Review written by Brad W. (@Brad_C_Williams).

In response to his stellar debut #10Day, Chance The Rapper’s latest free release Acid Rap indicates a dramatic transition in his life. The angst and frustration revolving around his 10-day suspension from Chicago’s William Jones College Preparatory School seems outdated, as Chance’s opening statement in “Good Ass Intro” proves. BJ The Chicago Kid’s opens the album with a casual, melodic proclamation that Acid Rap is “even better than [he] was the last time baby,” and it could not hold any more true. After spending the previous year travelling around the world, working with numerous notable artists, and touring with Chicago brethren Kids These Days, Acid Rap feels refreshing and vibrant, boisterous yet unpretentious.

Topically, Chance develops similar thematic threads that emerged as problematic on #10Day with a lighter and less-brash twist. As indicated by the title, the centrality of drugs and its subsequent effects upon his friends and family presents itself in multiplicity of ways. Sometimes he seems to promote the nonchalant and carefree lifestyle that ensues from their use, yet other times he is resigned and critical of their macro-influences on his Chicago home. On the second half of “Pusha Man,” he moves away from glorifying drug use and misogynistic lovers to respond in a more resistant way, asking, “where the fuck is Matt Lauer at? Somebody get Katie Couric in here/Probably scared of all the refugees, look like we had a fucking hurricane here.” Chance dwells on this paradox throughout, addressing a wide spectrum of substances.

Although touching on his experiences at Jones College Prep and his suspension, Chance transitions away from academia to comment on relationships, both with female counterparts and spiritual higher powers. Surprisingly, Chance does not approach relationships like most people his age, underlying the importance of love and affection above sex appeal. However, love is not easily achieved and brings its own barrage of conflicts. For example, on “Lost” Chance expresses his introspective sullenness concerning fast women when admitting that “she fell in love, it fell apart… aight let go/She met her match, I let her match she lit her match, she let me smoke.” The responding verse from female emcee Noname Gypsy only solidifies his conflictual sentiments. Even more surprised is his criticism of religion. Questioning the existence higher powers, he is both “born again” and “sanctified” but asking “God to show his face” on the outro of “Acid Rain.” Chancellor Bentley proves that that he is intellect and contemplative beyond his age in years.

Stylistically, Acid Rap offers playful and experimental lyrical flows that remind us that hip-hop can be fun and creative outside of the lyrical content. Rarely does Chance rhyme without some harmony or melody in his high-pitched, raspy voice hearkening to circa 2007 Lil Wayne. Singing on the hook of the track “NaNa” featuring Action Bronson brazenly bawls a chorus that parallels the randomness of the verses that you’ll find stuck in your head hours later. Songs for him are not just rapping but music in a more universal sense. Loyal to the roots of his success from #10Day, Peter CottonTale and Stefan Ponce do a great job complimenting his style with slews of live horn and string samples, adding to the upbeat and bright undertone of the project.

Trying to choose stand-out tracks is like trying to find Waldo from the top of the Empire State Building. “Cocoa Butter Kisses” featuring Kids These Days’ Vic Mensa and Chicago legend Twista reminisce on the good times, artistically contrasting their manic lifestyles as artists angst past moments with their loved ones. One of the first singles from Acid Rap, the jovial nature of “Juice” metaphorically embodies Chance’s energy and creativity with a turnt-up chant during the hook. “Favorite Song” featuring Childish Gambino and “Smoke Again” featuring Ab-Soul capitalize on their big-name features as they are fun and swank with their braggadocios and radio-friendly attitude.

Garnishing great hype leading up to its April 30th release, Chance the Rapper offers sultry, lush sounds and complex, approachable songs while maturing musically from his previous work. He says it best in the outro of his album: “Everything’s Good.” It’s rare and rejuvenating for a mixtape to be anything more than leftover cuts from an upcoming album. There’s no question that Chance The Rapper’s latest offering will propel him to astronomical success. Acid Rap might be the strongest mixtape to come out of Chicago in 2013, more possibly the top mixtape of 2013 period.

Download Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap and let us know what you think in the comments!