Ever since Chance the Rapper broke out in 2013 with his free mixtape Acid Rap, the 22-year-old has slowed down, doing everything on his own terms. Chance and his friends from The Social Experiment took time to focus on the smaller experiences of daily life, establishing what Surf, which released last Friday, would be: an album full of good vibes that declared every day as wonderful.
Although he’s the most famous member of The Social Experiment, Chance doesn’t dictate the entire album like his last album, Acid Rap. Every now and then, he jumps into a song, bringing his signature tongue-twisters and nonchalant sense of sincerity to calm everything down and examine life.
The true leader and highlight of this record is The Social Experiment’s Nico Segal, or Donnie Trumpet. From the sparse instrumental "Nothing Came to Me" to the lively "Sunday Candy" and the calming "Windows," his trumpet playing takes on several different forms, demonstrating the emotional scope of this record. Just like Jimi Hendrix or B.B. King could make a guitar sound like a second singer, Donnie can do the same with his trumpet. With him at the helm, Surf is more of a nod to jazz rather than a hip-hop record with its wide range of instrumentation and tremendous depth.
It feels almost impossible to list the countless number of different names associated with this record. Whether it’s Chance, Donnie, Big Sean, Janelle Monae, Jeremih, Quavo of the group Migos, the other members of The Social Experiment or another contributor, each artist brings something new to the table.
Yet, featured artists aren’t the focus of Surf. There isn't one stand out moment on this project, and there wasn't meant to be. The production of the album makes it feel like one swift, collaborative motion.
Many artists have something they want to say or an ambiance they want to create in an album, but their intentions get lost in the creative process. That is not the case for Surf. Whether it's an upbeat groove, such as “Slip Slide,” that makes you want to jump up and dance or a more sparse yet moving sound such as that featured on “Caretaker,” the entire record gives off a feeling of childlike joy.
A lot of Chance the Rapper's fans will be annoyed by this record because it's not his hip-hop mixtapes of the past. Sure, Surf isn't a follow-up to Acid Rap, but that's okay. This means more music from the beautiful minds of The Social Experiment.
Surf opens up whole new experiences of a variety of different elements of modern music. There's rap, there's singing, there's jazz, there’s R&B and there's a massive list of features. It all manages to come together to form one fluid, enjoyable piece of music. Plus, it's free.
Artist: Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment