Freshly out of teenagehood, Chance the Rapper dropped his Acid Rap mixtape in 2013. He brings together a quirky, laughable, and word-twisting piece of music that does nothing short of entertaining the listener. It features impressive rhymes, tuneful beats, occasionally profound moments and some terrible and forgettable lyrics as well. Musically, the mixtape sports elements of classic soul, juke, blues-rock, drill, and acid jazz, but is heavily glazed over with Chance’s cartoonish, and lively personality.
Highlights of this project are unique and varied. The opening track, “Good Ass Intro,” is absolutely killer. In cohesion with the bright “I’m good,” and “I’m gonna be,” notes that are interpolated from two John Legend features, the joyful trumpets as well as Chance’s evident aplomb, make for an enchanting joyride to kick-start the record. “Pusha-man,“ the two-part tale that is 7 and a half minutes long, grips the listener even more after the awesome first track. In the first part of this song, Chance is routinely shooting his non-serious, drugged bars of living the life of a rapper, along with some nice auto-tuned, and low-pitch “I’m your, I’m your Pusha-man,” utterances by Nate Fox. The second part deals with the emotions of losing a close one in his hometown, and the omnipresence of gun violence in Chicago. “Everybody dies in the summer,” is a memorable observation he makes about Chicago’s homicide pattern. He evocatively sings in the song as well, asserting that the media would really understand the struggles of Chicago if they were actually there, opposed to just portraying it as some kind of a macabre war-zone from afar. On the back-end of this mixtape, “Chain Smoker,” is also another cool song. The production on this thing is really smooth, with resonant synthetic pianos in the background, and these peripheral “Yeah yeah, ah ah ah yeah yeah,” high-pitch notes making for just a truly feel-good experience on this tape. Lyrically, its Chance’s signature word-twisting diction, and most notably, his assurance to his fans that he is indeed still the “Chain smoking, Name dropping, Good looking…Brain broken,” rapper that he is known to be.
Drugs, if you didn’t get that already, is a major theme on this tape and is manifested quite creatively in a couple of songs. Most intriguingly, is on “Cocoa Butter Kisses,” a sincerely sung and pleasant track exploring Chano’s longing for affection from his family, but the stench from his cigarette-smoking deterring them from doing so. This otherwise awkward concept is remarkably put together on the song and is something no other rapper could and would sing about. “Lost,“ is another weird, and interesting song with this part of him, and he impressively makes his explicit desire to get high with his love, a serious and meaningful pursuit, despite my lack of relatability with the sentiment. The romantic instrumentation with mellow guitar strings, and spacey flutes on this track make it a really sensual listen. Noname’s feature on the end is really cool too, making comments on self-destructive drug prescriptions in modern psychiatry: “I wanna stop seeing my psychiatrist…The masochism that you preach,” as well as the emotional dissatisfaction of lust: “The only time he loves me is naked in my dreams.”
While this is definitely a unique, solidly produced piece of music, this mixtape comes with many awful, and fishy-after-taste moments. Like on the track “Smoke again,” which talks about a variety of totally random shit like Chano’s ability to fuck a girl even if she’s not interested at first, driving a Chevrolet El Camino accompanied by three Japanese lesbians, and a distasteful compulsion to “Let me put my mouth where you potty boo;” absolute shit mania. The song “NaNa,” also screams to oneself the relative lack of seriousness this project should be looked at with. I mean really?: “Swallow my mucus. Hope your pussy get herpes and yo’ ass get lupus.” “Favorite song,” was just total garbage. Chance literally sounds like a 6th grader who tried drugs for the first time and is too jittery to say anything worthwhile listening to. The trash sentiment of this being his “favorite song,” and his “jam, this my jam, this my jam, this my jam, I’m ’bout that jam, I’m ’bout that jam, I’m ’bout that jam, I’m ’bout that jam,” was just cheap and boring. “Juice,” was probably the only other song that was of poor quality. The retro-esque instrumental was lifeless, and lyrically it was so hollow and vague that it just went right by me, wanting to move to the next song.
Despite the predominantly freewheeling feel here, Chance the Rapper can occasionally be sincere and profound as well. “Acid Rain,” a rhythmically dark and melancholic song, shows that the Chicagoan isn’t always so chill and carefree. He talks about the demons of his friend’s death still haunting him to this day and the comfort of distantly viewing the news about violence and murder in Chicago: “Funerals for little girls, is that appealing to you? From your cubicle desktop, what a beautiful view.” On the closing track of this entire nutty soliloquy, “Everything’s good (Good Ass Outro),” Chance is at his utmost sincere and real. It starts with a snippet of an emotional phone call with his dad, in which he praises him for his success, and Chance being totally humbled and grateful by it. Then this transitions into the actual song with Chance saying “Thanks for coming guys.” The melodic pianos and drums become more prominent and he delivers a lyrical retrospection. He raps about his metamorphosis from a lazy dreamer to a commercial rapper, shouting-out to his former delinquent behavior, current success enabling him to return owed money to his father, and his prideful diligence in his trade. Each significant bar here follows with him opining “Everything’s good.” The track closes with two conspicuous, yet connective instrumental changes; a gratulant trumpet solo from Nico Segal, and the same “I’m gonna be,” vocals from his first track, followed by a sample of his “Juke, Juke,” song off his debut 10 day mixtape, and the “I’m good,” interpolations from “Good Ass Intro,“ as well.
While this project is a much better listen than an analogous messy, and uninspired Under Pressure, album by Logic, when you listen to something as powerful as Good kid M.A.A.D city, by Kendrick Lamar, it becomes clear that despite offering an ephemera of eye-opening realness, this project is just aimlessness. It is also important to make the distinction from Acid Rap to Trap music. While this tape is freewheeling, silly, and lyrically glitzy, it is not anywhere close to a Trap record. There are no “hype,” club-bangers. But that’s what makes this whole clusterfuck a unique experience you can’t find anywhere else. The creative, and refreshing instrumentals influenced by a variety of different genres, make this something worth listening to.
While Chance comes off as being a relatively more creative, and bracing figure in a modern-day dystopia of bland and monotonous trap-rappers, he doesn’t have many bold or insightful things to say. He certainly has gone through a great deal, growing up in a drug and crime-plagued city like Chicago, but that doesn’t really make for any impactful opinions or perspective in his music. He often just sounds like a high cartoon character who’s too antsy to saying anything meaningful. I certainly give him credit for his crafty rhymes and savvy phonetic manipulation of the English language, but that language is usually hollow and trivial. And that’s essentially what makes this mixtape suffer; aimlessness. But if you want some unique music to listen to and just have fun, this is your go-to mixtape. I’d give it an average 7/10.