Best Albums of 2013: #6
6. Chance the Rapper – Acid Rap
Worse than worthless? Not anymore.
Faces in the Crowd*
I was first introduced to Chance the Rapper during the summer of 2012 through his 10 Day mixtape. My initial reaction after listening was positive but I did not love it due to his unique but unfamiliar rhyme scheme, lyrical content, and delivery. However, after a second listening session, I began appreciate his style and saw his artistic potential. With the release of Acid Rap, I expected something similar to 10 Day but was ecstatic to find something completely original and different. From the very first vocals on the perfectly titled intro track, “Good Ass Intro”, I knew this work of art would be something special. Chance has the distinct ability to evoke feelings of delight, sorrow, and youthful exuberance through his melodic rhymes, catchy hooks, and youthful yelps throughout the album. Listening to this album simply takes you on a wonderful journey filled with highs and lows quite similar to an LSD experience. Feel good tracks such as “Juice” and “Favorite Song” simply put a smile on my face and send me to that place of fun loving child-like wonder. Chance just brings fun back to Hip-Hop and you can really feel his excitement and energy throughout the album. That’s what makes it so special. This album is also important to me because not only did it opened up my musical palette due to the plethora of jazz, blues, and gospel influences littered throughout it, but it’s thought provoking content on tracks like “Acid Rain” and “Pusha Man”, allowed me to ponder and look at the world around me in a different light.
“I used to be worse than worthless” says Chance the Rapper in his new mixtape/album Acid Rap. That notion finds its way through many songs in Chance’s latest work. Usually, when an independent artist of Chance’s stature releases material, we call it a mixtape. I certainly like to wait until an artist puts out a studio album through a label to really sink my teeth into whatever they’re about. But this 20 year old Chicago native has certainly made an effort to change the mixtape and album discrepancy. In an interview with Rolling Stone, the Chicago rapper had suggested that maybe he’d never release something for purchase, but instead for free like he does his mixtapes. Chance simply does not understand the difference between an album and a mixtape and he’s not really wrong in that regard. It’s a hard thing to imagine considering the success of his 2013 release Acid Rap, but Chance the Rapper is determined to break down the barrier between mixtape and album. My perception of a mixtape is usually a hodgepodge of songs in attempt to spur the interest of record labels rather than going for a simple concept. In the internet age where Hip Hop seems to be growing more independent, we see less artists trying to sell their music and that factor has it’s good and bad qualities.
The good thing about this is that some MCs are focusing on artistic integrity. The bad part is that because these artists are unsigned, their music isn’t being shared with a broad audience, thus the increase of shitty radio rap. So, while rappers like Chance try to run from the clutches of the corporate machine, they have to understand that they are also running away from the people who need to hear them. People need to hear an album like this for the greater good of Hip Hop. This need is why Acid Rap is so damn special. The album starts out with “Good Ass Intro” and it’s clear that Chance is a huge fan of the modern Chicago greats such as Kanye West, Common and Twista. He even incorporates the “I’m gonna be, I’m gonna be” from Common’s “Faithful” as well as the various usages of”I’m good” as a tip of the cap to Kanye’s “Good Life”. At various points on this album Chance sings in this very squeaky voice that really is intended to display how wacked out he is. He uses this delivery on the more upbeat tracks on the album. The production incorporates horns, layered backing vocals and it just seems like a track Kanye could have put together during the Late Registration-era.
“Pusha Man” is a track that is divided into two very different parts. The first half picks up where the intro left off, with Chance wacked out of his mind. Then when the song shifts into “Paranoia” there is a thirty second gap of silence that Chance claims to have put in there to make someone who is listening to the album on LSD trip out. The second half is Chance displaying his beautiful honesty over top of this dreamy, slowed down sample. He introduces us the south side of Chicago, where Chance resides from. He expresses his fears of the monster that his city has turned into and also his frustration with the lack of attention that the south side has gotten from the media. “Cocoa Butter Kisses” is a rather saddening song. Chance seems to be ashamed of the image in which his mother sees him. Vic Mensa and Twista also share their own personal stories of which relate very well to Chance’s. It’s a common theme within growing older as well as the experiences drug addicts face when they deal with those of which they care about not approving their personal choices. “Juice” is a return to the wacked out, energetic Chance that we’ve come to know so far. It’s sort of a “where are we now?” type of song. Chance is looking back on how far he’s gotten. “Lost” is a track where Chance lets his rastafari delivery through, sounding very similar to Wyclef Jean. The song seems to be about two users/lovers who are dealing with various problems.
“Everybody’s Something” is arguably the most powerful song on this record. It’s Chance at his most introspective and insightful. Very much like “Paranoia” he talks about his violence-ridden city, but he also talks about people as a whole and the relationships that we all have. It’s Chance’s opportunity to preach the realness and he really hits it home on this one. His flow eerily resembles that of Eminem’s on the Slim Shady LP. It’s a fantastic track. “Favorite Song” is a feel good track where the main purpose is for Chance to express his excitement while he and Childish Gambino each deliver strong, rapid, and energetic verses. “NaNa” and “Smoke Again” are songs that may turn you off at some point despite Action Bronson’s pretty hilarious contribution as well as a feature from Ab-Soul. It just seems like Chance’s flow and hooks on these tracks seem a little tired. Which is a little disappointing considering the features.
Things get back on track with “Acid Rain”, which is another emotionally charged song that Chance uses to articulate his feelings about his life. It’s another one of those tracks where Chance is very honest about overall life. He interpolates elements of “The World’s Greatest”, a song by yet another Chicago legend in R. Kelly on the track’s outro. “Chain Smoker” is another introspective track where Chance talks about mortality. He realizes that he has a lot more to give as well as how he wants the fans to remember him by. “Everything’s Good (Good Ass Outro)” is very much a reflection of where Chance is now. He constantly reminds us that “everything’s good” and he reflects on how he got to where he is. Where he found his influences as well as who helped him get there. A lot of the elements from the intro also return in the final track. The song breaks into this outro that seems like the intro for Common’s album “Be” and then we get some synths as well as some timbaland-esque drum work. It’s Chance’s one last hurrah for his listeners. Good ass outro, indeed.
Acid Rap is essentially a reflection of who Chance the Rapper is. On the surface, we get this energetic, drug ridden and cartoonish character that Chance often likes to play, but underneath all of that we also get the rose that grew from the concrete. Acid Rap is Chance the Rapper channeling the feelings he gets from his hometown as well as it’s greatest artists. He puts that into a drug fueled 13 track album that can leave you smiling and grooving one moment and teary-eyed the next. Beautiful contrast is the name of Chance’s game and he does it extremely well. This is why Chance has gained so much success over the release of this mixtape. It’s as much a piece of everyone of us as it is a piece of him. Worse than worthless? I beg to differ.
Listen to “Everybody’s Something” by Chance the Rapper:
BEST ALBUMS OF 2013