We’ve seen it before, we’ll see it again. Something under-the-radar breaks through to the mainstream, and the rest of the industry back-peddles in attempt to see what they’ve been missing. When the so-called tastemakers of popular culture are late to the party on something, its usually followed by glowing reviews and affirmations of said product, because the last thing they want is to appear is out-of-touch. Or, the opposite is true, the bandwagon missers shun the product, simply because they were last to hear about it.
Case in point is Chicago’s Chance The Rapper, who in the last few weeks has earned 1) a spot each BET, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, and NPR’s best albums of the year list, 2) the cover of The Source magazine, and 3) a high profile guest feature on Justin Bieber’s “Confident”. This, all coming after the release of Acid Rap, back in the Spring of 2013, which caught a runaway buzz after receiving 50,000 downloads overnight, coupled with Chance’s tour alongside Childish Gambino. Quite an impressive resume. So is Chance The Rapper the next great emcee, or just another manufactured rapstar?
Chance has always been on our radar, but with so much content coming out each day, we don’t get to give everything a review, and there’s just not time to peep every mixtape that comes down the pipeline. So, when a buzz like this is in the air, it is necessary for us to see what the fuss is about, even if the product is a few months old. So, we’ve given Chance The Rapper’s Acid Rap a good few weeks in rotation, going through the album roughly five to seven times in full, to really let it sink in. Chance has accompanied this critic on several whips around town in the car stereo, plenty of hour long workouts in the iPhone, and played loud in the house off the PS3. That being said, we have come to a solid conclusion regarding Chance The Rapper and his mixtape, Acid Rap.
This shit is wack.
The best way to explain Chance The Rapper’s style is exactly how one intrepid IGN message board commenter put it, who described him as a combination between South Park’s Cartman and Wyclef Jean. Our first impression was that he sounded like Fatlip of The Pharcyde, but the Cartman/’Clef comparison really hits the nail on the head. Yes, Chance raps in sort of this raspy “baby talk” voice. He also has a pair of go-to adlibs, which make him easy to pick out on any track. The first is a sort of “squawking gasp”, which can be annoying at times. The second is worse by far; him singing along to the beats on just about every song with a high-pitched “nyeh-nyeh-nyeh-nyeh-nyeh-nyeh”, and yes, its done in the down syndrome baby voice.
For all intents and purposes, we’ve always had rappers that would experiment with their vocal chords, such as the Ol’ Dirty Bastard in the past, and Old Danny Brown in the present. Even they are an acquired taste that took getting warmed up to, the former with many classic records under his belt. But in the case of Chance The Rapper, its hard to imagine a scenario where “nyeh-nyeh-boo-boo” adlibs are going to sound good, or that we’re going to sing along with him, like we might to “Shimmy Shimmy Ya”.
So beyond the annoying voice, repetitive adlibs, and stunted delivery, what is it about Chance that people actually dig? Please. Someone present us with a compelling argument. Musically, he does have a few good moments here. Tracks like “Good Ass Intro” and “Cocoa Butter Kisses”, the latter by far the album’s best track, are a nice change of pace from the detrimental-to-society music that is currently coming out of Chicago. Chance’s gospel-tinged, juke-influenced sound is clearly more influenced by Kanye West than it is by Chief Keef, so that’s a positive. But is this the second coming of Common? Not even close.
For all the acclaim Chance is receiving, we expect more than just rehashing of classic samples like Slum Village’s “Look Of Love” (“Everybody’s Something”), A Tribe Called Quest’s “Sucka N***a” (“NaNa”), and others we’ve heard countless times before. That last one is saved by a verse from Action Bronson, and then subsequently ruined again by both of them beating the adlibs to death.
Its not the voice, its not the halfway decent production, it must certainly be the lyrics that has everyone clamoring over Chance The Rapper, right? How about this one from the aforementioned “Everybody’s Something”: “I know somebody, somebody loves my ass / Cause they help me beat my demon’s ass”. Off beat and doesn’t rhyme. This is just one of the many instances.
At the end of the day, Chance The Rapper is ultimately a case of one too many yes men trying to catch the hype train, and agreeing with one another because they are so far out of touch. After multiple listens of Acid Rap, inside and out, and being a 25+ year scholar of hip-hop music, we fail to see the appeal of Chance The Rapper on any level. How or why this should rise above many other stellar releases of 2013 (Run The Jewels, J-Zone, Pusha T, to name a few) is completely beyond us.
Lay off the Acid, everyone.
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