By: Harry Jadun
“Balancing on sporadicity and fucking pure joy. Nightly searches for a bed and I just came off tour with Troy. But I can’t complain I got some motherfucking business. How many lab partners have I fucked since I got suspended?” -Chance the Rapper, “Good Ass Intro”
Coming off of his 10 Day mixtape, which was inspired by a high-school suspension for weed related activities, much was expected of Chance the Rapper for his recently released mixtape, Acid Rap. Judging from his unorthodox delivery, outrageous ad libs and funky instrumentals that are tethered down by hard-hitting percussion, it’s clear that Chance has graduated to harder drugs for his newest work of art. The listener benefits from this, as it allows Chance to delve deeper into his mind as he explores many different topics, from crime in Chicago to watching orange Nickelodeon VHS tapes as a child. Chance takes us through a trip, poetically painting vivid pictures of life as a burgeoning rapper from Chicago.
Chance’s unique style was introduced to us on 10 Day but he has refined it for Acid Rap, in which his recipe for success calls for many different genres and inspirations. Here he blends aspects of acid jazz with samples of Kanye West and Tupac; moreover, he throws in clever word play, a little bit of Spanglish and even a Russian accent. Cue in his Lil Wayne-esque raspy, flawless off-key singing, and sprinkle his trademark “igh” ad libs on top and the final product is a quirky and delicious meal for listeners’ ears to feast upon.
It’s clear that Chance is proud of where he comes from, as he name-drops just about every significant rapper, landmark or business in Chicago. He doesn’t forget to bring his Save Money crew along for the ride, and features fellow Chicago artists Vic Mensa, BJ the Chicago Kid, Noname Gypsy, Lilli K and Twista. As a man of his city, this builds up his credibility as a Chicago native as well as a reliable voice for what is happening in the Windy City.
When hearing a story, the listener must never forget where the tale is coming from. Fellow Chicago rappers, such as Chief Keef, glorify the violence that plagues the streets of Chicago, which is commonly referred to as Chiraq due to the amount of homicides that has now exceeded American troop casualties in Afghanistan since 2012. Chance the Rapper, who dropped out of college to pursue a rap career after his good friend was killed in a stabbing in 2011, provides a different viewpoint. Throughout Acid Rap, Chance tells the story of Chicago through the eyes of a humble, down-to-Earth 20-year-old who lives in a city that’s in way over its head. Never is this more prominent than in “Pusha Man,” which starts out with Chance as a local drug dealer boastfully rapping about threesomes and drugs. The song then slows down, presenting us with the red pill that is the harsh reality of living in the streets of Chicago: “I’ll take you to land, where the lake made of sand, and the milk don’t pour and the honey don’t dance, and the money ain’t yours.” Even though he wishes he could be “Captain save the hood,” he admits he roams around the city with a gun on his hips, not to contribute to the violence, but to protect himself. Later on “Acid Rain,” Chance admits that he “trips to make the fall shorter.” It is this brutal honesty about himself as well as his surroundings that makes Chance such a lovable character.
Acid Rap also provides Chance with a stream-of-consciousness diary to explore his thoughts and reflect on his life, seemingly discovering himself bar by bar throughout the mixtape. His vibrant images and deft wordplay allow him to convey complex thoughts and feelings with ease. On the ultra-relatable “Cocoa Butter Kisses” Chance reminisces on his childhood when he watched Nickelodeon, and can’t help but hate the monster he has become, “wiling off peyote like Wiley the Coyote… Put visine inside my eyes so my grandma would fuckin’ hug me.” Throughout Acid Rap Chance takes listeners along for the rollercoaster ride as he grows up as a rapper and human being.
Although the topics that Chance takes on are very intense, he never fails to keep it light and fun, providing the listener with an odd sense of optimism that’s infectious upon listening to his charismatic flow. On the interlude, he relishes the smaller things in life that we take for granted. On the outro, he channels his inner Kendrick Lamar and uses a recording of a phone conversation with his father to show his love for his family. At times like these, Chance reminds us that he is still a kid, naively optimistic in a city under a dark shadow of doubt.
Of course, Chance takes some time to pat himself on the back for all of his achievements. On the playful “Favorite Song” he teams up with superfriend Childish Gambino and provides the listener with some witty, English-bending bars. He half-heartedly compares himself to the Miami Heat, metaphorically compares LSD to Lake Shore Drive and says fuck you to his high school faculty. All is good in the world of Chance the Rapper, who has transformed from a suspended high school student to the feature of magazines and blogs in less than a year.
After listening to Acid Rap, it’s hard not to agree with Lilli K on the introduction when she sings, “Even better than I was the last time, baby.” Chance the Rapper has improved as a rapper over the past year, and provides us with a vivid trip through his thoughts and feelings. Luckily for us, on “Chain Smoker” he lets us know that this isn’t his last work of art: “I ain’t tryna go out at all, got a lot of ideas still to throw out the door.”
“Cocoa Butter Kisses (feat. Vic Mensa and Twista)”