The Chicago rapper and his touring band sound optimistic and upbeat on free debut album
Initially thought to be the follow-up to Chance The Rapper’s 2013 second album/mixtape, ‘Acid Rap’, ‘Surf’ has come out as something unexpected. Its first offering – ‘Sunday Candy’, released last November – was billed to Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment (Chance’s touring band), as ‘Surf’ is, but was actually a very personal Chance track about his grandmother. You guessed that this most reluctant of new rap stars was hiding within a band with a nominal, different leader, but ‘Surf’ proves to be a truly collaborative effort, forsaking individuality for something more universal and beyond even the membership of The Social Experiment – Chance, trumpet player Donnie, drummer Greg Landfair Jr, keyboardist Peter Cottondale and producer Nate Fox.
The list of guests here is almost absurd, but even the big hitters – Erykah Badu (‘Rememory’), Big Sean (‘Wanna Be Cool’), J. Cole (‘Warm Enough’), Janelle Monáe and Busta Rhymes (‘Slip Slide’) – congregate in the background with new-school artists like Joey Purp, BJ The Chicago Kid and Lili K, becoming part of a record that feels more like a movement than the kind of rap album that crowbars in features to help secure lucrative crossover play. After all, ‘Surf’ was given away on iTunes – just as the independent music sector and Taylor Swift were hammering Apple for its now-reversed policy of not paying artists for their involvement Apple Music.
Opener ‘Miracle’ sets the tone for what becomes a meticulously crafted, very jazzy and relentlessly optimistic record – more in line with the cosmic positivity and self-righteousness of Seattle hip-hop duo THEESatisfaction’s recent album, ‘EarthEE’, than it is with political ire of Kendrick Lamar’s ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ or D’Angelo’s ‘Black Messiah’, although there are strong sonic similarities. “If it’s a miracle, to be alive and well/If we fell, we feel we’d be okay”, ‘Miracle’ begins, before, on ‘Slip Slide’, Busta Rhymes dissolves all ego to state: “Heyyo Mr. Chance The Rapper, I greatly appreciate the way you roll out the red carpet, allowing me to articulate myself, and now I stand on my own two below me. Yeah!” And so ‘Surf’ continues – infectious, light and upbeat, but never inane. It begs you to feel included, and wide-awake.
Director: The Social Expermient
Record label: Self-released