A couple of things have nagged at me this year like a dry, itchy *sshole.
Nagging item no. 1: the Chicago Sun-Times claiming that Chance The Rapper’s staggering, swaggering 2013 project, Acid Rap, was the next College Dropout. Nagging item no. 2: music journalists’ dick-hardening obsession with Kanye West’s damn-near unlistenable Yeezus.
I can’t tell which nagging item I find to be more ridiculous. It’s par for the course that, as someone who pretends to know how to write about music, other people who do the same will at some point become grating. 2013 was an incredible year for this, whether it was Hip-Hop bloggers’ pissy missiles toward the “hipster” media or hyperbolic reviews like this or this or this.
All of you can go f*ck yourselves.
The same could have been said for the Sun-Times‘ Jake Krzeczowski, but then I listened to Acid Rap. And then I listened several more times. Then Gotty asked the TSS staff to submit their votes for our favorite projects of the year the other day and, lo and behold, I was still listening to Acid Rap. Which I guess means Krzeczowski had a point–Acid Rap is a game-changer for Chicago Hip-Hop and Hip-Hop in general.
What made Acid Rap great–and by the same token, what made The College Dropout great–was how organic it felt upon release. In our initial discussion about the project in the lead up to Acid Rap‘s release, Gotty mentioned something along the lines of “I listened to #10Day when it originally released and knew something was there. It just wasn’t there yet.” Acid Rap came through with 13* warm, soulful tracks and a Jacob Riis-like canvassing of what it’s like to grow up on Chicago’s Southside nowadays**.
If placed alongside the major projects that dominated this year–like Yeezus, Magna Carta Holy Grail, MMLP2 and Nothing Was The Same–it sticks out. Spin credits this to 2013’s abundance of “rappity rap” projects, which is true, but it also misses the larger point: where Jay and Em’s projects sounded like marketing gimmicks, Yeezus was think piece fodder and NWTS was a lot more than just rapping, Acid Rap had no agenda. It was just simply a phenomenally complete project and something that will sound as fresh and effervescent in 2020 as it does now.
Sounds a lot like The College Dropout‘s contribution to Hip-Hop culture, right? Obviously, both records have their differences: young Kanye was aggressive where Chance is wistful. But Chance is still able to invoke those skin-tingling portraits of urban living like Kanye did on “Spaceship” with tracks like “Acid Rain”:
“My big homie died young; just turned older than him
I seen it happen, I seen it happen, I see it always
He still be screaming, I see his demons in empty hallways
I trip to make the fall shorter”
It bites. It burns a hole in the brain like a cigarette’s ashing on the forearm. It’s emblematic of Acid Rap as a whole because not only does it play but it speaks–speaks as if the Merry Pranksters had holed up on the Southside instead of Northern California and employed Ralph Ellison as a spokesperson. Most importantly, it’s aware of the times socially but hits on a sound that will appeal to anyone anywhere, a difficult task in a music landscape fractured to appeal to very particular fanbases.
Certain things still nag me, but Krzeczowski’s sentiment isn’t one of them.
Previously: The 10 Best Albums of 2013: No. 2 – Killer Mike & El-P’s ‘Run The Jewels’ | The 10 Best Albums of 2013: No. 3 – Drake’s ‘Nothing Was The Same’ | The 10 Best Albums Of 2013: Part One (10-4)
** – Random sidebar, but I’m surprised no outlet has made mention about Chance’s allusions to Common’s “Faithful” on tracks like “Good Ass Intro” and “Everything’s Good (Good Ass Outro).” If there was another seminal Chicago album to which Acid Rap pays homage, it’s Common’s classic Be, a record handled almost exclusively in production by College Dropout-era Kanye West.