April 16, 2014

Chance-the-RapperKyle Ellison lives his life like a candle in a wind tunnel

Chance the Rapper is the kind of clumsy-ass Sesame Street rap name that we all wish we didn’t have to say out loud. For the most part you can get away with shortening it to Chance, but on a scale of 1 to Joey Bada$$ the full iteration leans uncomfortably over to the latter. Thankfully, this time last year he dropped a record that was great enough to sweep this problem aside. Acid Rap has aged well; it remains just as easy to get caught up in its dizzying lyricism and luminous acid swirls, while the weight of its punches still frequently knock me off balance.

A number of rough solo songs have surfaced in the wait for new material, most of which might have been better left on the cutting room floor. Lifted from the sessions of 10 Day, though, ‘The Writer’ is an oldie that’s worth holding on to. It’s a song that would have felt comfortable on either mixtape, featuring exactly the kind of slippery, quietly poignant writing that elevates him from his peers.

Even with Apollo Brown’s pensive piano chords leading the way, Chance the Writer-Rapper always sounds excited with a pen in his hand. He begins by shuffling up words for his own amusement, linking astronauts, Argonauts and juggernauts for no good reason and hiding Wu-Tang references both explicit and implicit. He may also be the first rapper since Em to fire shots at Elton John, but only because it rhymes with his moms and Lebanon.

About halfway through Chance then switches it up, pulling a narrative thread out of his own tangled web of gibberish. Out of nowhere he springs “This is for the day that your dad dies” – before reaching for a metaphor to ease the pain. For all the glee of his earlier wordplay, Chance can’t write away somebody else’s heartbreak. “Don’t know what your dad’s like, he’s probably a great dad, he’s probably in paradise,” he offers hopefully – some wounds just weren’t meant for clever memorialising. Even so – as Chance reverts to type – perhaps his jumbled and joyful writings might shine a ray of light through the darkness.