If you aren’t into rap/hip-hop and listen to only one mixtape this year, make it Acid Rap, as it oozes so much mass-appeal I can’t imagine even the most avid Iron and Wine fan not bumpin to this wonderful compilation. Acid Rap is that rare mixtape that not only propels an MC into million dollar record deals (see: Logic-Young Sinatra), but gives summer lovin kids some new shit to bump in their car. Complete with popping cover art and stuffed with more hooks than a Chinese fisherman’s man purse (in which he stores his many fish hooks, surprisingly enough. (I’m sooo funny)), it’s almost shocking that this only the sophomore mixtape of Chance the Rapper. It’s also really surprising that Chance is straight out of high school. Chancelor Bennett released his first mixtape #10day, after a ten day suspension from Jones College Prep High School for smoking dat chronic in 2011. In April of 2013, he released Acid Rap, which garnered tons of attention for Chance through music blog aggregates like hypemachine and social media site, reddit. Now he’s already performed at SXSW, and is hitting up Lollapalooza this August.
Acid Rap opens with a track titled “good ass intro,” and if you’re a solid Yeezy fan you might just recognize the hook. It’s Chance’s version of John Legend’s hook in the Intro track for Kanye’s Freshman Adjustment 2 mixtape. That is really old school Kanye, and on one hand it seems like Chance is paying homage to the king of ChiCity. On the other hand, it’s hard to ignore how much better Chance’s track is in every aspect, honestly Chance sounds better on the hook than John Legend does. The high production values, sound, and Chicago origin have led some (such as XXL) to compare the two rappers, and if the comparison holds true, I can’t imagine what Chance’s first studio album will sound like. The second track, Pusha Man and its B-side, Paranoia, keep you hooked on the rest of the mixtape. Pusha Man is a pretty solid pop track with a hot hook, and a beat that rolls, and gives, and tugs. This legit lowkey kickback track fades out after around two to three minutes, and gives way to silence. Really my only objection to this album is how long the silence is, it’s by far the longest break in the album and would sound better with at least a soft beat to tie the listener over. After a minute of confusion when looking at the 5 minutes left of the song and hearing only silence, Chance ends up pulling a classic 60s rock-esque B-side stunt and finally gives the listener what they want. Paranoia is an incredible track, and the production by Nosaj Thing makes it that much better. Nosaj Thing’s lackadaisical and entrancing beats are the perfect background for the cynical sound of Chance’s flow on this track. And this cynical flow is contrasted beautifully by the smooth and slow falsetto chorus. This is the sociopolitical commentary track on the album, and it’s done in the perfect way. I can tell because it sounds good and isn’t incredibly annoying as some such tracks are. The best commentary in this song and in my opinion, the whole album, is from the second verse.
They merking kids, they murder kids here.
Why you think they don’t talk about it? They deserted us here.
Where the f**k is Matt Lauer at? Somebody get Katie Couric in here.
Probably scared of all the refugees, look like we had a f**king hurricane here.
They be shooting whether it’s dark or not, I mean the days is pretty dark a lot.
Down here it’s easier to find a gun than it is to find a f**king parking spot.
No love for the opposition, specifically a cop position,
Cause they’ve never been in our position.
Getting violations for the nation, correlating, you dry snitching.
The third track, “Cocoa Butter Kisses,” is definitely the single of the mixtape, which is definitely saying something. It seems impossible that any track could stick out so much and latch onto your brain when its surrounded by a mixtape made almost entirely of singles, but cocoa butter kisses manages to do it. Featuring superstar rapper Twista and Vic Mensa of the rising group Kids These Days, the track gives a seamless flow between the varying styles of each verse. If you’re going to listen to any track from the mixtape, make it this one, simply for the reason that it would get anyone hooked. Between here and the interlude are three tracks, all with their own draws. “Juice” is a pretty typical bumper, with a chorus in which Chance shouts, “juice!” Nevertheless, it’s catchy and very fun. “Lost” is the track to bump nasties to, and it details the typical metaphor of drug abuse substituted for and in tandem with a relationship. Noname Gypsy’s verse stands out, and breaks the stereotype as she raps;
The masochism that you preach,
Practice back flips, tragic actress
On a movie with no screen,
When the only time he loves me is naked in my dreams.
It’s the last verse of the song and provides a realistic twist that shows a more realistic side of a relationship based on drug abuse. Everybody’s something brings us back up from the short, sad spurt, and is the feel good song of the first act. The beat is slow and droning, which is contrasted by a sharp drum beat. It opens with a witty yet brief contemplation of ethics and religion as Chance spits;
What’s good good?
