This is a very late review especially because everyone has moved way past this tape and is probably now obsessed with Frank’s Blonde but as they say better late than never and I’m still bumping this way more than anything else. If you’re not familiar with Chance he is a Chicago native who has been active and relevant for around five years now. Probably best known for (Justin Beiber features aside) his sophmore mixtape Acid Rap and it’s been a long wait since 2013 for his next project.
I don’t often find room to praise Kanye West these days because for all his genius, he is intent on flaunting his stupidity and arrogance; however in this case his influence is undeniable. If it was not for College Dropout, a project like this could not exist. The strong Gospel notes and cohesive production is a direct throwback to 2004 when the now classic Debut dropped, this isn’t to say the project sounds dated or an imitation. It is very much a fresh and current project.
Speaking of production, it’s nothing short of excellent. Most of the heavy lifting is done by The Social Experiment and I miss the times when majority of a project was produced by one entity. It just brings an essence and feeling to the whole album that makes it easy listening from beginning to end. The whole emotion is very chilled and laid back on this project (I keep referring it to as a project because I’m not 100% sure if it’s a mix-tape or an album) with no really strong standout for the radio singles, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is very much a cruise around and relax or rejoice whilst cooking project for me.
There is an abundance of features on this tape, all but two songs has one. In general that would be something that would make you raise your eyebrow and think twice. Not here, Chance’s mammoth personality carries the project and with the exception of Lil Wayne and Jay Electronica he manages to outshine all collaborators. Take a second to think about that, this tape has features from Future, Thugga, Kanye and Justin Beiber amongst others but Chance’s charisma still shines through.
The tape reaches its pinnacle on the tracks “Juke Jam” and “How Great”. “Juke Jam” is a story of Chano reminiscing to his youth and one relationship in particular which is imprinted in his memory. Lyrically it is nothing to ring home about, that being said it achieves its purpose very effectively with a rhythmic flow that is emotive and chill at the same time. The real highlight for me personally is the assistance Chance receives from Justin Beiber on the hook, which is a very pleasant surprise and just adds an extra dimension to the already catchy chorus. Perhaps the strongest and definitive track on this mixtape is “How Great”. The track starts with a grand scope utilising a Gospel choir to sing hymns which you would usually expect to hear on a sister act movie. The track later transitions seamlessly in to a powerful Chance verse which is easily his lyrical peak on this album with complex and thoughtful biblical references and metaphors that rap fans would truly relish. Only criticism of this verse can possibly the abrupt ending which leaves you longing for more. Even then it’s followed up by a Jay Electronica verse which is just exceptional.
I feel the tape only has low points on “All Night” and “Smoke Break” which sound as if they’re thrown in and feel out of place ruining the flow of a project that is otherwise immaculate. The tracks produced by Kaytranada and Garren respectively aren’t bad by any means, they just don’t really fit the mood of the rest of the tape. There are also some bars which make you think twice about Chance’s lyrical prowess such as “I might give Satan a swirlie”, although I must admit I do find these occasions humorous and are a nice touch.
Overall this is a very strong project that urges you to re-listen again and again. At the end of hearing this tape if you’re not possessed by an undeniable urge to wheel it up you may not be a “true” hip hop fan. All jokes aside it’s excellent and it’s no surprise that Slate’s Jack Hamilton ended up hailing this as a “true gospel-rap masterpiece”. Best parts in my opinion: Summer Friends, Juke Jam, How Great and Blessings (outro).