Chance the Rapper doesn't hide his influences, or his ambitions. His rhyme flow at times baldly resembles Lil Wayne's or, at other times, Eminem's; his mainstream-but-iconoclastic posture draws inspiration from Kendrick Lamar and Kanye West. But on his wildly anticipated, unshakably confident second mixtape, the Chicagoan speaks in his own distinctive and eccentric voice.
A few minutes after a download link for Acid Rap appeared on Fake Shore Drive, editor Andrew Barber tweeted that Chance the Rapper’s tape “just got dropped like it was an album.” Shortly afterward, the site crashed from too much traffic. Acid Rap comes from the new “like an album” Live.Love.A$AP school of mixtape: it’s a free release featuring all original (and expensive-sounding) beats, no DJ interjections and some high-profile features. Many pre-release song leaks and videos heralded its impending arrival and helped to built the hype to a fever pitch (Chance released about half of the tracks and several videos before the April 30th D-Day).
In another world, you can imagine Chance the Rapper lip-syncing “Twist and Shout” at Chicago’s Von Steuben Day parade, surrounded by frauleins doing the money dance. You can visualize a rap game Ferris Bueller: arms outstretched to snare a foul ball, staring stoned at Seurat, ducking fascist educators, and oblivious parents with cinematic ease. You can hear his impression of Abe Froman, sausage king of Chicago, and it’s pitch-perfect.
As Kanye's omnipresent ego finally eclipsed his music and Jay-Z revealed that rap's self-appointed emperor was - far from rocking Tom Ford - actually stark-bollock naked, 2013 could have easily gone down as the year hip-hop swallowed its own tail. Yet, as the big names tipped over into banal self-aggrandisement, a new era of mixtape superstars emerged to reintroduce the idea that idiosyncratic personalities - unencumbered by labels of genre, record or clothing - could be a powerful force in hip-hop. They released much of their music for free, with a focus on the quality of their content and the size of their audience, rather than hollow verbosity and inflated pre-sales.
“Everybody dies in the summer” sighs Chance the Rapper in a particularly poignant moment on his latest mixtape, “so pray to God for a little more spring.” It’s this heart-rending reality that underlies the 20-year-old Chicago MC’s second release, Acid Rap. In the more affluent areas of the city few things are cherished more dearly than warm weather, yet in Chance’s Chatham—and other south and west side neighborhoods—the sunshine and clouds have become a precursor to gunshots and sirens. There has been serious discussion recently of how much Chicago’s historically warm dry weather in 2012 lead to a 13% rise in shootings in a city where more Americans are shot each year than in Afghanistan.
Chicago’s drill scene divides audiences, critics, and peers, artists like Chief Keef either vilified for glorifying the city’s violence or given credit for shedding light on the ever-growing body count. In some ways, Chance The Rapper stands entirely apart from that scene, his acid-washed production and trademark “igh!” emanating miles away from Keef’s spare rumbles and “bang bang” ad-lib. He sings ballads, reminisces about the orange color of Nickelodeon VHS tapes, and once sampled indie rockers Beirut.
Just over a year after releasing his debut mixtape, Chicago, IL native Chance the Rapper has returned with his unique, coming-of-age, 13-track narrative, Acid Rap. Opener "Pusha Man" revels in the drug odyssey that lays the backbone of this album, which is further supported by the hazy "Smoke Again" and the lows of "Lost." Chance reveals the softer side of his persona on the nostalgic "Cocoa Butter Kisses" and with the storytelling of "Acid Rain," two tracks that singlehandedly outline the purpose of this album: transitioning from childhood to adulthood. One thing this album doesn't lack is an onslaught of guests.
“Oh, Weezy?” my roommate inquired when I put on Chance the Rapper’s newest release Acid Rap. I told him this wasn’t the case, but I didn’t judge his hasty comparison; Chance comes in “yeah-ing” and “we back-ing” like it’s “Let The Beat Build” 2. As the mixtape slides on from the opener, it’s as if Chance realizes being pinned a neo-Lil Wayne isn’t the most astute of PR moves, and impresses with his own lyrically nimble and melodic flow.
Since releasing his sophomore mixtape, Acid Rap, last week, Chance The Rapper has drawn comparisons from Kanye West to Andre 3000 and his record has been called everything from “a monolith” to “an infinite jest. ” People like this album. Regardless of the particular label or parallel, two things seem certain: Chance is rap’s newest golden boy/enfant terrible and Acid Rap is a career-making record.
When Acid Rap was released in the dying hours of April the hip hop Internet felt heavy with expectation. Chicago's regional rap specialist Fake Shore Drive quickly crashed under the weight of demand, but within less than a day it was something bigger than that; the collective jaw of the music press was chattering eagerly over Chance on every corner of the web, plucking lofty comparisons out of the air and scrambling to inflated claims. For better or worse, this is how it works now; journalistic lead times have become a novelty in the mixtape era, so once the starting gun is fired - the race for opinions is underway.
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.