Chance the Rapper: the gift of suspension
As I continued to research Chancelor Bennett, his musical I.Q. and performing prowess, it became clear to me that I was not the most adept at commenting on this side of Chance. I am a big fan of good music and do believe myself to have a "good ear." However, Brendan Kirk, my fellow Weston High School student, surpasses me in understanding of Rap and Chance the Rapper as a subject.
When I asked Brendan to write a guest post about Chance, he simply replied:
I love Chance.
So for this post I turn it over to him...
It was obvious: everyone loved him; he loveD everyone; he worked hard; and he loooved to perfom.
Chancelor Bennett is arguably the most exciting and popular artist to come out of Chicago since Kanye West. He is the first artist from Chicago in several years to truly make such an impact on the world of hip-hop. The only reason I use the word "arguably" here is because I believe fellow SaveMoney affiliate, and high school peer Victor Mensah (a.k.a. Vic Mensa) makes a strong case as well.
A brief aside on Vic...
Due to Vic's start in the hip-hop/blues/jazz collective Kids These Days, it's not a surprise that many of Vic's tracks are heavily infused with musical artistry and diversity. He frequently brings new things to the table, as does Chance, which creates a very innovative discography between the two of them.
Back to Chance.
Chance started the same as everyone else. Born Chancelor Bennett (but you might know him as Chance or Chano) on April 16, 1993, he is a mere 21 years old. To put that into perspective, both David and I could have ridden the bus to school with Chance every day if we had lived in Chicago and gone to the same school. From a young age, he showed plenty of interest in music, but kept his taste strictly to soul and jazz. By the time he turned double-digits, however, a brand new artist came onto the scene in his hometown city—Kanye West. It was Kanye's first album, The College Dropout that marked the beginning of Chance's interest in rap.
In middle school, he participated in poetry programs at YOUmedia after begging the Lead Mentor, Mike Hawkins, to allow him to perform his rap songs instead of poetry. Later, Harold Washington Library put on a citywide contest with a simple topic: write a song for Chicago. Chano jumped on this opportunity, and submitted Beddy Bye. Although it was never officially released, Chance got the opportunity to perform the song for important Chi-Towners, including the mayor, after placing second in the contest.
However, every great mind has an Achilles heel. For Chance, the only issue he had with his rapping was remembering his own lyrics. After Hawkins insisted he would not be able to captivate crowds if he continued forgetting his songs, Chance never failed to finish a track. Not long after, he experienced another roadblock. But great minds make the best out of hard times—in early 2011, Chance was suspended from school for two school weeks, ten days.
He was walking into school one day when he remembered he had a blunt in his pocket. As he recalls it, he said, "swoop," and proceeded to walk out the door. He then walked a few blocks down the street and ran into his friends smoking in an alleyway. Chance took out his pot to smoke it, and next thing he knew, he was cuffed by a police officer and brought to the school administration.
This unfortunate suspension turned out to be the luckiest thing to happen to Bennett. Thankfully for us listeners, he spent the two weeks working hard on new songs, wasting no time. In December of 2011, Chano released Windows as a public announcement of his new project, titled 10Day.
10Day was released four months later, on April 3, 2012 on DatPiff. It has since been downloaded 323,755 times, on DatPiff alone. After the release of 10Day, Chano was featured on Childish Gambino's ROYALTY Mixtape, which debuted on Independence Day of 2012. Chance joined Gambino on tour the same summer.
Just over a year after 10Day, Acid Rap was released. It was Chance's second full-length piece and it blew 10Day out of the water in terms of downloads. Downloaded over 900,000 times on DatPiff, it became a DatPiff double-platinum tape.
It was after Acid Rap that Chance started to gather widespread acclaim as a rising star. In August 2013, he performed at Lollapalooza, and began his Social Experiment tour on October 25, ending on December 19. He continued to play shows for his adoring fans, and in June 2014 he played a fantastic set at Governor's Ball Musical Festival, where he debuted his masterful rendition of the Arthur theme David discussed earlier.
I should know - I was there, front and center. He rocked Gotham Tent for the full hour he was allotted and it was at this point that I knew he was going to explode even more than he had already. It was obvious: everyone loved him; he loved everyone; he worked hard; and he loooved to perform.
What's next for Chance? Well, he has a new mixtape looming with The Social Experiment and Donnie Trumpet, but as of now there is no official date set. All I have gathered is that Chance the Rapper, 21 years old, out of Chicago, will not disappoint.
This song explains the story of Chance’s suspension and what happened afterwards with his academics. Cleverly titled, fourteen thousand four hundred equals 10 (days) times 60 (minutes in an hour) times 24 (hours in a day).
It’s a fun song to listen to, with light concepts, and cool instrumentation.
Windows was the first and only single released for Chance’s first project. Undoubtedly the most upbeat song on the mixtape, it’s a song about living life, and having a good time while doing it. Great summertime tune.
To end 10Day, Chance drops a slow jam, thanking his mom for everything she’s done for him. He uses his classic Chanish style, resulting in a great song with a great subject matter. As the song closes, he lists off a handful of moms of the people that have helped him along the way, because according to him, without the mothers, there would be no 10Day, and no Chance The Rapper.
