It’s easy to hate on Childish Gambino, but dude is getting doper. Sure, his new album Because the Internet is part of a larger story based on a 76-page screenplay about Rick Ross’s future unborn son. It’s a dubious move, since concept albums are a slippery slope and best left to the Beatles.
But then he comes by Sway and drops this meta freestyle over Drake’s “Pound Cake.” Andy Kaufman would co-sign this schtick. Who has a conversation mid-rhyme?
For the last few years, two of rap’s most talented oddballs have mostly laid in the cut. DOOM put out JJ DOOM last year, which had a lot of meh moments. In Del’s camp, Deltron announced back in July that their long-delayed sophomore album, Event II, will drop in the fall. Now, the two eccentric emcees have joined forces. Kind of.
This was shaping up to be the next rap nerd rapture.
When JKFGT lays his precious jewish head down to the pillow every night after hours of absorbing content on the internet and working on “BASED” and “#RARE” photoshops “tho” I sometimes (no homo) wonder what goes through his mind.
What are his life goals?
What are his inner thoughts?
Does he self evaluate?
Does he wish that he could be a normal boy?
For a brief moment – as I watched this Young Lean video I realized I was connected to the hive mind that is the internet subculture of “lean”. It’s nonsensical. It’s a joke, yet’s it’s so serious. It’s wavy, it’s draped up and dripped out, it’s woodgrain, it’s purple, it’s designer clothes, it’s gold grillz, it’s early 90s computer graphics, it’s Nintendo 64 cartridges, it’s Shawn Kemp throwbacks, it’s Tumblrs, and Twitters, and photoshops….
but is there something more behind it all..
Is it a cry for help? A longing sense of identity confusion? Perhaps he is just a troubled soul looking for definition – easily shifting square pieces into a round hole – seemlessly blending from frat rap tumblrs to #PVRPLE nights to “Burritos and Boatshoes” and “White Boy Likes Hip Hop” blogs..
Perhaps one day he will awaken with a sense of understanding. The pieces will fit. He will define himself.
Some MCs have that voice, an unmistakable presence on any track. Chance the Rapper will never be that dude. His raspy cackle sounds like an over-caffeinated Schoolboy Q, which can be exhausting at times. It’s an acquired taste for sure, similar to eating magic mushrooms. Still, for all these shortcomings, Chance is somehow defiantly nice on the mic. Acid Rap, his second mixtape, makes this abundantly clear.
Chance’s whole shtick is performative. Although he’s only twenty, he cut his teeth coming up in Chicago’s spoken word scene—a very different world than Chief Keef’s. You can feel the influence of countless poetry clubs in Chance’s resistance to a conventional flow or rhyme pattern. All that’s missing are the finger snaps from dingy basement clubs. Much like an open mic night, the success of this technique can be spotty.
As an ode to psychedelics, the Acid Rap tape has an underlying instability at its core. This erratic approach gives Chance the freedom to mess around and try different styles, with varying degrees of success. On “Cocoa Butter Kisses” (featuring Twista), he’s disarmingly poignant: “put Visine inside my eyes so my grandma would fucking hug me.” On “My Favorite Song” the cloying chorus plays like a bad trip locked inside a teenaged hellhole. Imagine dosing and strolling to a Forever 21 that you never leave—that is Chance at his worst.
But when he’s on, he brings a giddy shamelessness that’s as refreshing as it is fun. “NaNa” and its accompanying video, co-directed by stand up comedian Hannibal Burress for only $5,000, puts this euphoria on full display. It involves chicken suits, gaudy gold chains and Spiderman. Donald Glover stops by to mooch pizza. The bassline from “Sucka Niggas” doesn’t hurt either.
It unfortunately doesn’t feature Action Bronson, whose verse steals the song. Bronsolino shouts out Rick Patino and has “a team of hos like Pat Summitt.” This dude has a golden touch for features.
On “Pusha Man,” Chance says, “I hate crowded beaches, I hate the sound of fireworks.” It’s one of the most arresting moments of the tape, simultaneously brutal and beautiful. Last summer, murders rose 38% throughout Chicago, largely in the West and South Side, where Chancellor Bennett grew up—a stone’s throw away from Chief Keef’s headquarters in the Chatham neighborhood. Chance is usually the joker, covering over the grimness with comic relief, but sometimes shit is too real to hide from.
I’m mad that a person thought it was okay to pull another person’s pants down during their performance in front of about 700 other people. I’m mad that a person thought it was a good idea to perform a sex act on another person without their consent. I’m mad that nobody made her leave. I’m mad that Danny had to actually wonder what he was supposed to do at that point. I’m mad that when I went home and said I had no respect for that girl, I was attacked for being a “slut-shamer” (after literally leading a girl to his hotel room at 3AM at her request) and, even more outrageously, for being jealous of the girl who sucked his dick. I’m mad that when two dudes pulled my pants down onstage, other people got mad too, but when it happened to Danny the initial reaction was like one big high-five. I’m mad that people are treating “The Thing” like it’s some legendary event. I’m mad that even though they know exactly who the girl is, nobody in the media will even talk to her. I’m mad that I get a bunch of emails a day asking me to talk about my best friend’s “misogyny” and “classless behavior”, from people who have heard only rumors and seen only one very blurry and inconclusive iPhone photo.