“Oh, Weezy?” my roommate inquired when I put on Chance the Rapper’s newest release Acid Rap. I told him this wasn’t the case, but I didn’t judge his hasty comparison; Chance comes in “yeah-ing” and “we back-ing” like it’s “Let The Beat Build” 2. As the mixtape slides on from the opener, it’s as if Chance realizes being pinned a neo-Lil Wayne isn’t the most astute of PR moves, and impresses with his own lyrically nimble and melodic flow. Acid Rap is a road trip mixtape. You’re headed due south, the weather is beautiful and only slated to get nicer. Just like the road trip, what starts as a good time only gets better as you get further from home. Chance is driving, you’re in the front seat, and I have my feet up in the back. Here guys, put this on your tongue, put the top down and turn this up.
Boom. Pupils huge. “Good Ass Intro” (which is good ass named) hooks the sides of your mouth and you can’t help but smile as Chance manically pumps you up for the trip. The syncopated, chugging beat throws you off for a second, wait weird, but you like it. Green Bay Packers, wait, Weezy? Nope. Chance! On “Pusha Man,” Chance tells us about all the positive changes in his life since his fateful suspension inspired #10Days, his first Mixtape. Chance’s dealer has the best stuff, the girls love him, he’s made it. You’re thinking, “Chance is the man!”, when you look over and Chance’s face has fallen, the music cuts out and Pusha Man has a dark flip side. The trip has gone bad, and demons are momentarily abound.
Where Chance is from isn’t the sun splashed party he’s been talking about. In fact it’s the opposite. Matt Lauer and Katie Couric, the media spawned symbols of justice and truth are nowhere to be seen, and in their absence is left a “[prayer] for a safer hood”, attainable once Chance’s finances are finally in order. We realize Chances escapist behavior may be based in something deeper than merely youthful partying. Chance’s lament is fleeting, however, and he quickly gets back to doing what he does best: lifting the spirits of those around him.
Fellow Chicagoan, Vic Mensa drops in for a verse on the funky and smoky “Cocoa Butter Kisses,” and thank god he announces his arrival (“Twista!”) lest we be confused as to who else it could possibly be. “Juice” will be a live-show crowd pleaser with an Odd Future-esque yell-hook [“Juice! (Juice!)”]. Your girlfriend will throw her hands in the air and proclaim her love for the Childish Gambino co-starred, “Favorite Song” and say, “Oh this is the one with that guy from Community!” at any Chance festival appearances in the near future. The funked out bass line on “Nana,” accompanied by the always awesome, always food conscious, Action Bronson, make up for the semi-obnoxious, taunting chorus taken from the title (but maybe that was on purpose, haters!). As a matter of fact, Action Bronson’s verse of Rick Pitino comparisons and Japanese lesbians ("With my hair slicked back, I look like Rick Pitino / 3 Japanese dykes in my El Camino") is the best guest feature on the mixtape.
Regal horns and Ab Soul’s clever potty verse on “Smoke Again”, which I’ve deemed the album’s biggest grower (a song that seems like nothing special with a first listen), lead into the somber, atmospheric and nostalgic “Acid Rain”. Chance reflects on a better past with “diagonal grilled cheeses / and back when Mike Jackson was still Jesus,” and pays his respect to a dead friend. “Acid Rain,” like the second half of “Pusha Man”, showcases a more self-aware and sensitive side of Chance, and proves he’s capable of more than party-starting bangers.
Unfortunately, “Acid Rain” is overshadowed by the mixtape’s crown jewel in “Chain Smoker.” “Chain Smoker” is the song you want on when the road trip is over. You’re pulling up to your destination and the cabin you rented looks even more epic than it did in the pictures. The three timing changes of the beat, from verse to chorus to bridge, are infectious, and Chance is completely right when saying “This part right here, right now / right here, this part my shit.” That part is absolutely the shit. You can almost see Chance in the studio yelling over the bridge with a manic smile on his face and bleary eyes. Oh, and I’m glad someone else is still shamelessly spinning Channel Orange a whole year after its release.
Chance is at his best when he’s working his pipes on “Interlude (That’s Love)”, the glorious two and a half minute mixtape centerpiece. Chance’s unique delivery (listen to him pronounce Vicodin on “Chain Smoker”), and his fearless and irreverent rhymes are refreshing despite a sneaking suspicion that his style isn’t completely original. I’m also willing to cut him some slack due the fact that Acid Rap begs to be played while drinking in your favorite park on the most beautiful day this summer. The release timing couldn't be better. And maybe it’s just that: Acid Rap is the summer action blockbuster of mixtapes, where the audience need not dig much deeper than the surface to enjoy the best of what the production has to offer. That isn’t to say there aren’t moments on the mixtape where Chance discusses some very real topics, there are, but these moments are smothered amongst the bubblegum, bounce, and just plain fun of the rest. So with the dawn of summer, I’m in no hurry to put Acid Rap on the shelf, but I’ll have to reevaluate Acid Rap’s staying power this coming fall. Who’s even thinking that far ahead though? For now, you can find me in the park with my Jambox and Acid Rap on repeat. [B+]