Chance the Rapper

Critics' pick
Photograph: Alex Maier
Chance the Rapper

No one wants to be late to the party in terms of “discovering” a new music sensation, certainly not in today’s world of panic-pile-on, next-big-thing Internet hysteria. Given that Chance the Rapper has been building hype steadily since his debut mixtape dropped last year and was recently nominated for XXL mag’s Freshman picks, if you’re just getting into April’s Acid Rap mixtape (like this writer), yes, you are late.

But if the party’s that good, who cares what time you arrived? Musically speaking, you just opened the door on a roomful of people going nuts. Chancelor Bennett is the Chicago MC behind the madness. He’s only 20 years old (though that’s a whole three years on fellow Chi-Town hotshot Chief Keef), and his musical career got something of a step-up when he was suspended from school for ten days in 2011 for smoking weed. He used his time wisely, cutting the mixtape 10 Day, which has been downloaded 20,000 times. He built a tidy following at home thanks to his imaginative, hands-on approach; according to Vice, Bennett burned thousands of copies of a mixtape sampler, 5Day, and handed them out in front of Columbia College over the summer, and hired school buses to take fans from Chicago to a University of Illinois show.

All very smart, but the buzz surrounding Bennett is thanks to the music: Acid Rap is the most witty, joyful, freewheeling, groovy collection of songs I’ve heard so far this year. As far as that acid reference goes, Chance’s style is certainly far out, but it’s luscious, often mellow stuff compared with manic LSD gobblers such as the also-excellent Flatbush Zombies. Fans of Erykah Badu’s big, slow beats and catlike phrasing will swoon, as will folks who dig the playful likes of De La Soul (check the coughing in the background during “Cocoa Butter Kisses,” in which Chance laments that his grandma won’t hug him because he stinks of cigs). When Drake switches from rapping to singing, it can sound jarring, like he’s rushing to fill in for a missing guest; Chance, on the other hand, shifts with languid ease from rapping chaotically to singing in a jazzy croak.

Of course, no one can say where Chance the Rapper will be this time next year. But given the audible greatness of his music, and his rep for putting on dazzling live shows, we suggest you crash this damn party for all it’s worth.—Sophie Harris

Follow Sophie Harris on Twitter: @SophieMeve

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