Loud Minded: Filling the post-Kanye void

Music columnist Will Schmitt on Chicago's answer to rapper Murphy Lee

By William Schmitt | May 2, 2013

Tags: Music

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Think back two semesters. Think about where you were and what you were listening to. Two semesters ago, I had been talking to a guy who lived down the hall from me on the sixth floor of Schurz. Those of you who lived there knew this guy by his lovable antics, from rollerskating in his underwear to sharing his laughter around the zip code. This guy was from Chicago, and he did his best to represent his city.

Because I played my music with the door open, people understood that I listened to hip-hop. This guy did too, and one day he passed on a tip while he was shaving his chest and I was evacuating my bowels. “Dude,” he said, “You should listen to Chance the Rapper.”

So I would spend the next half-hour researching and listening, learning that I had stumbled upon this high school hip-hopper just before the release of his mixtape #10Day. He played like the rapper Murphy Lee without the posse, with more anger than style, spikes instead of Air Force Ones. He played more maturity than the number on his license and more compassion and care about his family than the typical teen.

Chance has an ear for beats, crucial for any rapper hoping to be more than a shitty opener. The ability to select instrumentals that sound good as stand-alones, as well as complement one’s flow and tone is cultivated by comparing rappers and seeing where they differ. “Liquid Swords” would not be the same if it were produced by DJ Quik, and 2pac would sound woefully out of place on a grimy concoction from the RZA.

As far as coming-of-age releases go, #10Day isn’t a classic, but it’s worth a few spins around the block. He takes Apollo Brown's “Bridge Through Time” and makes it feel like summer. He has a tendency to yell the punch lines to his jokes and answer his own questions, but this comes off as a charming sort of brashness as opposed to thoughtless outbursts.

The next three songs make up one of the best stretches of the tape. “Long Time” is an ode to his mother, and though 'Pac and Kanye both did it better, Chance is no slouch. He brought his face onto the scene with the clever “22 Offs,” a track with a concept of using the word “off” as many times as possible while still making sense.

He continues the theme with “Family.” Without a doubt, this is my favorite hook on the tape, and I still find myself singing it as I mosey around East Campus. He hops on a section of Biggie’s “Big Poppa” for “Juke Juke,” ostensibly his idea of a club song. I think that if it ever gets played at a club, it will be mistaken for “Big Poppa” and met with a disappointed chorus of “FUCK THAT!,” but hey, I’m not even 21, so I can’t say anything.

He stays pretty high school-y throughout the rest of the tape, and it was very disappointing to see Chuck Inglish’s name on the tracklist only to hear “U Got Me Fucked Up” and then lose all hope that I had at the time of any sort of Cool Kids reunion.

Chance works with Chicagoans like fellow musicians Vic Mensa and Peter CottonTale for a lot of his beats, and he continues to do so on his newest release, Acid Rap. Chicago Sun-Times writer Jake Krzeczowski, who has a name pronounced by whistling and sneezing simultaneously, has already come out and said that Chance might be the biggest thing for Chicago hip-hop since Mr. West himself.

Acid Rap is scheduled for release at 5 p.m. April 30, and it is with great reluctance that I had to turn in this column without hearing it. The best I can do at the current juncture is to point you toward his most recent singles “Juice” and “Smoke Again.”

Thanks for reading.

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