And what’s good evil?
And what’s good gangstas?
And what’s good people?
And why’s God’s phone die every time that I call on him?
If his son had a twitter wonder if I would follow him.
The half way point is determined by the track “interlude (that’s love).” Even though it’s an interlude, it hooks you just as tight as any of the others. Broken up by an almost Elton John sounding chorus, and backed by a guitar and piano melody reminiscent of 70s ballads, Chance flows with a really smooth use of internal rhyme that definitely makes the track. It’s short and conclusive enough to feel like an interlude, but not too conclusive sounding to feel like an outro, and its build makes you restless for a second act. Essentially, it’s an interlude done right.
“Favorite Song” opens up the second half of the mixtape, and is the other runner up to be the single of the mixtape (I say this based on the popularity of these two tracks specifically on reddit). The feature on this track is the once underground favorite Childish Gambino, who I’m honestly kind of tired of at this point. The song is upbeat and has a very summer-sounding beat with a distorted guitar hook and a chorus that consists of “it’s my jam.” This is probably my least favorite track of the album, but I just don’t like the beat that much. Hopefully it’ll give Gambino a second wind though, because with some better production his high quality writing should get him closer to the top. The next track, “NaNa,” which features XXL freshman Action Bronson, has a deliciously Madlib-influenced beat. The Chance-Action Bronson contrast between verses is really fun and works surprisingly well. Amusingly, this marks the third time on the mixtape that Chance uses the phrase “zen with that lean,” I don’t know if this marks him as a Soulja Boy fan or just a kid who’s hip with the times, but I chuckled. “Smoke Again” stands out with its orchestral rap sound, characteristic of TDE’s sound, as Ab-Soul is the feature. It’s one of the few tracks that really stands out as most of the other tracks’ beats are pretty homogenous, but before long the beat mellows out and adapts to the sound of the rest of the mixtape.
The last three tracks of the mixtape demonstrate Chance’s rare ability to maintain a pop appeal while still having introspective and sometimes painfully honest lyrics. “Acid Rap” is a laid back track with a soft beat and a contemplative flow in which he honestly discusses the pain he’s been through;
My big homie died young; I just turned older than him
I seen it happen, I seen it happen, I see it always.
He still screaming, I see his demons in empty hallways.
I trip to make the fall shorter
And goes on to make another sociopolitical commentary on the media;
Sometimes the truth don’t rhyme,
Sometimes the lies get a million views.
Funerals for little girls, is that appealing to you?
From your cubicle desktop, what a beautiful view.
In “Chain Smoker,” he swiftly spits about not wanting to get involved in any gang violence on top of an oscillating beat. He admits that he’d rather live long enough to leave a positive influence and get his ideas out there, which still contrasts with much of what MCs are saying in the pop rap-game. The mixtape concludes with “Everything’s Good (Good Ass Outro),” which definitely lives up to its name. This piece gives the listener an incredible sense of empathy for Chance, and if you’ve been paying attention you’ll seriously feel really proud and stoked about this kid. This is mainly because it opens with a recording of a phone conversation between Bennett and his father, in which Bennett’s father tells him how proud he is and how supportive he is of what Bennett’s doing with his life. It’s incredibly heartwarming and still gives me chills. The rest of the song is contemplative and nostalgic with a calming piano melody and a soft violin ensemble. It’s contrasted by a sharp kit beat that emphasizes the contemplative verse flow;
I ain’t really good at goodbyes,
I ain’t really bad at leaving.
I ain’t really always been a good guy; I used to be thirsty thievin.
Runnin through purses, even persons, leave em hurtin, bleedin.
I ain’t really help the helpless.
I used to be worse than worthless.
Now I’m worth hooks and verses.
I’m good like books in churches.
Overall, Acid Rap is the highest quality mixtape I’ve heard in a while. There are definitely parallels to be drawn between early Kanye works and Acid Rap, the only difference being this is only Chance’s second tape. Another difference I would mention is Chance is a beautiful singer, and this strongly contributes to the pop sound of his tracks. Kanye, on the other hand, is about the worst singer in the game. Anyways, Acid Rap is an incredibly cohesive mixtape that is extremely enjoyable to go through in one listening, and it flows so well it’s hard to imagine Chance intended for it to be listened to any other way. However, the stand alone value of almost every track on the tape also makes it practically a treasure trove of hip-pop singles that make for some booty rockin beats.