Chance the Rapper has a voice that’s part-nasal, part-sandpapered by cancer sticks, and his tight, observational wordplay actually makes the listener want to use a fine-tooth comb to detangle even his most obvious metaphors. The 20-year-old Chicago South Side native (born Chancelor Bennett) is a compelling, gifted lyricist. In fact, he’s damn good—his occasional use of distracting, boringly sexist “hoes” descriptors notwithstanding. It’s no wonder why Chicago rap legend Twista guested on the young rapper’s latest single, “Cocoa Butter Kisses,” and popped up on Chance’s Lollapalooza set this summer. 

His free mixtape Acid Rap lives up to hype first ignited when he dropped 10 Day, a debut mixtape named for his 10-day senior-year suspension from high school that was downloaded 50,000 times. Chance’s “Everybody’s Something” video, directed by talented newcomer Austin Vesey, is an eye-popping tableaux of images juxtaposing Chicago’s past with today, superimposed over Chance’s digitally green-screened body.

The clip visually poeticizes a city whose spirit might have already collapsed underneath a dreary narrative of tragic loss and failed redemption if it wasn’t for the city’s great music-makers. (Kanye West, Curtis Mayfield, Chaka Khan, Lupe Fiasco, etc. have always done the noble work of reframing the national conversation about the richness and complexity of Black life in Chicago.)

And now Chance, this new kid with a keen eye for the city’s pathos, has come along to tell his own story—one that cracks funny in order to carry its heavy burdens. With an all-star Chi-town cast that includes Twista, BJ the Chicago Kid and singers Saba and Lili K, Acid Rap is a freely downloadable must-listen. Chance is a potent new voice for millennial hip-hop.—Sun Singleton

Follow Chance the Rapper at his official website and on Twitter @chancetherapper.

Sun Singleton is a Virginia-born singer/journalist based in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @sunsing.

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