Photo by Virgil Solis
“Better than I was the last time/Did a ton of drugs and did better than all my alma mater”
Words have quickly become reality for Chancellor Bennett, better known to the rest of the world as Chance The Rapper, whose latest release, Acid Rap, was nominated this week for a BET Hip Hop Award for Mixtape of the Year.
The year-long rise of the 20-year-old Chatham native has been startling to say the least. This time last year, 10 Day was a blip on the national radar and Chano was preparing to play his first Metro headlining show. Since then Chance has played at SXSW with Kendrick Lamar, toured the country with Mac Miller, had his album bootlegged so much it hit the charts and soon will head to Europe with Macklemore, where he also opens for Eminem.
“Gravity had me up in a submission hold, like I’m dancing with the devil with two left feet and I’m pigeon toed.”
That he is heading on tour with the Seattle-based purveyor for all things independent is at once both ironic and appropriate. Macklemore was a star in the Pacific Northwest for years before hitting the mainstream with a national following, selling out venues in Washington and playing half-filled rooms in Iowa the next day. By comparison, Chance rocketed to national consciousness, perhaps buoyed by his favorable location in the center of the country. While Macklemore may have played a longer waiting game, the two artists are experiencing the limelight at the same time, and from an increasingly more common, independent angle.
If there is one reason to point to for Acid Rap‘s inclusion on BET’s Best Mixtape of the Year nominations, it would have to be the fact that the free release was so thoroughly bootlegged by shady third-party retailers both at home and abroad that it actually hit the charts, coming in at No. 68, as was reported by Billboard last week.
“Chano, Chatham’s own, foolies glad I’m home, even my haters kinda glad I’m on”
Carefully crafted, and a wholly Chicago collaboration, Acid Rap has a feel about it around the city that possibly hasn’t been seen since College Dropout. Bring up the project to anyone even marginally involved with Chicago hip-hop and smiles and favorite verses likely soon follow the statement “Damn, Chance is famous,”. The fever was instantaneously evident to anyone who was within three blocks of Jugrnaut April 30 for the listening party that had lines stretching down Dearborn and around the corner.
Produced, engineered and mastered almost completely in Chicago at the likes of Soundscape Studios, Force One Seven, Classick and Fox and The Mule, the success of Acid Rap has been able to intrinsically elevate the ambitious young local music scene which has helped give way to a slew of young artists, Save Money and not. Chance would have been hard-pressed to find room for anyone else on the project, putting on for Chicago artists such as Lili K, Vic Mensa, Saba, NoNameGypsy, Twista, Kiara Lanier and host of moving parts such as Nico Segal and Greg Landfair, formerly of Kids These Days. Most notable are the talented producers (Peter CottonTale, Cam Osteen, Nate Fox, Stefan Ponce) that he has aligned himself with both on the album and future projects.
“Where the F#$K is Matt Lauer at? Somebody get Katie Couric in here.”
Acid Rap transcends boundaries. Talking to Chance in the wake of 10 Day last November he mentioned making music that is both easily relatable and lyrically progressive. While songs like “Cocoa Butter Kisses”, “Pusha Man” and “Nana” keep a playful tone, Chance is also able to take things down for moments. “Paranoia” reports on the state of Chicago better than most local media outlets, “Acid Rap” is a psychedelic introspection into life as an eccentric young adult, “Everybody’s Something” touches on the intricacies of God, the world and personal interactions.
It has certainly been a year of moments for Chance The Rapper. Watching him open for Rockie Fresh at the Bottom Lounge in February to playing the Red Bull Sound Select stage in Austin in March, to the BMI stage at Lollapalooza with Twista, Vic Mensa and likely every festival-goes under 21 in attendance has been a whirlwind those who witnessed thus far won’t soon forget. The nomination was deserved and will soon become a normal occurrence, but wins have been earned.