Chance the Rapper is rap’s Next Big Thing. Actually. His mixtape “Acid Rap” dropped earlier this year to broad acclaim, he’s getting ink in Rolling Stone and on the cover of Complex, and he’s touring with Eminem and Kendrick Lamar. He’s having the kind of year that those guys had at the beginnings of their careers and for good reason. It’s hard to believe he’s just 20 years old—just a few years removed from a prestigious Chicago prep school—and already brings to the rap world a distinct style. It’s one that’s very hard to pin down and very hard to stop listening to.
To get up to speed on Chance, start with “Acid Rap.” The album hits its peak early with “Cocoa Butter Kisses,” which is as smooth as the name suggests: the soulful, jazzy production is delightful to listen to and Chance’s lilting rhymes bring to mind a young Big Boi. There aren’t just surface–level joys—the song is as an emotional, evocative rumination on growing up as you’ll hear from any MC.
The rest of the album is stocked with gems and great collaborations. “Favorite Song,” finds Chance spitting rhymes alongside the always quick Childish Gambino over mellow production. “NaNa,” with Action Bronson, makes the album title “Acid Rap” ring true—it’s pure trip–hop, done well. In the same vein, “Everybody’s Something” has a generally minimalistic, menacing flavor, save for the soulfully mournful refrains in between Chance’s screeds against his violent Chicago rap peers like Chief Keef.
As “Acid Rap” has been gaining popular steam, Chance has done some big–name collaborations worth checking out. His guest verse on Lil Wayne’s “You Song” shines out Weezy’s and his collab with James Blake, “Life Round Here,” has blown up on social media and websites like Hype Machine.
Chance’s style is never exactly the same across his mixtapes and singles, which makes him one of the most compelling new voices in the rap game. He’s just as liable to deliver Kendrick–style ranting vocal acrobatics as he is to go on stoned, glassy–eyed tangents à la Kid Cudi. He can gently croon like a young Kanye; his staccato verses are uncannily Eminem–like.
In a hip–hop world saturated with innovation and talent, Chance still manages to bring freshness to the table. He’s a unique voice—clever, profound, and yes, psychedelic—that will likely deliver him from Next Big Thing to marquee rap star.
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