After the Grammys performance (and awards he got) and the reaction to his latest mixtape in general, its safe to say that Chance the Rapper has blown up. He has become a mainstream, almost household name, which I’d think is pretty rare for a rapper (I’m not sure I can name another rapper in recent history with his sort of reach). People are being exposed to the happy, modest, and incredibly talented artist that Chance is, and his success is certainly well deserved, but it’s nice to take a look at where he’s come from. While Coloring Book is his most popular album, it is also his most gospel-y album, and in my personal opinion, his third best mixtape (authors note: its his third mixtape, but I didn’t want to use worst because that has such a negative connotation and really, Coloring Book is great).

Now, I don’t want to be even pretend I was “there from the start” with Chance or anything like that-far from it in fact. I really only got into rap about a year ago, but after discovering Chance and loving Coloring Book, a friend urged me to listen to his other two mixtapes, 10Day and Acidrap; and boy am I glad he did.

Chance has always been a happy, modest, talented rapper, but his lyrics and beats weren’t always so uplifting. Chance’s first mixtape and even non-mixtape songs hint at a darker, drug filled, problematic past.

His song Somewhere, Nowhere USA is a fantastic example. It’s lyrics not only talk about depression and thoughts of suicide, but also serve as an excellent example of his lyrical genius-Chance is phenomenal at linking seemingly non-sensical strings of words together to form poetry. I wont post all the lyrics here, but this youtube video has them on the screen. Somewhere, Nowhere USA An excerpt:

Maybe I’m just stressed cause my damsel’s not undressed
And her knight in shining armor is searching for martyr
Like playing a game of operation with Parkinson’s
You touched the walls and you felt shocked
Cause when you touched the walls

You felt boxed

His first mixtape 10Day is as raw in lyrics as it is in sound. Recorded in a free recording studio in Chicago, Chance raps about his suspension from school, his roots and his lead into music. It also serves to show his poetic ability-in fact many of his raps were originally spoken word poetry he performed at open mics (search YouTube for Chance before the fame). He also channels a lot of Kanye Wests’ early work in 10Day in his sampling of tracks with his raps behind. Really the whole mixtape is phenomenal, and easy to listen front to back if you have an hour to spare, but I’ll just post his track Prom Night which I love.

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Prom Night

Moving onto Acidrap, I’d say maybe my favorite of the three mixtapes because of it’s diversity. Again, easy to listen to front to back, but I love it because he has both upbeat, feel good tracks as well as deeper cutting tracks. Cocoa Butter Kisses is widely regarded as one of his best songs across all his mixtapes, and is again, a lyrical masterpiece with a great beat behind it. Meanwhile, Paranoia is a great song about the mean streets Chance grew up on. Again though, really ought to listen to the whole thing. Chain Smoker is a personal favorite song, but the whole thing is great.

I’m not sure what the whole point of this was, mostly just rambling. But Chance is great, and ALL of his music should be checked out, not just the gospel-y stuff that’s been on TV (Grammys, SNL, etc) lately.

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If people liked this, I’ve got a lot more thoughts on different artists, so let me know if theres any interest.

Links to his first to mixtapes (free because, Chance) here:

10Day

Acid Rap

Coloring Book