Chance The Rapper - Acid Rap | Album Review | By Volume

What is this life, why do we strive? Fast on a wheel, too fast to feel. One day, my love, this life will slow. Sam Brookes - One Day

Chance The Rapper

Acid Rap

Chance relates to everything. Watch him ascend to it.

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Author: on June 2, 2013
April 30, 2013

The most striking feature of Acid Rap hits as soon as the mixtape begins, as well as immediately after it’s over; it’s the sheer drive to encompass all elements it can spit out. It strives to achieve a balance between staple mixtape ingredients such as intrepid instrumentals, daring lyricism and a solid set of feature artists to satisfy the somewhat questionable all-important co-sign culture in hip-hop. It attempts to deliver a holistic package of what Chicago life is and where it has come from. It relentlessly pounds down the borders between styles and batters presumptions that could be held. Maybe it’s the way the first track has about fifty (okay, six) featuring artists, or how the first thing Chance the Rapper does is repeat, “We back”, or that he then introduces himself by way of revealing his flaws from the offset.

And what an introduction it is. “Good Ass Intro” is perhaps as apt as one could get for a song title, a literal, self-referential track in which Chance throws us into the deep end and forces us to reconsider what he’s capable of. With a nod to a no-doubt inspirational figure from his city, the track samples some of Kanye West’s work, throwing it into a frenetic juke-style beat as a choir jubilantly sing. We’re also introduced to Chance’s Marmite voice, which, like many before him, such as Danny Brown, is bound to be a negative for some. If you can get past his Lil’ Wayne tinged squeaks and squawks – and you should – it becomes evident that instead of trying to alienate people with his sound, Chance is actually embracing his characteristics and inviting listeners to do the same. Scatting over tracks in a manner that seems naturalistic and not flawed, cool and not cringe-worthy, songs become immediately infectious. Another trend showcased on the first track that continues throughout the release is the rapper’s penchant for unorthodox, pseudo-nonsensical and oddly-enunciated lyricism: “Call me Chancellor The Rapper, please say “The Rapper” / Magical word (poof), please say ‘Kadabra / Replay the replays; Green Bay to Packers / Cremate your team-mates and freebase the ashes.”

One of the best cuts on the tape, “NaNa”, sees Chance acknowledge A Tribe Called Quest with the beat from “Sucka Nigga”, freely exploring playful creativity in three minutes of indulgent braggadocio. His lazy, off-kilter flow leads into a chorus consisting of unintelligible whining. Action Bronson appears on the last verse, which is for the best seeing as his instant-quotable rap, and moans a sound between meowing and smoke-induced coughing. He just about outshines Chance, and the track seems to improve with every listen. The features complement the artist all the way through, such as Vic Mensa and Twista competing for the rapid-fire delivery award on single material “Cocoa Butter Kisses”. The pairing with Childish Gambino on “Favorite Song” seems borne of neccessity; it just had to happen, and I think a case could be made for Chance simply being a more accessible and well-rounded Childish Gambino.

It isn’t all fun and games – in fact they’re often put forward with a darker reality, as on Pusha Man. The first part of the song is a throwback funk-imbued tune made to drive slow to, and transforms into something more pensive. The latter part is the first glimpse we get of Chance’s ‘serious’ side, which continues on the haunting Acid Rain. Chance laments the changes to his life, missing a more simpler time when he’d just began to rap, just began to take acid and weed, just began to experience the finer things in life before the downsides kicked in. He recalls when his real friends were still alive, and when his fake friends still seemed like real friends. Baptising himself in Acid Rain, Chance starts to grow up, singing, “I am a new man”, with the melody of Chicago crooner R. Kelly’s “The World’s Greatest”.

The best rappers know how to tell a story, and Chance does this on songs like “Lost” and “Smoke Again”, with guests Noname Gypsy and the vitriolic Ab-Soul playing supporting roles. Towards the end it becomes clear that Chance has been ‘serious’ the whole time, whether boasting or relating experiences, and such duality and multi-dimensional intent from an artist so young is something to be cherished. Repeated listens are fruitful and more insightful than before, and it’s as if songs like “Juice” can be heard with a different set of ears. At times it seems Chance has some difficulty conveying particular emotions and expressions with words, masking it with his hyperactive cadences and breaking into singing and scatting instead. This cements his versatility, and his championing of different disciplines, yet at times can feel like an escape route for his verses, leaving the occasional pocket of untested lyrical ability.

“Everything’s Good” phases out the mixtape with the positivity it began with, carrying new-found wisdom and more sober acknowledgements, though Chance’s juvenile spirit remains a present mainstay. His outrageous flow traverses over subdued marching band drumming with piano loops a plenty, celebratory brass emphasising the artist’s refusal to accept anything below triumph. The tape is rounded off with footwork and chants mirroring the beginning, serving to assert that while Chance has developed and changed, he will always be Chancellor The Rapper. On Acid Rap, Chance is aware of his demons, dues and darker side, but he recognises the positive nature keeping him afloat, acknowledging this on the sole interlude. Other members of this new generation of Chicago artists, such as Chief Keef and Lil’ Durk, choose to focus on the gritty reality they know, like kids that grew up too fast. Chance is much more balanced, relating to every entity in the equation, every corner of the bigger picture. This is what makes Acid Rap such an accessible listen for something so quirky, and its quirkiness works to make it as memorable a release as it is. Chance is the people’s rapper, and he knows it.

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