Review Summary: Youthful exuberance made sonic. I havent heard such a joyous endorsement of acid's creative qualities since Revolver.
Chicago is a city of ad-libs.
“Bang bang” grimly intones Chief Keef and his dead eyed zombie compatriots, hands twisted into imitations of the pistols littering their hoods. “Bands!” exclaim sister/brother from other mothers duo Katie Got Bands and King L, rolling syllables around in their mouths exploiting them for maximum stickiness. “Eh-llz” Lil’ Durk pushes the sound through a vocoder, tearing into the edges. And Chance the Rapper… Squawks?
Standing a couple feet away from the group of thugs populating the vibrant Chicago rap scene casting perplexed looks in his direction, Chance squawks again.
His head cocks to the side like a species of bird driving itself to extinction through its own dumbassery. Other rappers flex their dominance through their adlibs and Chance just wants to get your attention. Oh, he has one other ad-lib too, it’s a children’s taunt.
“NYAN, NYAN, NYAN, NYAAAAN!”
Chance the Rapper represents the corrective balance to a city with bullets coming out of every open hole. Bodies littering street corners and a police force ill equipped to handle an adult war being waged between children. Where there is an explosion in inner-city violence, rap music becomes a voice for the voiceless. This movement, dubbed the drill scene, has already produced its fair share of amazing music (Back From the Dead, “Val Venis”, “L’s Anthem”) but this is a city split between areas of explosive violence and decadent wealth a few blocks away. Chance belongs to the latter, with ties to the former, but raps nothing like his peers. Raised on the south side but attended Jones College Prep, Chance forgoes the generic gangsterisms and monotone flows and instead grapples with his city’s epidemic with plain truths and biting wit, “They murkin’ kids” he states on “Pusha Man”’s spacey comedown, “They murder kids here/Why do you think they don’t talk about it? … Down here its easier to find a gun than a ***ing parking spot.”
While Chance isn’t afraid to traverse this weighty territory, his staggering wit always keeps the music aloft, and on most of Acid Rap he’s just goofing off. Chance is slotting into one of those perfect right place/right time moments, a city filled with diamond hard rap music needs a corrective balance and Chance is about to hit the target King L only hinted at with his bewilderingly realized Acid Rap mixtape. It’s a joyous cartwheel through a city that has made some of the greatest music in history and it kicks off with a sun blasted stroll down Navy Pier. Make no mistake; “Good Ass Intro” is one of the best songs of the year. Stately piano chords and soulful vamping prepares you for a cool piece of Chi-town boom bap before pulling a fast one and flipping into another type of Chicago bread music, footwork. Meanwhile Chance is rapping his ass
off over this. “Work/Work/Work/Work/Bang nigga, bang!/Twerk/Twerk/Merge/Swerve/Dang/Pick’a lane!/Flip’a bird/Pigeon plane!” All this leaves his mouth in a span of seconds before shooting off double time for a few bars and then shifting his flow a 3rd time to shout out tabs of X and Texas. It’s a ride on a runaway Ferris wheel with the safety bars off. Hella’ fun, is what I’m getting at.
A wild sense of sonic adventurism pervades the tape. He’s spitting over chopped up ragtime on “Juice” while dropping Second City ready wise cracks, “You love being Kobe when you make the lay-urp/…till you realize everybody in the world ***ing hates the Lakers!” Easygoing guitars clash with hyperactive synths, snares, and handclaps on the certified jam “Favorite Song”. “NaNa” struts like vintage Common while Chance flashes some ad-lib tricks he picked up from Eminem. “Smoke Again” tips its hat to the epic horn constructions of regional production champ Young Chop before undermining the bluster with live drums and a loping tempo. And those three songs I just listed are in a row.
Let that be a testament to the stunning consistency on display here. Even now I find myself looking at the track list trying to come up with some lowlights and just cant. Its top to bottom thrilling, producers I’ve never even heard of making like they're pushing these beats into Kanye’s hands after a show, noname rappers like Vic Mensa rubbing shoulders with Chicago legends (Twista) and national movers and shakers (Action Bronson, Ab-Soul) all on their A-Game.
Above it all sits Chance the Rapper, he who inspires great jealousy. Fresh out of high school with a style so developed it embarrasses the legions of hopefuls that have been desperately trying to gain recognition from the first moment their pens hit paper.
And his flows. Holy mother of microphones. This kid’s got flows.
I touched on this a few paragraphs ago but I will forgo further quoting of his (excellent) one liners and encourage you to just cue up one of his songs, double time, triple time, hard stops and starts, and his superball voice careening around the tempo with a conversational ease and an ear-to-ear grin. He sounds overjoyed that people are getting as excited over his music as he is.
Chicago winters are beyond brutal. The wind whipping off of Lake Michigan cuts through skyscrapers with ease, sending its citizens scurrying from apartment to L train to work and back again with narry a polite nod in anyone’s direction. Even worse, these winters tend to bleed into the warmer months; indeed it was snowing over here in mid April. Chance the Rapper spent many of these freezing cold months huddled in front of microphones, perfecting his style and sequencing his album. Performing shows to disinterested crowds and slacking off to unimpressed teachers. But as May rolls around a wonderful thing happens, the summer opens up to a city full of people who have been desperate for the outdoors to welcome them again. Chance loves his city, and he is ready for the blissful summer about to descend upon it. As such he has given away Acid Rap, an album that will handily top its peers come year-end time, for free. What are you waiting for? Your summer needs this album.