It’s amazing what Chance The Rapper is achieving at such a young age. He’s been shot into the world of new rappers who are constantly appearing in the comments on Youtube videos of some young kid going ‘Top 5 Hip-Hop acts today’. It’s amazing that he’s done this with such an experimental sound. He easily has one of the most distinct vocal deliveries in Hip-Hop constantly throwing in ad-libs and wacky lines. His influences are clear yet he has such a fantastic tone of voice and artistic vision for his songs. ‘Acid Rap’ was an exploration of what it sounds like to be tripping hard on acid while making Hip-Hop and as a result it was an aesthetic masterpiece of sorts. It was never overly deep yet Chance shaped himself as an auteur merely at the age of 20.
The Social Experiment is essentially Chance’s band and Donnie Trumpet is the alias of the trumpeter for the band, Nico Segal. Chance claims that this is essentially his album, yet this feels like such a group effort. It’s so interesting to see Chance pretty much reject all the major labels that wanted him after ‘Acid Rap’ in order to pursue what he wants to do artistically with his friends to then release the music for free on Itunes. There is apparently over 50 people involved on every track on this album, which is probably the same sort of number that Kanye West would have on one of his or Kendrick Lamar did on his recent album and ‘Surf’ in many ways is as ambitious as their projects.
In comparison to Kendrick Lamar’s ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ the message on this album is a whole lot more simple. ‘Surf’ is an album that explores happiness and staying true to one’s self. On the song ‘Just Wait’ Chance simply raps and sings about the values of being patient and on ‘Windows’ talks of protection and of being wary of who you trust. On the song ‘Slip Slide’ with Busta Rhymes and B.O.B they state the importance standing on your own feet and not slipping under the influence of those people who will drag you down for their own personal gain. An ethos in which The Social Experiment seem to live by. But much like Kendrick’s album, The Social Experiment don’t overuse their guests. Janelle Monae, Jeremih and Raury merely have backing vocals on this album and Erykah Badu has a beautiful verse that closes out the last 30 seconds of the song ‘Rememory’.
But truthfully it’s the way in which these messages are presented that make them so powerful. They’re not overly lyrical yet when Chance raps about his Grandmother and the way in which she lived on the first single from this album ‘Sunday Candy’, it’s the creative mix of Gospel, African music and Hip-Hop paired with Chance’s delivery that makes it so compelling and uplifting. Some might find the approach to the song-writing on here overly simple because of the way the message is laid out to us, but the way in which these songs are structured constantly delivering left hooks make these simple messages so powerful. It often feels like someone taking a sermon that raises the spirits of everyone who sees it. The only time it fails is the song ‘Wanna Be Cool’ with Kyle and Big Sean yet it’s not because of the verses they give, but because of the way the hook is so simple and delivered in a way slightly too blatant compared to the rest of the material on here.
Chance has toned down his ad-libs on this project and lets the instrumentation fill in the massive void that it leaves. Donnie’s trumpet playing is almost as wild and ecstatic as the Ad-Libs would have been like on the track ‘Just Wait’ in which his frantic playing with a crazy effect on it makes it sound as if it’s a glitchy video game synth. his trumpet also has the ability to sound beautifully strange on the more low-key songs like ‘Something Came To Me’ and its counterpart ‘Nothing Came To Me’, which sound like psychedelic intermissions in this project, both of which have some stunning playing from Donnie and chemistry from the rest of the band. The Social Experiment pull from so many different areas on this album and they all click. The extremely airy album opener ‘Miracle’ allows Chance to flow his words together more beautifully than we’ve ever heard him before. His words and his flow are carved together with such eloquence that could hold all the weight in the world without him having to say a word of importance. Luckily what he’s actually saying on this sound sounds like poetry about the miracle it is to be alive.
One of the biggest surprises on The Social Experiment’s quest to blend together every genre of music that they can seamlessly is the song ‘Familiar’, which blends Jackson 5-esque guitar tones and grooves with African percussion to create a fantastic pop song. The instrumentation subtlety switches up every time a new guest rapper comes on perfectly, to the point when none other than Quavo from Migos turns up to do a verse and somehow doesn’t seem the slightest bit out-of-place. This band have a chemistry like no other and they all play off of each other so well.
With Chance attempting to step away slightly from the limelight and become part of a group we’re left with one of the most inventive Hip-Hop groups and albums of the year. Chance still steals the show on many occasions but it feels like we’ve been given an entirely new dynamic when compared to ‘Acid Rap’ and it’s clearly a group project more than anything else. Donnie Trumpet and The Social Experiment have created an album hell bent on raising your spirits. ‘Surf’ sounds like the start for what will hopefully be a long and fruitful career for this band. They show that even at such a young age they could be one of the most promising and creative acts in Hip-Hop.
Best Tracks: Sunday Candy, Familiar, Rememory, Miracle, Something Came To Me, Slip Slide