Last Thursday the long-teased collaborative album fronted by Chance the Rapper, Chance’s amigo Donnie Trumpet, and their band The Social Experiment was surprise-released on iTunes. Surf, which costs $0.00 and has been described by Andrew Barber of Fake Shore Drive as “vitamin D for the soul,” had been teased by Chance and Donnie for the better part of a year before its out-of-the-blue release. It’s already received an outpouring of positive feedback from Pitchfork, Consequence of Sound, Rolling Stone, The Guardian, and everyone else. We at the Weekly would be remiss not to offer a shout-out to this Internet-breaking tape from Chatham’s own, which also features numerous other local super (and some not so super, but still) stars. But if, as Barber says, the music is “supposed to speak for itself,” and if, as Zappa said, “writing about music is like dancing about architecture,” it’s probably best to back off the analysis and just state the facts. Consider this less a review than our appreciation, in print, of what you should just go ahead and listen to as soon as you have time, or probably much sooner. (Jake Bittle)
Number of songs on Surf: 16
• Shortest song: “Caretaker,” 1:35
• Longest song: “Miracle,” 4:10
• Coincidentally (arguably) the two most beautiful songs: “Caretaker” and “Miracle”
• Number of times I have heard Chance the Rapper’s verse on “Miracle”: 8
• Number of times I have teared up while hearing Chance the Rapper’s verse on “Miracle”: 7
• Approx. number of songs on which Chance the Rapper is heard: ~10
• Number of songs on which Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment are heard: 16
• A social experiment: Hype your less-famous friend’s album which you are featured on and watch the entire world assume it’s your own
• Approx. number of featured artists: 20 or so
• Guest verse most likely to make a kinda-famous person really famous: Noname Gypsy on “Warm Enough”
• Guest verse least likely to revive a career that really pretty much is over: Busta Rhymes on “Slip Slide”
• Guest verse least likely to make a kinda-famous person really famous though he should be: Jesse Boykins III, “Go”
• Best bass line on Surf: “Go”
• Guest verse most likely to give an utterly unknown person some kind of career: KYLE on “Wanna Be Cool”
• Most uplifting song on Surf: “Just Wait”
• Grandma of the year: Chance the Rapper’s grandma, “Sunday Candy”
• Why she’s the Grandma of the year: She’s “pan-fried, sun-dried, South Side, and beat the Devil by a landslide”
• Instrumental song released as one of only two singles from Surf: “Nothing Came to Me”
• Why this song was released as a single: Maybe a statement about importance of jazz horns
• Likelihood of whether Donnie Trumpet cares about what I or you think about jazz horns: Small
• Only half of the album that sounds anything like it was made by Chance the Rapper: first half
• Best Erykah Badu reference to Toni Morrison’s Beloved of the year: “Rememory”
• Approximate number of gospel choirs on Surf: 4
• Best gospel choir: the end of “Sunday Candy”
• Outro of the year: Chance the Rapper, “Windows”
• Close runner-up: “Just Wait”
• Maybe, shockingly, one of the three best verses on Surf: J. Cole, “Warm Enough”
• Best Surf-listening weather: Sunny
• Weather at the time of writing this: Gloomy
• How Surf sounds in gloomy weather: Great
• What you probably shouldn’t do with Surf: Think about it too much
• What you probably should do with Surf: Love it
By Maha Ahmed
A cheat sheet on some local players in Surf
B.J. The Chicago Kid, featured on “Slip Slide” and “Windows”: He’s been in the game for more than a decade now, having collaborated with artists like Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, and Stevie Wonder. Following the release of his new M.A.F.E Project, his features on Tracks 2 and 6 are great timing.
Noname Gypsy, featured on “Warm Enough”: This Bronzeville badass has melted all of our hearts before with her smooth Soundcloud singles like “Paradise,” and Mick Jenkins collab “Samaritan.” Involved in the Chicago scene for five years, catch her quick-witted verse on Track 3.
Jeremih, featured on “Wannabe Cool”: By way of Morgan Park, this pretty famous rabble-rouser has, among other things, been commissioned by former Mayor Daley to run a back-in-school campaign, and has collaborated with mainstreamers like Flo Rida and J. Cole. Give his verse a listen on Track 5 with fellow Chicagoan youngster KYLE.
King Louie, featured on “Familiar”: Having grown up all around the South Side, going to school in Hyde Park, South Shore, and Little Village, King Louie’s drill sound started with him handing out mixtapes at bus stops—he has since gained attention from the likes of South Shore’s Kanye West.
Saba, featured on “SmthnthtIwnt”: This Austin native produces the same brand of posi-rap as Chance, Vic Mensa, and Noname. The self-proclaimed nerd’s PIVOT crew is all about taking things “one step at a time,” though his impressively quippy world-play on Track 10 might indicate otherwise.
Jesse Boykins III, featured on “Go”: Unlike most of the other Chicagoans featured on Surf, Boykins specializes in the world of soul and R&B by way of his elementary school choir. Influenced by the likes of Stevie Wonder and Bob Marley, he adds a boisterous, soulful dimension to the project.
Jamila Woods, featured on “Sunday Candy”: Featured on arguably the smoothest song on Surf, she is a self-proclaimed poet and vocalist before anything else. Organizer of Louder Than A Bomb, where many others on this list found preliminary success, her creative endeavors are centered around blackness, womanhood, and this beautiful city itself.
Donnie Trumpet: His real name is Nico Segal. He used to be the bandleader of Vic Mensa’s experimental band Kids These Days. Since then he’s moved on to mixtapes of his own while still retaining close ties to Chance and company, whom he met at Jones High School. Made brass sections cool again.
Chance the Rapper: If you have to ask…