Left recently on the killing floor of a mid-size Southern newspaper’s editorial abattoir was a particular description of Chicago native Chance the Rapper’s vocal stylings which I felt to be particularly apt: that he takes to the beats like a coursed hare.
If Big Sean, to use a more mainstream hip-hop figure as an analog, ricochets hollowly across beats like a racquetball–which he does, and which is why Sean performs so well on tracks with ebullient low ends for him to bounce off of–Chance careens and spins and stops, lilts and loop-de-loops and hairpins; it is like watching a green darner catch prey on the wing. He achieves these dizzying flows through two main variables; his voice, which can shift from a harsh bleat to a smoky rasp and from sophomoric to heartrending, and the speed with which he employs said voice. Chance toys with meter and pace, shifting gears like a seasoned harrier’s conditioning, loping along in that clarinet croon before violently shifting–squerchh!–and pushing out syllables with the speed and pitched severity of a TEC-9.
For those who have not heard the spectacular, Weird Beauty that is Acid Rap, Chance’s second mixtape, a series of three adjoining freestyles for radio program Sway in the Morning serves as an able illustration of his peculiar charms. Over lush production far removed from Acid‘s rubber-band/peyote soul aesthetic–they are, fittingly, two Kanye West cuts (“Through the Wire” and “Drive Slow”) along with the luxurious black velvet “Aston Martin Music”–Chance whips wildly into all of his various tics and nuances, including rapid nonsense undulations, little screeches, peusdo-singing, and his curious ability to infuse whatever bars do come in a roughly standard cadence with a parabolic quality, from harsh highs to chewy lows. Chance’s unique flow lends itself well to off-the-top work, already accepting of stops and goes as it is, and his willingness to coalesce bars in real time over “Drive Slow” and “Aston Martin” foreshadow the impressive fabrications he would perform before J. Cole, Waka Flocka, and the world on RapFix shortly thereafter.
Freestyles, by definition, are meant to serve as expressions of a rapper’s talent; they are calling cards, claw marks left upon other’s tracks, opportunities to puff out the chest a la Chanticleer and strut. In Chance’s case, that cock-of-the-walk attitude more closely resembles a peacock or frigate bird, and that is a very fine thing.
Listen to the freestyles here.
Chance’s freestyles receive a PARL
Also Check Out:
Freestyle of the Week Review: The Game, “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe Freestyle”
Freestyle of the Week Review: Rick Ross, “Don’t Kill My Vibe”
Yeezus – Kanye West album review
Talk A Good Game – Kelly Rowland album review