It was Sunday and I was hungover. As I stumbled out of my bed to snag a sobering cup of coffee, I snatched my phone and scrolled through my texts to make sure I didn’t send any embarrassing drunk texts. I did, unfortunately. Amidst the sea of awkward I had stirred, however, I found something pretty much amazing. I saw a text from an unknown number that read “Brain Cells – Chance The Rapper.”
After a swig of coffee, I hopped on YouTube and found myself listening and downloading the mixtape, #10day, by the 20 year old, Chicago-born rapper, Chancelor Bennett. Needless to say, that text was up there in the best texts I got that weekend.
Since then, while other rappers are popping molly and sweating, Bennett tripped on acid 60′s style and released his latest mixtape, ‘Acid Rap,’ last Tuesday (April 30th); and it does it’s name justice by actually being a trip. Bennett presents himself as an ambitious, tongue-in-cheek comedian and as a smart, politically-aware lyricist.
Acid Rap kickstarts with ‘Good Ass Intro,’ a track that opens with an inherently true gospel hook via BJ the Chicago Kid that informs the listener that Bennett is “even better than [he] was the last time.” And it’s true. Bennett surges onto this opening track with College Dropout era Kanye West confidence and gusto, accompanied by a beat that makes nods to the genre of acid jazz and Bennett’s recently cited influence, Jamiroquai.
The jazz and groove spill into the first half of the next track, ‘Pusha Man,’ as Bennett plays with the beat in a carefree moxie and a voice reminiscent of Eminem’s Slim Shady LP. What Bennett does exceptionally well here, is that he manages to make an intelligent juxtaposition and a handful of insightful observations about Chicago’s gang violence while crafting catchy, smooth melodies and awesome cadences. The first half of ‘Pusha Man’ is a braggadocios observation of Bennett’s success, explaining how he’s blown up on Twitter and how he’s been seen in the Reader or the Red Eye. Following a short bit of silence, a more self-aware Bennett takes to the track. Bennett calls attention to the issue of gang violence brought to the forefront of the Chicago rap scene last year with another Chicago-based rapper, Chief Keef. Bennett discusses the lack of presence and awareness of gang violence in the media, noting, almost hauntingly, that “they deserted us here [in Chicago]” and continues to ask “Where the fuck is Matt Lauer at?” Bennett isn’t glorifying these issues like he was partying in the former part of the song. Bennett is genuinely concerned, worried, and scared about the climbing rate of violence in Chicago.
Acid Rap continues strong with it’s third track and arguably one of my favorites, ‘Cocoa Butter Kisses.’ The song to me, is an interesting follow-up to “Hey Ma” off of Bennett’s previous release, #10day. Bennett in the former track, spoke about how much he loves and appreciates his mother and how he wants the best for her. In ‘Cocoa Butter Kisses,’ however, he speaks about how his cigarette smoking and his career has made him into a man that his mother isn’t familiar to, and doesn’t give out the cocoa butter kisses that she used to anymore. Bennett, at heart, still misses the embrace from his mother, and more relatable to a lot of people in their twenties, he even misses who he used to be when he was younger. Bennett reminisces about the orange VHS tapes with Nickolodean characters like Timmy Turner, Tommy Pickles, and Chuckie Finster. He continues to review his childhood, as he spent at Chuck E. Cheese’s and praised Jesus against a quick contrast, with the image of Bennett dropping Visine into his eyes to hide his high, just so that his grandmother would hug him. As Bennett makes these coming-of-age observations, the last verse ends strong with Twista boasting a self-aware, triple time syncopated rhythm pattern, wrapping the song up wonderfully.
The album’s grooves continue strong with hints of Andre 3000 and Wyclef Jean in ‘Juice’ all the way to ‘Interlude (That’s Love).’ The 8th track, ‘Favorite Song,’ features actor-writer-comedian-rapper Childish Gambino, who Bennett recently toured with. The beat samples Betty Wright’s 1971 jam ‘Clean Up Woman’ and from the start to the hook to the end, the track lends itself as a feel good song for the summer.
As the mixtape comes to a close, the theme of Bennett growing up stands bold. In ‘Acid Rain,’ he reflects on who he is and who he once was, how he misses the days of Senior year and open mic nights. And in ‘Good Ass Outro,’ Bennett confesses he would’ve been fine with being a small time act, that he would be fine if he never made it to the sort of success he reached. In this outro, the introspection throughout the mixtape comes full circle, as he’s examined both times of his life, the issues that need to be addressed, and that he is going to be moving forward, noting that ‘everything is good.’
Bennett, you did a good ass job. Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap is a phenomenal release and everything about it is rad.