By Ryan Martin (@RyanMartin182)
“Even better than I was the last time baby”
From the moment those words hit, a wave of nostalgia and good vibes will cover you entirely. The opening track off Chance The Rapper’s breakout and sophomore mixtape has a radically positive sound, filled with gang vocals, horns, and Chance’s signature playful rhyme schemes. It’s truly the best introduction to who the Chicago artist truly is.
Before Chance The Rapper was the pop icon he is today, he was just another kid in Illinois. A kid that loved making music and hanging out with his friends. A product of too many hallucinogens, a strong influence from Kanye West and a style of uniqueness the rap game was missing, all helped shine the spotlight on Lil Chano from the 79th and change his world forever.
Acid Rap comes off as playful and poppy but isn’t afraid to get dark and real, touching upon some of the deeper issues Chance battles with, such as losing adolescence and the untouched issues of violence in Chicago. While his debut mixtape 10 Day helped bring him the attention he needed, Acid Rap is what launched him into the public eye. Following it up with his most recent effort, Coloring Book, Chance’s catalog has solidified him as one of the most promising rap stars of this generation. All without selling one song.
Acid Rap’s instrumentals are trippy, bouncy and sometimes dark. The mixtape’s second track Pusha Man/Paranoia starts out as a light-hearted pop-rap record with an addictive chorus complimented by a funky organ and rattling hi-hats. The second half of the track is the listener’s first glance at Chance’s acid-fueled anxieties. Speaking of the dangers of living in Chicago during the summer time and the absence of news on the subject, Chance drops haunting bars like “They murking 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 / Probably scared of all the refugees, look like we had a fuckin’ hurricane here”.
Cocoa Butter Kisses, one of Chance’s bigger hits off this mixtape, includes rapid fire verses from Vic Mensa and Twista, backed up by a twinkly pop beat and a boom bap drum beat, all tied up by an air tight hook from Chance. Juice is another big hitter that sounds like it was made to be performed live: the way Chance shouts out the chorus makes you want to lose your mind as well as this being one of the first mainstream songs that really showcased his impressive flow as well. Lost includes Chance’s favorite feature on any of his releases thus far, done by the impressive Noname. Noname and Chance met when they were 15 while both pursuing music careers. Their musical chemistry is undeniable with Noname’s vocals and wordplay on high display in this track, gaining her a lot of exposure.
A hard-hitting boom bap drum beat is the backbone for one of the many fan favorites off Acid Rap, Everybody’s Something. The song centers around a positive theme about acceptance and diversity. Chance’s wordplay works well with the trippy beat as well. The chorus is reminiscent of what is to come in his catalog, almost sounding as a prequel to Blessings (Reprise) off Coloring Book. Arguably the most popular song off the album appropriately titled Favorite Song features killer verses from both Chance the Rapper and Childish Gambino. One of the three songs the duo have done together showcases their brilliant chemistry together. The rapid paced chorus matches up with the summery beat perfectly.
NaNa features a smashing sample from A Tribe Called Quest’s Sucka Nigga and a hilarious verse from Action Bronson. The chorus is probably the weakest one on the album with Chance sounding half-drunk on the hook but still fits the loose swaying vibe of the song perfectly. Another fan favorite, Smoke Again is backed by a thumping bass and playful horns. Ab-Soul is featured on this track and delivers a solid verse while Chance drops some slightly controversial bars: “She like when I rap raps, but better when I sing songs / No Drake, but I get my Trey on / killin’ in the hood like Trayvon”.
One of the deep personal cuts, Acid Rain delivers more of Chance’s drug-fueled honest spurts. On the dark trippy beat, Chance mumbles of losing his adolescence and how much his life has changed as he becomes a young adult. The vibe feels as if you’ve fallen down an acid-induced rabbit hole as he hammers you with honest bars. On the last track of the album, Chance wraps it all together nicely with interpolations of previous tracks and a touching voicemail from his father. The positivity theme comes into play once more as he reminds the listener that although there may be violence in the streets and doubt in the mind, everything’s good.
While Acid Rap may be considered a poppier mixtape as it appeals to a mainstream audience, there’s no denying this mixtape’s brilliance in lyricism, samples, and vibes. Chance created a mixtape that became the theme music to those who overthink, those who just want to party, and those who are still trying to keep it real. While the mixtape does have its flaws and can seem off centered at times, it’s one of the most important and impressive mixtapes of our generation today.