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Mixtape Review: Chance the Rapper, Acid Rap

Just over a year ago, Chance the Rapper released his debut mixtape #10Day, a project inspired by a suspension from school in his senior year. It showcased a promising young man with raw talent and sharp instincts. Now, after much hype, Chance returns with his sophomore effort Acid Rap, a complicated, comprehensive journey into the curious mind of an artist starting to come into their own.

A young Kanye West and Chicago’s sonic roots serve as the obvious reference points for Chance’s sound. “Good Ass Intro” is a rework of Ye’s Freshman Adjustment 2 intro and two tracks feature a Chicago Juke breakdown. His delivery is highlighted by a quirky and pitchy voice that drifts somewhere in between rapping and singing. It’s a calculated kind of freewheeling that sounds effortless yet designed simultaneously. Chance’s interesting choice of collaborations is another highlight of Acid Rap, and instead of going for the biggest names, Chance chooses artists who are equally unique as him, Action Bronson, Ab-Soul, BJ The Chicago Kid and Childish Gambino among others.  These selections help Acid Rap’s singular vision instead of turning the mixtape into a mosh posh of ideas, a mistake often made by buzzing prospects eager to attach starpower to their resume.

“Pusha Man” is a record that captures Chance’s essence. There’s a duality here, with the song starting as an youthful, elated track laced with spirited bravado and eccentric ad-libs. Once the beat stops though, it takes a turn into a somber territory, with Chance shining a light into the harsh reality of Chicago’s South Side. “They murkin’ kids, they murder kids here/Why you think they don’t talk about it? They deserted us here/ Where the fuck is Matt Lauer at? Somebody get Katie Couric in here.” It’s this awareness of his surroundings and the social ramifications of them that make Chance such a bright talent. “Acid Rain” is another standout, where the MC contemplates his place in life and more existential questions. “I think love is beautiful, too/Building forts from broken dams, what a hoover could do / For future hoopers dead from Rugers, shooting through that empty alley/Could’ve threw him an alley-oop, helping him do good in school” the 20-year-old ponders.

The production and it’s outstanding cohesiveness play as important of a part in Acid Rap’s success as Chance’s emerging voice. It’s rich, soulful sound incorporates the use of brass instrumentation and the influence of Acid Jazz bands is prevalent throughout.

Ultimately, Acid Rap’s biggest victory is living up to it’s own hype and Chance’s careful packaging of his artistry. There aren’t many 20-year-old rappers in 2013 with enough confidence in their craft to allow a year to go by between releases, let alone completely deliver on the hype built. This thoughtfulness, patience and planning makes for a beautiful, thorough and compelling body of work that may see Chance usurp Chief Keef as the face of their ailing city. —Emmanuel C.M. (@ECM_LP)

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