Chance The Rapper: Acid Rap (Self Released)
At the start of 'Interlude (Love)', after he has said "yeah" about twenty eight times, Chance the Rapper softly purrs “What’s better than tripping is falling in love”. In a line his 'Acid Rap' is exposed for what it really is - sentimental. It’s a tone that dominates the entire album, not in a cloying way, rather with a lithe nostalgia, with bouncing melodies and adolescent squawks. Much of the crop this year has been about artists growing up, producing confirmatory records that transcend their back catalogues. 'Acid Rap' is the sore thumb.
Chance the Rapper’s second mixtape should be appreciated as a debut. This is not to dismiss 2012’s '10 Day', but 'Acid Rap' was for many, myself included, a genuine shock to the system. The arrival of a hip hop record so optimistic, yet so emotive and self-aware, made the perfect statement in a scene otherwise characterised by showboating or over indulgence. Not only that, but 'Acid Rap' further reinforced the futility of boxing hip hop, or attempting to limit its narrative scope. Chance’s emotional grip is constantly stretched, reflecting internally but also externally, particularly on the unreal levels of gang crime plaguing the streets of Chicago.
Chief Keef has handled the issues facing his and Chance’s shared home very differently. It’s a city where the death tolls trump that of a war zone, a climate of perpetual violence characterised by hyper-masculinity and hereditary bravado. It would be over simple to vilify the swaggering machismo Keef’s lyrics as encouraging the killings - he is as much a victim as he is a proponent - yet Chance, at twenty, already has the foresight and clarity to divorce the issue from territory, presenting it as human tragedy and nothing more. “I know you scared, you should ask us if we scared, too.”
This candid and lyrically frank response sits well against the colourful and juvenile production. Through such deftly applied and catchy hooks, Chance is able to somehow anesthetize and then invigorate his listeners; catching them unawares with an album that is both a humble beginning and a victory lap - the night out and the hangover. Back at the start of the year people got excited about Chance as a throwback, a 'College Dropout' era echo who was coming out of Chi and returning to soul samples. This is true to a point, but throwbacks don’t make the scene stop and listen like 'Acid Rap' has this last year - just ask Palma Violets. It takes something more than memory to make an impact, it takes personality.