4 new songs
Chance the Rapper
While the rumors of a new Chance the Rapper album due out last week proved to be false, fans did get the next best thing with four new songs uploaded to the Chicago native’s Soundcloud page. Sure, that’s barely enough to be considered an EP, but when it comes to one of the most popular music acts going, fans will take what they can get. The four songs are personal accounts regarding his love life, his hometown, and the burdens of fame, giving listeners plenty to consider, even from such a small sample size. The tracks are full of political callouts, heartfelt admissions, and summertime fun. Add a little controversy, some internet shenanigans, and a dash of media blowback and you’re left to wonder what would’ve happened if it was, in fact, a full-length LP. One thing’s for sure, at just 25 years old, Chance the Rapper proves that while he has reached a height many would love to see, he’s actually still on the rise with much more to give.
“Work Out,” the first of the tracks, is an introspective look into the on-again, off-again relationship with the mother of his daughter and now-fiancee. Featuring Francis and the Lights and produced by Nate Fox, Lido, and Nico Segal, this track describes bridging a gap in their relationship. With a smile-inducing beat comprised of a light, lingering keyboard and sporadic drum snaps, his perception of their relationship grows from petty cheap shots to clear and honest admiration. The opening verse starts us off in a rather uncomfortable place: “Luckily, my ex ugly / I don’t eat, so she can’t get no lunch with me.” Not the most romantic of openers. However, by the time Chance delivers the final line, the chorus rings true: “I’ma have so many seeds, I could have a birdhouse / Send my love on they mama, I hope it work out.” Heartfelt love songs are few and far between in hip-hop, and hardly ever as engaging.
The second song, “Wala Cam,” features Forever Band and Supa Bwe, and many Chicagoans will recognize the name from the local hip-hop and R&B platform for emerging artists. Wala Cam TV has been around since 2003 in many forms and with many functions. Once a public access show, it’s now a website, internet radio station, and YouTube channel. They produce videos featuring musicians and dancers when they are not running youth programs and internships. Chance and producers Greg Landfair, Carter Lang, and Lido give Wala an energetic and jaunty tribute. “Let me throw you on the story though / Trying to beat it like story mode / You belong at the war zone on / Wala, Wala.” Chance wears his Chicago bonafides on his sleeve, whether he’s throwing out the first pitch at Sox Park or donating to CPS. Showing some reverence for this local institution is just another example.
“65th & Ingleside” is the third track and another dedication to Chance’s wife-to-be, this one produced by Greg Landfair, Peter Cottontale, Nate Fox, Lido, and Chance himself. While the drums and Chance’s vocals intensify, he recounts the couple’s rocky history. He moans and pleads, spouts declarations, and sighs laments. The theme and refrain are very similar to “Work Out,” but the tone is a more honest approach to what must be a sore subject. While on “Work Out,” the chorus informs us that everything will “work out,” the chorus on “65th and Ingleside” tells us everything will “be okay.” Not much of a difference when read on a page, but significant when played back to back.
Not to bury the lede, but the final song released, “I Might Need Security” is definitely the most talked-about song of the set. It may not be the best of the four, but it has already caused quite a stir with its clever, apropos artwork and diss-track verses--no lovey-dovey refrains here. The title comes from a Jamie Foxx comedy special, and the track plays out over a sample of a Foxx punchline, which is nothing more than a string of softly sung “fuck you”s. Chance isn’t hiding his contempt for several targets here: Illinois governor Bruce Rauner and Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel get called out, and the Chicago Sun-Times as well. The Twitter-verse and the Chicago Police Department hear it too, and all for good reason. However, the biggest news is when Chance announces midsong that he’s bought defunct news aggregator site The Chicagoist. If demanding Rahm’s resignation didn’t grab enough attention, Chance the Newsman certainly has--talk about burying a lede.
Many in the media were quick to point out the problematic irony of Chance’s purchase, citing a story that he and his handlers threatened MTV News in order to squash a bad performance review in June of 2017. How can an artist dabble in censorship and then buy a news outlet all his own? An interesting question. Yet, his critics may have missed some irony themselves, especially when considering the rhymes preceding the Chicagoist announcement, which enumerate past grievances with local media. “And I can’t do nothing right, they gon’ always be at me / I missed a Crain’s interview, they tried leaking my addy / I donate to schools next, they call me a deadbeat daddy / The Sun-Times gettin’ that Rauner business / I got a hit-list so long I don’t know how to finish / I bought the Chicagoist just to run you racist bitches out of business.” With an album in the works, Chance will have the opportunity for another rebuttal. However, considering this song’s sample, much more may not need to be said.
Chance has reached the part of his career where everything he does will be scrutinized, which is part of the handshake deal one makes with fame. It doesn’t matter how much free music he streams, how many backpacks he donates, or how many benefits he hosts, someone, whether a writer from a legitimate publication or a Twitter troll, will be sure to mention one of his shortcomings. He’s a topic to be discussed, whether it’s his music or his personal life, and Chance seems to be embroiled in the media game already.
Obviously, “I Might Need Security” is an aggressive reaction to the media as a whole. Yet on “Wala Cam,” Chance is celebrating one media organization’s positive influence. One has to wonder if the other two songs, “Work Out” and “65th and Ingleside,” would even have been written if it wasn’t for a Chicago Sun-Times article from last March that insinuated he was being a neglectful father. People can find sources of inspiration in the damnedest places, and perhaps Chance has done just that. It’s refreshing to know that inside the Chance the Rapper the Brand, an artist remains. Navigating the mass mediascape can, indeed, make for a rough road, but if these four new songs are any indication, Chance the Rapper will still make good time.