As one of the most-anticipated mixtapes of the year throughout the American music world, Acid Rap was expected to be a great release thanks to the early looks at the tape through releases of “singles” and the reputation that precedes him. First thing’s first, Chance The Rapper has surely delivered on the hype by putting out what may potentially be one of the best mixtapes of the year.
Like Pursuit of Dopeness, Chance The Rapper is a product of Chicago and proud of it, so his music is the clearest example of that. The opening track, “Good Ass Intro,” is drenched in Chicago sounds. From the soulful piano to the introduction of House/Juke Music layered on top of the beat during the second half of the song, plus the features of artists like BJ The Chicago Kid, Lili K. and representatives of The O’My’s and Kids These Days, all of these elements come together to create the very appropriately-titled track.
“Pusha Man” was made to be listened to through loud speakers in a car while you ride through the darkness of tough city streets. Chano evokes Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, mAAd city (in subject matter) and Eminem (in delivery and cadence) in this 2-part song that covers the topic of drugs and Chicago’s infamous violence. The first part features an organ part that brings to mind Billy Preston (AKA the Fifth Beatle; look him up) while the second part takes a turn for the doom and gloom with a dark beat over which Chance calls out Matt Lauer and Katie Couric to bring attention to the city through the factual line: “Everybody’s dying in the summer.”
“Cocoa Butter Kisses” features another Chi-town connection when grown-ass smoking dudes, Chance TR plus Twista and Kids These Days’ Vic Mensa, rap about their love of their mommas and grandmothers for a super smooth, and warm track. One of the best tracks of the mixtape is easily “Juice.” It starts simply, with the sound of Chano rapping into a grainy mic before kicking into an old-school, pseudo 90’s-styled R&B beat, building into an impossibly-catchy chorus sporting the chants of “JUICE, JUICE, JUICE” that lay perfectly over infectious piano and smooth guitar. Chance slows it down in the Noname Gypsy collboration, “Lost,” a dialogue about wanting to disappear with the lady in question. It’s sensual, self-deprecating, albeit not entirely sexy, and even a bit funny at times; it sounds like something you could hear on Gambino’s Culdesac except with more R&B.
“Everybody’s Something” (feat. Saba & BJ The Chicago) is the track that will help you learn why those Eminem comparisons have come up, even if on cadence alone. Chano curses out FOX News, flips Uncle Samuel and questions what’s good evil in a track where the overall message is found beyond all the sh*t covered earlier in this sentence. “Interlude (That’s Love)” is another song that brought to mind Culdesac, because Chance not only sings but he also tackles the subject of what’s “love,” looking beyond industry staples like Letterman, Fallon, popping bottles trying to ball in the club, finishing up the verse with “… nothing better than falling in love.” This can easily be the show closer for years to come. And I already know that his line, “what’s better than tripping is falling in love” will fill up many a Chance The Rapper follower’s bio on Twitter. Speaking of Gambino, Chance connects with the über-talented Community actor on “Favorite Song.” They ride a classic beat that sounds as good as ever, and “Bino’s” line “this shit my favorite song you just don’t know the words but I still fuck with you, you just ain’t never heard” rings true about this new, super catchy track.
“NaNa” has a Sublime-like bass line that plays perfectly to Chance’s Idi Amin-rhyming verses and the awesome feature of the incomparable Action Bronson. This track offers nothing uppity, sticking to the fail-proof formula of raunchy lines on a ridiculously catchy beat. “Smoke Again” (feat. Ab-Soul) is an excellent head-bopper track that’s sure to be a staple on live sets. In “Acid Rain,” the production strips it all down for a smooth track in which Chance reminisces about the past (grilled cheeses sandwiches cut diagonally; “back when Mike was still Jesus”), playing those “open mics” and now finding himself playing arenas. The best line is “sometimes the truth don’t rhyme, sometimes the lies get millions of views.”
“Chain Smoker” is another R&B-like track sounding a bit like Frank Ocean (which he mentions in the track) that sounds like a good final track to put at the end of the album. “Everything’s Good (Good Ass Outtro)” starts up with a sweet phone convo before breaking into the beat filled with horns, capped with a piano-driven Juke finale.
I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a teenaged Rap fan in this era and hearing Acid Rap for the first time, but if it’s anything like it was for me back in ’01 when I discovered The Strokes, this would be one of the most wonderful times of those lives. He may not be the voice of this generation (yet), but to those of us who are witnesses to the development of one of the most promising Chicago artists since Kanye (IMO), this is one ride you can’t afford to miss.
Key Tracks: “Pusha Man,” “Cocoa Butter Kisses,” “Juice,” “Everybody’s Something,” “Interlude (That’s Love),” “Favorite Song,” “NaNa,” “Smoke Again,” “Acid Rain”