Thursday, May 9, 2013

Chance The Rapper - Acid Rap Review

It was one week ago today, whilst getting my daily dose of Hip-Hop news, that I saw a new mixtape from an artist I hadn't heard of before. "Chance the Rapper...," I said to myself "what kinda name is that?" Well little did I know it was the moniker of 20 year old Chancelor Bennett, hailing from the South Side of Chicago. And even littler did I know, his mixtape, Acid Rap, would be on repeat in my headphones for the week to follow. 

To say Acid Rap, and Chance specifically, is tough to get into would be an understatement. Especially considering the type of Hip-Hop he's boasting. Sure everyone knows Death Grips isn't for everyone, but that's the point. Chance, on the other hand, is meant to make music that appeals to the ears of everyone. And yet, upon first hearing his voice, my disdain increased dramatically. "It was Lil' Wayne without the autotune, turned up to 10" I uttered to myself after first hearing Chance chant "And we back, and we back, we back, we back." Never have I wanted to turn off a record so quickly. I began to realize however that something was off about Chance. He had something unique in him. A 20 year old from Chicago rapping like a distorted Lil' Wayne who can't hold a flow for 10 seconds surrounded on his album cover by purple's and pink's and everything in between. Yea, this was unusual alright. So I stayed. And boy was I in for a sweet, delectably-laced surprise.

30 seconds in & I'm still waiting for a beat. 45; nothing. At 50 I get excited but am instead teased with a high hat. 1 minute in and all I get is a clap. How is it that this kid is so effortlessly flowing off of nothing but a piano immediately astounds me. It isn't until 1:15 that the full beat, complete with horns and soulful singing, arrives and what do I get? I get "AWK AWK AWK AWK" Is he trying to make me hate me? Regardless, the song continues with more off kilter multi-flow rhymes and just when I think it's wrapping up, I'm blessed with an explosion of sounds; A hectic bass line, beaming horns section & a butchering over a female voice through autotune subtly thrown in back. It's beautiful in its elegant chaos. The instruments are the eye, and Chance is the storm. This was the first track and I was at a loss of words. It was a 'Good Ass Intro' to say the least. 

What exactly is Chance bringing to the table in this crowded new age of Hip-Hop? Well, in the West you have Odd Future, sporting their signature rebellion braggadocios rap sprinkled with stories ranging from father relationships to love triangles. In the East you have Joey Badass, attempting to revive 90's era Hip-Hop through (mostly) singular flow patterns rapping about repping NYC. In the South you have Big K.R.I.T., attempting his best UGK/Outkast impression whilst maintaining that new-age southern feel. And most importantly you have Chief Keef, 'representing' Chicago, and the unabashed grittiness currently engulfing the city. Then you have Chance, the outcast, reporting live from the streets of South Side as a part-time reporter covering the tragedy unfold first hand. This sets up 'Pusha Man,' the tapes definite high note. 

It plays like a late-spring day split into 3 parts; Afternoon, Evening, Night. We begin with Chance as he describes a typical day in Chicago. That is, a day filled with weed, pills & molly. Spirits are high (pun intended). But as the day begins to descend into the darkness, worry sets in. "I've been riding around with the blunt on my lips/With the sun in my eyes, and my gun on my hip/Paranoia on my mind, got my mind on the frits/With a lot of niggas dying so my 9 with the shits," Chance murmurs while the beat turns to a kaleidoscope of noises, produced every so wearily by Nosaj Thing. Chance belts arguably the 3 best verses on the album here, supremely detailing the life in Chicago on a late spring day. Speaking over violence, murder, theft, and the media's reaction he paints such a vivid picture that you can't help feeling helpless about the people of South Side after hearing it. And just when you think it's over, night, sets in. It's a warm night, something he's been warned about. Fireworks get confused with gunshots, and a rainstorm is considered a blessing. It's the most real song of 2013. It acts as Acid Rap's greatest moment and biggest disappoint, knowing that nothing that follows holds a candle up to it.

The next 4 songs however, try too. 'Cocoa Butter Kisses' has one of the catchiest hooks in recent memory and a stellar feature from Twista. Alcohol, lost love and self-worth detail the next 3 tracks respectively. All leading up to 'Interlude (Love)', a wonderfully beautiful take on what love is. Reminiscent of your favorite night as a teen with the one you love, the ultimate nostalgic trip. An organ, piano, guitar, and hand-claps is all it takes to make one hell of a feel good song. You can't help but smile when Chance sings "I love ya, I love ya!" with such free spirited passion. 

But as the Interlude fades it brings us to the 2nd half, which sadly can't compete with the first. Most interesting about this is that these next 3 tracks feature Chance's big guns (Childish Gambino, Action Bronson, & Ab-Soul respectively), who all provide lack-luster performances, which hurts the tape as a whole but helps Chance by proving to us at this point how much we like him and that darn voice. 

And as the tape dwindles to a close we're left with a kid coming back from his 'trip,' more aware of his surroundings (Acid Rap) and more accepting of who he is and what role he plays in all his Chicago mayhem (Chain Smoker), the latter simultaneously being his anthem. On the mixtape's finale we begin with a conversation between Chance & his father, subtly back-dropped with the opening track's piano and ending with the same singing, the same light-hearted feeling and the same childish joy that began the tape. Whatever happened in-between doesn't matter because, according to Chance, "I'm good." He's happy to have lived another day. 

It's Acid Rap's orchestrated commotion that Chance uses to outshine many of his peers. Never had I guessed what I'd expect next. From the Schoolboy Q-like ad-libs, to the DJ scratched ending of some bang-bang-bang's and some skeet-skeet-skeet's. Not to mention the production is top-notch from beginning to end, and about as starkly different as one can get from the current Chicago beat lord Young Chop. It's a breath of fresh air, with a few hiccups. What I can safely say however, is that I'm glad I took the trip. 


  1. Content: 4/5
    Guest Spots: 4/5
    Lyrics: 3.5/5
    MC: 4/5
    Production: 4/5

    1. I actually strongly agree with almost all of what you said. I think I'd put Production at 4.5, just cause it's more to my liking.

  2. I would upgrade that as well now and maybe the MC to 4.5/5 on further reflection just for how innovative he is with his schizophrenic flows, this album is a massive grower already!

  3. After reading this, some time ago, I went straight for it and DL'd a copy.....WOW.

    Just wow

    1. Sorry for the incredibly late response, I just saw this and haven't really used this blog anymore. But thank you very much! That actually means a ton to me, causing someone to download something is just incredible! Thanks for the read