Everybody went to school with Chance the Rapper. Chance was proper chill; he smoked a lot of weed, he was instantly relatable, liked by all. He likes flavoured lip gloss and, well, smoking blunts. He dislikes spending time at crowded beaches and the sound of fireworks. He agrees that Chicago’s murder rate is too high. Apparently he sleeps with all his lab partners. He listens to Frank Ocean and “other really dope music”. When he gets suspended from school after being found smoking weed, everyone is a little sad. When he turns the experience into the ‘concept mixtape’ 10 Day, in the process blowing up the blogosphere propelling himself to alternative rap fame and fortune, everyone is happy.
Only Chance is unassuming enough to give himself such a no-bullshit name like “Chance the Rapper”. Only Chance is unpretentious enough to pull it off. Only Chance is so chill that the first song on his new mixtape is simply called “Good Ass Intro”. Only Chance. Hell, everything about the guy practically screams “Hi, I’m Chance. I’m a rapper. I made a good ass mixtape”. So what’s not to like about Chance? After all, he’s Chance. He’s the kid that smoked all that weed. Chance is the guy we all loved.
As Childish Gambino, a.k.a. Donald Glover, kindly points out on Favourite Song, “I was never fake/I’m just too good to be true”. And that’s the problem with Acid Rap. Sure it’s a great mixtape, but there’s something a little off about Acid Rap. The numerous soul samples don’t quite hit just right. Chance’s voice is just a bit too cartoony; syllables are stretched just a bit too long, and in the end Chance is just too good to be true. No one is this much of an archetype – he’s not quite ‘The Fonz’ he thinks he is. This is what it sounds like to take the perfect mixtape and try just a little bit harder. If only Chance were Chance.
Chance’s second mixtape begins with female backing singers cooing “Even better than I was the last time baby/I’m good”. In interviews Chance calls Acid Rap “that tape that people look back on forever like when Kanye came out with pink polos and the soul samples”. The truth is Chance is a dick. Scratch beneath the surface of the lovable stoner veneer and you’ll find the typical self-deluded ego we have come to expect from any rapper worth mentioning. We were promised a truly different character from the generic self-aggrandizing fool that populates the rap world, but sadly the idea that he might be truly different seems to have gone to Chance’s head.
But forget for a second that Chance tries too hard, that the suspended from high school backstory is just a little too perfect, and you’re left with the best rap album of 2013 so far. After all we want Chance to succeed. His laid back yet rapid flow and cadence takes its cues from Kendrick Lamar and early Lil Wayne. The gleeful wordplay is influenced by Late Registration era Kanye West and 90’s Jay Z. Often Chance is very amusing like when he documents his supposedly middle class family’s move to Chicago’s West Chatham, a.k.a. Chiraq,: “moved to the neighbourhood/ I bet they don’t stay for good, watch/ someone will steal Daddy’s rolie/ and call it the neighbourhood watch”.
The production is both retro and just modern enough as the rapping. The beats are indebted both to Chicago’s soul sampling past and Chicago’s footwork present. Soft plinking piano tones and smooth brass grind up against cranked up, lightning fast thumps of bass and quick bursts of drumming. The effect is most prominent on the aforementioned “Good Ass Intro”. In the end the soul wins out over the dance floor, but don’t be fooled by the acid referencing title and psychedelic cover art; Acid Rap will get you pumped up even if it isn’t exactly knockin’ any trunks.
For all that’s good about Acid Rap, its many disparate parts don’t quite blend together comfortably. According to Chance “there’s a lot of Jamiroquai, and all the influences for acid jazz, like disco and funk and soul, trying to put all that into this new acid rap shit that I’m making”. Apparently “[his] taste is so refined” but if Chance had just bit a little less off to chew, one feels that the whole could have equalled more than the sum of Chance’s admittedly brilliant borrowed parts. Like our high school chum there’s nothing unique to distinguish Chance from any other Chance.By Alex Fullerton