If we look at the most critically acclaimed and popular mixtapes to be released in the 2010s, there are 5 major competitors. Nostalgia Ultra from Frank Ocean, A$AP Rocky’s Live.Love.A$AP, Earl Sweatshirt’s Earl, House of Balloons from The Weeknd, and of course Chance The Rapper’s “Acid Rap”.
Acid Rap sounds and feels significantly different from any other contemporary project. The production, which was mainly done by members of Chance’s Social Experiment group, consistently dishes out these fast colorful beats. Influenced by jazz, Chicago drill, and juke, the production has this distinct and entertaining palette. Songs like Good Ass Intro and NaNa have instrumentals that are perfectly mixed with these sped up hi hat drums and his signature horns to create this compelling and trippy blend. The wide array of influences on the production make Acid Rap sound like no other contemporary mainstream project. There are definitely albums and mixtapes that use a similar variety of instruments, but the arrangement on Acid Rap is so fast paced and absorbing.
Similarly, Chance’s vocals are so unmistakable that it separates the tape from other contemporary works. His high-pitched, raspy rapping style never sounds sloppy or ill-fitting over these beats. However, what makes this all special is that the combination of these instrumentals and Chance’s unorthodox vocals create this work that cannot be replicated. There is a sense of oneness with the project that makes it separates it from any other album or mixtape made since it’s release and even before it’s release. The mixtape is so cohesive with it’s sounds that there cannot be anything that matches the fun, energetic, yet conscious and cultural mixture that is this project.
The concept of Acid Rap is pretty simple and obvious; acid. The clear influence to the sound and aesthetic of the mixtape, LSD plays a key part to understanding the concept of the album. The mixtape is just 13 tracks about tripping off acid, it fuses the idea of drug abuse with youthfulness and growing up. This is best seen on the song Cocoa Butter Kisses, where Chance raps about how his newfound drug habits are an official departure from his adolescence. Acid Rap is both conceptual and cohesive, the themes and sounds of each song relate similarly to the single concept of the mixtape.
It has been 4 years since Chance released this mixtape, yet it still resonates in car stereos and Soundcloud playlists like it came out yesterday. The reason Acid Rap has been in the forefront of alternative rap for all these years is because it doesn’t appeal to a single geographic location or movement or genre, but a time period. Acid Rap was a mixtape created by and for the youth. The songs elicit this youthful energetic carefree attitude to appeals the most to high school teens the most. Chance’s zany vocals are both thoughtful and reckless at times. They don’t require further listens, they don’t make you think too deep into it. The song that comes to mind with this is NaNa, where the hook is literally the “nana” sound repeated. On paper there is no reason this should work, but Chance pulls it off perfectly. From the thoughtful Everybody’s Something to the buoyant Juice, every song on the tape matches a feeling or thought that relates to teenagers.
Acid Rap is a project that for 4 years I have heard countless times. Similarly, I don’t see it leaving the current landscape anytime soon. The production and the vocals both blend together and contrast each other so well that it creates this cohesive and conceptual mixtape. The originality and cohesion of the tape separates it from any contemporary project and makes it stand out. However, it is the youthful nature of Acid Rap that makes it appeal to any generation of high school teenager. Since this mixtape, Chance, The Rapper has gone on to release another project titled Coloring Book. While 10 Days, Acid Rap, and Coloring Book are seen as a trilogy in his career, Acid Rap inadvertently combines themes and moments from the other two works. This is a mixtape that will be remembered for years to come because the elements