COLUMN: Take Your Chance With This Rapper
Published: Monday, September 16, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 16, 2013 09:09
“No, it’s cool,” I said, quickly and quietly. “I’ll stay in the car.”
The Chinese takeout could wait. Kanye couldn’t. As my Dad stepped out to go get the food, I reminded him to keep the car running, hoping he would be a while.
As we pulled up to the restaurant, I could hear Chi-Town standing up, Westside setting the party off right, and some girl being so self-conscious start simmering in the background of the radio. I was 11, and was way too terrified to turn up the volume, in fear that whoever it was that was rapping would say something my dad would immediately shut off.
But I had to hear more. “All Falls Down” had crept onto the radio a few times before while I had been in the car, but this was the first time I got to turn Kanye’ssecond single off The College Dropout all the way up and really appreciate it. I’d never heard anything like it before.
The previous year, I’d listened to plenty of crap like “In Da Club,” “Right Thurr,” and “Hot In Here”—all fun songs, and all songs that I loved when I was 10, but it was nothing like this track.
There was the use of narrative that radio rap usually ignores completely. There was that thick Chicago accent, dropping “insecurr” and “securr” in consecutive lines. There was the original flow. I couldn’t get enough.
“Here,” my Dad said, holding out white plastic bags full of food. “Turn that down.”
So I did, but I downloaded a clean version of the song right when I got home, and that moment is when I really started loving hip-hop. It all began with Kanyeand “All Falls Down.” For Chance The Rapper, it all starts with Kanye too.
Chance Bennett, a Chicago native, dropped his second mixtape Acid Rap this past June. The first song, “Good Ass Intro,” directly samples the intro to Kanye’s Freshman Adjustment Vol. 2 mixtape. Chance was born just one month after I was, and he probably heard “All Falls Down” at around the same age. He told Peter Rosenberg that College Dropoutwas the first thing to really get him into hip-hop.
Acid Rap is incredible. From start to finish, it’s the best collection of hip-hop I’ve heard since Kendrick Lamar’s good kid m.A.A.d city. Usually, I would obnoxiously say it’s the best, period—not just the best that I’ve heard. But listening to Chance is more personal for me than listening to any other artist.
Kendrick is six years older than I am and his lyrics are rooted in a time and place I can’t connect with. Chance is creating music exactly for my generation. It’s the first time I’ve ever been fully invested in the music of someone my age. Sure, there was Earl Sweatshirt before Chance, but Samoa got in the way.
Kendrick kicked off Section. 80 by rapping about ADHD, but Chance uses that ADHD to his advantage. Not a minute goes by without Chance mixing things up, even mid-song. He’ll slow down, speed up, sing, rap, internal rhyme, narrate, and get out of the way for a guest verse—all in one track. He’s spent a lot of his life, like me, being bored by patterned and predictable rap music, so he breaks the mold with more in-song variation than the artists before him.
This personal connection Chance creates makes songs like, “Pusha Man/Paranoia,” “Everybody’s Something,” and “Acid Rain” even more heartbreaking. Chance can be fun as hell. He casually drops lines like, “Okie dokie, alky, keep it lowkey like Thor lil’ bro / Or he’ll go blow the loudy, saudy of sour Saudi / Wiley up off peyote, wilding like that coyote / If I sip any Henny, my belly just might be outtie.” Then he goes all in on other tracks where he calls out Matt Lauer, Katie Couric, and Fox News for ignoring all of the violence in Chicago.
The last thing Kanye rapped about the violence in his hometown was, “Claiming I’m overreacting like the black kids in Chiraq, bitch,” on Yeezus’ “Black Skinhead,” which only trivializes what is happening. That’s fine. Kanye doesn’t have a responsibility to force the issue, but it’s refreshing to hear something with more depth. Chance, much like Kendrick, doesn’t get up on a soap box and hammer home sermons about how bad things are. He personalizes it.
“Pusha Man/Paranoia” opens with a bragging Chance saying his rhymes are better than anything else out on the street, and then after a long silence the mood changes. He opens about his neighborhood, and confessed how much he hates the summers, crowded beaches, and fireworks because it’s all connected to death and loss.
I’m lucky enough never to be afraid of those things, but Chance has made me aware of that fear in ways that Kanye or TV news never could. He’s made it personal by being himself, and he’s made it personal by, in a lot of ways, being like me.