To think about span of a year’s time and how quickly one artist can take off, you would look at Southside Chicagoan Chance the Rapper and think that his success came from a beam of light in the sky. However, the 20-year old peculiar virtuoso may have entered the game at the most crucial time, where there is a thickening dichotomy forming in hip-hop music, separating the real from the fake and well, the worthy from the unworthy. Chance dropped his first tape back last year in April 2012, a project called “10 Day”, which he recorded during a 10 day suspension his senior year of high school in spring 2011. The tape introduced us to the rapper’s sporadic and unorthodox rapping style and his branch of influence as new and upcoming artist, with sample credits from artists such as The Isley Brothers, to Pete Rock, Dead Prez and even Basement Jaxx, an eclectic mix that would tune the listeners ear in a little bit more in recognition of classics. The tape received much local acclaim amongst the urban youth of Chicago and provided a basis for the current ‘Chicago alternative sound’, especially with the incorporation of live instrumentation featured from Kid These Days trumpet player Nico Segal and mid-tempo Dilla inspired production, giving it a jazzy and smooth feel, that is much like the aesthetic of Windy City itself. The tape provided so much culture and comfort to those who could directly relate to it but Chance was only warming up. Almost exactly a year later, on March 13, 2013, the artist released the video for the first single off of his new mixtape Acid Rap titled “Good Ass Intro”, featuring vocals from BJ The Chicago Kid. The song would set the tone for the rest of the tape as a brilliant mix of modern day hip-hop with 90’s east coast influences and nostalgic tints of jazz and blues, much like that of 10 Day, but this time on a higher level, in the most literal of ways. However, in the year from the time of the release of 10 Day to Acid Rap, the maturity level of subject and content would shift a bit for the rapper, as he talks about his experiences with the psychedelic drug, hence the tape name, and its effects on his outlook on life and growing up and the questions that he has begin to ask himself about his own life and those around him. It would also present a bit of a darker and more emotionally charged side that we have yet to see from the artist but he has decided to show so early in his career, a side that is closely tied to life in his hometown and the tales of Chicago and inner-city violence in general. The best example of this would be the hidden track connected to “Pusha Man” called “Paranoia” where the artist spits lines such as “They murking kids, they murder kids here, why you think they don’t talk about it? They deserted us here” and “They be shooting whether it’s dark or not, I mean the days is pretty dark a lot, down here it’s easier to find a gun than it is to find a f-cking parking spot, no love for the opposition, specifically a cop position cause they’ve never been in our position”, in which he basically is narrating the gruesome war on violence in his city and openly exposing the perceived lack of security provided by the Chicago police, who have recently been under the radar for such accusations. The most introspective track on the tape is “Acid Rain”, a somber and dense story of Chance’s reflection on his past experiences and travels in his life trust far, sayings things like “I trip to make the fall shorter”, describing the justification of his drug use and “Damn that acid burn when it clean ya”, basically describing the effects of the comedown after the high, and how all of the truths of life start to present themselves in the most unsettling of ways. Other highlights of the tape include fun tracks such as “Favorite Song” featuring Childish Gambino, a lighthearted dance track, and “NaNa” featuring Queens native Action Bronson, a song full of nonsensical entertainment that is characteristic of both artists. Other features include TDE’s Ab-Soul, and fellow Chicago artists such as Saba, NoName Gypsy, Save Money member Vic Mensa, and the all-famous speed rapper Twista. With the variety in features on the tape comes an equally matched variety in production, highlighting the talents of new producers such as Nate Fox on “Juice” and “Lost” and bringing back familiar names such as Peter Cottontale on tracks like “Cocoa Butter Kisses”. The sound overall attempts to simulate the effects of an acid trip, which presents a roller coaster of tempos and beat ranges that fluctuate according the rapper’s ever changing and dynamic flow. At the current moment, Chance has finished up the end of his first international headlining tour and has been flashing a Jimi Hendrix inspired ‘Have You Experimented?’ promo all over the web in the past few weeks. Acid Rap was not only the best mixtape of 2013, but a beautiful and unashamed story of love, confusion, hope, and uncertainty all pertaining to life. I chose this release as my number 2 pick because it characterizes the type of liberty and freedom in sound that is needed at this time in hip hop and I am very proud of a positive and open-minded product coming from Chicago after the recent emergence of the violent-laden “Chicago Drill Scene”.
Best Song: “Acid Rain”
Best Production: “Juice”/ “Everybody’s Something” ft. Saba & BJ The Chicago Kid