FSD Feature: Chance The Rapper Let Me Hear Surf

Andrew Barber


…and it sounds like Vitamin D for the soul

Act I

It’s not everyday you run into Chance The Rapper. Sure, you might bump into him at the airport as he’s coming or going. You might even catch him at an event, with a sea of people following him through the crowd as if he’s our rap savior. But with his busy and demanding schedule, you just never know if he’s in town or on the road. He belongs to the world now, so if he’s in Chicago or not is always the question.

I ran into Chance on some regular, everyday stuff last week. And while that’s a rare occurrence, having him invite you over to his crib to listen to Surf is even more rare. Would you turn down an exclusive listen of the freshly completed Surf project (yes, the project is DONE)? Is that even a question? You stop what you’re doing and make that move immediately. After all, Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment’s Surf is one of the most anticipated projects of the year. That’s not up for debate.

Chance had a few caveats, though. He wouldn’t tell me much about the song, other than the title. He wanted me to hear it without any bias. He wouldn’t tell me what singer or rapper was featured on any track – he wanted me to figure it out for myself. A rare surprise in this day and age. He wanted the music speak for itself, and that’s the way it should be. We’re so caught up on who is featured where and who produced what, that we don’t fully digest the product. That’s how he wanted me to experience it, and that’s how you’re going to experience it as well. Don’t worry, though, you’ll hear Surf soon. How soon? Well, I can’t tell you that. But soon.

Act II

Surf is not a Chance solo project. Of course you know that, but the way he’s harassed everyday on Twitter about it (see for yourself), you’d think this was the official follow up to Acid Rap. It’s not. This very much belongs to the musical monster, Donnie Trumpet and The Social Experiment. But of course, Chance’s fingerprints are all over it. He’s more of the executive producer here. The ringmaster, if you will. But it’s Donnie’s show, with The Social Experiment flexing their muscles throughout the 16-song opus. Donnie, Nate, Stix, Peter, Chancelor. They’ve joined as a sort of bohemian Voltron, and have poured their mind, body and soul into each and every track.

The details. There are so many details, that it was impossible to catch everything upon first listen. I doubt I’ll really get it until listen 10, and even that’s pushing it. There’s a lot going on – layers upon layers of lush instruments, and distinctive sounds. Noises will emerge out of nowhere like a speeding Indy car zooming past you into the wall at 220 miles per hour. “Wait, was that a trumpet?” Of course that was a trumpet. It’s Donnie Trumpet, duh. Speaking of Donnie, the things he does with his trumpet on Surf is nothing short of amazing. If Chance serves as the ringmaster, then Donnie is the maestro. The marquee act of the show that is Surf. And with his trumpet, he leads the album like a pied piper.

The way he’s able to manipulate the sounds he spews out is something this generation has yet to see. He transforms his brass from one instrument into many, altering the mood of the project from song to song. It evokes happiness, sadness, fright and joy. Donnie’s trumpet just might be the star of the show, and I’m looking forward to spending more time with his parts to clearly understand what’s happening. It’s deep.

They’re pushing boundaries with Surf, and having fun while doing it. The groove, the soul and the funk of this project is rich and thick. It could’ve dropped in 1985 or 2015 – it’s timeless. It knows no limits.

The best way I can describe it, is being a musical summer blockbuster. To me, it’s more than just an album or project — it’s a movie. The project definitely tells a story, one that I was unable to grasp with the initial listen. It’s scored like a film. Each track is a scene with wicked interludes breaking the album into different parts. I have a feeling major motion picture companies will come calling after Surf drops. These guys will be scoring films before you know it. That’s how big and vibrant this sounds.

Each song evokes a different feeling or mood. One track brought to mind Prince Akeem’s wedding scene in Coming to America, while another gave me Purple Rain vibes, and had me ready to move to Minneapolis and buy a motorcycle. One joint wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Lionel Richie’s Dancing on the Ceiling album. Then a house-infused song popped up, and had me itching to footwork in Chano’s living room. It’s just ill. It’s so different. It’s a movie.

The sounds and vibes are pulled from everywhere, but nothing sounds out of place. It meshes together flawlessly. It’s wild, but cohesive. They spent a lot of time fine-tuning Surf – that’s evident. Whoever engineered this album had their work cut out for them, and a lot of man-hours were put into making Surf sound right. It knocked on home speakers, but you can tell this was meant to be played in the whip. It’s a summer album — it’s cruising music.

A lot of artists don’t put projects together as if they’re a body of work that will be consumed and analyzed for years to come. They just rush them out to keep up with demand. But Surf is meant to live on forever. To be discussed and digested by future generations. This was their intention here, I’m convinced.

On Surf, many of your favorite rappers (young and old) joust with your favorite R&B singers (young and old) to make these tracks larger than life. Oh, he showed up? Wow, she’s here? How did Chance get him to appear? Your head will be spinning as the cast of characters is dizzying. I can’t tell you who appears, but expect the unexpected. But expect nothing less form the Social Experiment. Curveballs galore.

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  • Show Comments (4)

  • Difference

    I love your use of words and I’m very excited for surf.

  • Blaze the illest

    This some bullshit. Release it to the people, Chance! We all tryna #SURF!

  • chance the rapper stan

    Clearly i’m biased but there is no denying Chance’s greatness, He has too many unfuckwittable flows

  • Truth

    Is he 3hunna or GBE? jk

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