Good Ass Intro
If you were to click play on an album and notice the first track is an intro, would you have any expectation that it would become one of your favorite songs? Would you expect that it took seven months to create the introduction on Chance’s follow-up project to 10Day?
The answer to both of these questions should invariably be no, but it did, in fact, take seven months, and many people have it ranked as their #1 Chano song. Chance himself calls it "the thesis of the tape," so I suggest you see for yourself why it really is a good-ass intro.
Pusha Man / Paranoia
The first song on this track, Pusha Man, displays Chance’s ultra-confidence in his talent as a musician, and as a rapper, among other things. The unique flow makes for 140 seconds that you don’t want to miss.
At the 2:48 mark, the hidden song, Paranoia, begins. This song is certainly Chance’s most powerful and emotional one. It’s also my favorite song of his. The title itself refers to the paranoia people from the Chi experience on a day-to-day basis. It covers the lack of coverage in the media about Chicago’s extreme violence. The song starts out strong with an excellent double entendre:
“Move to the neighborhood; I bet they don’t stay for good, watch.
Somebody’ll steal daddy’s Rollie, call it the neighborhood watch.”
Paranoia is deep, gritty, well done, and well worth multiple listens.
Interlude (That’s Love)
Typical Chance. Who else would make a two-plus minute interlude promoting love following a song about acknowledging self-worth? That’s Love won’t fail to bring a smile to your face, and if the lyrics are in front of you, prepare for a substantial helping of goosebumps.
According to iTunes, I’ve listened to Acid Rain one hundred six times. If you’re unfamiliar with the iTunes play-counter, plays are measured by completion of a song. Because of this, mixed with the fact that my friends play the song on their phones a lot means that I’ve listened to that songs quite a few more times than just 106. It’s just too spectacular not to play it when I come across it.
In basic terms, without the intricate lyrics and Chanish wordplay, the song is a complex look at Chance’s life. He takes a look back, while on acid, reflecting on many things, including people he’s associated with, especially all the “spineless bitches in backless dresses.” Interesting flow, mixed with a great beat, adds up to endless replay value (and at least 106 plays!).
Everything’s Good (Good Ass Outro)
This project comes to a close in a deliberately similar way to that of 10Day. This time, Chance thanks his father in a phone conversation for always being there, rather than his mother like in the last mixtape.
Chano drops a few bars, in a very positive tone, discussing his up and downs, ultimately coming to the conclusion that everything’s good.
Once the vocals stop, there’s one more minute of beauty to be experienced. Chance takes elements from many of the songs on the mixtape, including Juice, Good Ass Intro, NaNa, and Favorite Song, to perfectly sum up the album.
The Social Experiment
The first single for SoX’s upcoming album, Surf, is an interesting one. Filled to the brim with horns and piano, Chance and friends detail Chance’s grandmother and her deep roots in Catholicism. Chano views the holy bread at his weekly communion as his “Sunday candy.”
No Better Blues
SoX and Chance deliver a song unlike anything I’ve ever heard with No Better Blues. All of Chance’s vocals consist of him listing things he “hates.” In reality, he doesn’t hate the things he talks about. Instead, he’s mocking all the people he encounters that live their lives negatively in an extremely bold way.
ACID RAP vs. 10day
While 10Day and Acid Rap are both great mixtapes in my opinion, they each have their own strengths, themes, topics, flows, musical value, etc.
10Day’s concepts are much less thoughtful than those that make up Acid Rap. In the former, the young artist spends a lot of time discussing his cigarette/pot-smoking interests, along with countless references to how many days he was suspended for. There is also a lot less musicality involved with 10Day than with his second tape. Make no mistake; I’m a big fan of 10Day. However, it is his first solo piece of work, so one shouldn’t expect the most mature mixtape, especially from a 19 year old.
Acid Rap is a very personal mixtape. Chano takes the listener on a trip with him through his life, and many songs are reflections on past decisions. This all culminates with Acid Rain, when Chance really explores himself with a microphone in his hand.
Lyricism isn’t the only thing that develops from mixtape to mixtape. Acid Rap also features much more instrumentation that adds to the layers of this work.
As David said previously, rap is theoretically nothing buy rhythm and poetry. But, for quite some time now, rap and hip-hop have been dominated by emcees like Dr. Dre, Jay-Z, Game, and Drake, who, while talented, tend to rap about concepts that Chance doesn’t really touch upon. I’m a big fan of Jay, and Dre, and I like Game, and I refuse to say they stick to rapping about “money, clothes, and hoes,” because that’s simply not true. I will say, however, that you won’t hear Chance rapping about it being a cold day in Miami before snitching on the hood, or that “bitches ain’t shit.”
Is Chance a rapper?
Does he fit in with rap culture?
Does he bring something new to the game?
Because of this, I feel that while Chance is talented, he isn’t quite a rapper in the everyday meaning of the word. Yeah, he fits the Oxford definition of “rapper,” but not every dictionary definition captures the true meaning of the word in common language. Meanings chance, and I personally believe that at this point in time, Chance isn’t simply a rapper. He’s more than that.
He’s a musician. A talented one.