Rap’; in many ways it is progressive material – both lyrically and musically – but the young rapper never demonstrates any strain. Instead, he’s front and centre, leading the parade of guests and influences with so much natural confidence and attention to detail that it’s little wonder he forgets to breathe for most of his verse on this track. Here’s hoping he doesn’t shack up with a Kardashian.
Chance The Rapper – Cocoa Butter Kisses Ft. Vic Mensa & Twista