An S-Tier offering from the mixtape era, Acid Rap by Chance The Rapper turned 10 years old last month.

Once at the height of the hip-hop hierarchy, and more recently fallen victim to mediocrity, the Chicago artist has had a turbulent career to say the least. Establishing a swell of underground support through his debut mixtape 10 Day, Chance’s first big step into stardom began when he released Acid Rap as a free digital download on April 30, 2013. 

At 20-years-old, Chance The Rapper unveiled his invitingly playful and at times haunting ode to Chicago, collaboration and well, acid. Self-described as a more music-based album than the story-based theme of his last effort, the 14-track project showcases his unique vocal ability and a range of sonics paying homage to soul, blues, jazz and hip-hop, first and foremost. 

With its use of then unlicensed samples and a long list of colourful collaborators (in order of appearance: BJ The Chicago Kid, Nate Fox, Lili K, Nosaj Thing, Vic Mensa, Twista, Noname, Saba, Childish Gambino, Action Bronson and Ab-Soul), Acid Rap is a true product of independence. This is something that would later become an integral part of his career, after vehemently declining record deals from every major label and eventually becoming the first ever to win a Grammy for a streaming-only album.

Almost every track is as entertaining and enjoyable on the 100th listen as it is on its first. From smokers anthems in ‘Smoke Again’ and ‘Chain Smoker’, to the comforting serenades of ‘Interlude (That’s Love)’ and ‘Everything’s Good (Good Ass Outro)’, any track holds enough weight to be a favourite (except maybe ‘Nana’). While there’s a welcoming amount of excitement and charisma across the mixtape, Chance interludes his rhyme scheme gymnastics and optimism for the future with nostalgic and introspective moments like on ‘Paranoia’ and ‘Acid Rain’. Two of the best songs on the tape and in his discography, Chance bares his mortality and vulnerability as he addresses addiction, paranoia and violence in the Windy City. 

There might not be an immediate narrative thread on Acid Rap but it’s tied together by Chance and his circle’s coming of age experiences, and their nuanced and innovative artistry. The 53-minute project was his first release to register on Billboard’s album charts and later earned him a spot in 2014’s XXL Freshman List alongside Isaiah Rashad and Lil Durk.

Chance seeped into the mainstream further with features on tracks from Justin Bieber and Snakehips, and later playing an instrumental role in Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment’s Surf and Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo. He had garnered the whole city of Chicago behind him and a fanbase supporting from across the globe. 

Chance The Rapper released his following mixtape Colouring Book in 2016, a gospel rap offering inspired by his reinstated faith and the birth of his first daughter. Achieving equal, if not more, critical acclaim than its predecessor, he received Best Rap Album, Best New Artist and Best Rap Performance at the Grammy Awards. With every big brand knocking at his door for a commercial, and talks of a joint album with Ye affectionately titled Good Ass Job, it seemed like he could do no wrong. Until The Big Day arrived.

With there are some redeemable qualities to his exhaustive 22-track ‘debut’ album, The Big Day is, for the most part, a big flop. It’s one of the hardest fall offs for a rapper in recent years and it became clear that Chance, now a married man and father of two, was a lifetime away from his acid-tinged late teens and early twenties. It’s a sticky situation when an artist’s best work is steered by a drug influence, but it’s inevitably the case for some of music’s biggest names like Bob Marley, Pink Floyd and Kurt Cobain. We’ll never get the same calibre of creativity expressed on Acid Rap again, but ten years on and we’re still hoping to see that spark from Chance once more. 

While your mum might know him as a coach on the current season of The Voice, you’re probably trying to forget anything he did in music from 2017-2021. Being honoured with UNICEF Chicago Humanitarian Award in 2020, his career in the last few years has taken a focus towards activism. More recently, he also co-organised the inaugural Black Star Line Festival earlier this year in Accra, Ghana. Named after Civil Rights leader Marcus Garvey’s shipping company, the Black Star Line Festival was founded in the hopes to connect Black Americans to their African roots. 

For the last year and a bit, Chance has been gearing up to release his next album titled Star Line Gallery. Recent singles like ‘Child of God’ and ‘The Highs & The Lows’ featuring Joey Bada$$ prove to be a return to form, however, we’ll have to wait till later in the year for this to be fully realised. Kicking off the anniversary celebrations, he has released the missing track ‘Juice’ from Acid Rap on all streaming services, and has also announced a series of pop-ups, merch drops and live events across the US.

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