10. Chance the Rapper – Acid Rap
Not many hip-hop artists look scared on their album covers. In fact, I can’t think of a single one, save for Chance the Rapper. He stares at you from the front of Acid Rap, clad in a droopy wifebeater splattered with purple and blue. His eyes are wide and panicked, as if he’s just witnessed an army of Smurfs get gunned down in the woods. For it’s fear that’s at the core of this twitchy, half-weird mixtape. The anxiety springs from various sources: drug-fueled co-dependence (“Lost”), growing up (“Cocoa Butter Kisses “, “Acid Rain”), and dying before getting to grow up. That last one comes courtesy of “Paranoia”, an early-album hidden track where Chancelor dreads summer in his native Chicago because that’s when kids get shot.
But although fear is at the album’s core, it’s not the whole thing. Even the tense moments are wrapped in warm soul samples, and there’s still much joy to be found within the lyrics: in back-to-back tracks, Chance ponders his favorite songs and the importance of love, both romantic and familial. Acid Rap even ends on a similar note, with the rapper thanking his father over the phone for getting him a computer and some t-shirts. It might be hip-hop’s least intimidating conclusion to an album, but maybe that’s the point. At 20 years old, Chance the Rapper is still a kid, something he never shies away from. He rarely postures or self-aggrandizes, and even when he does, it feels humorous and earned, like a high schooler goofing around with his friends. It makes sense, given that not too long ago, that’s exactly what he was. Genuine, huh? Maybe he’s an adult after all. –Dan Caffrey