Most of us didn't hear about Chance the Rapper (born Chancelor Johnathan Bennett, in 1993) until 2013, when his "Acid Rap" mixtape droppped and captivated the world. (That made a lot of sense, because it was the best mixtape of 2013.) But the young Chicago rapper had been at it for a few years before then, distributing tracks and his "10 Day" mixtape, quickly building a local audience and slowly expanding.
Then "Acid Rap" came and blew everyone's mind. Chance's exuberant, joyful, hopeful and singular sound was easily contrasted with the dominant Chicago drill rap nihilism narrative of the day. Chance offered a different, much-needed perspective — and, thanks to his backing band, the Social Experiment, there were even horns and, overall, the music they made was happy music.
The world waited a long time for a follow-up to "Acid Rap" — with a bit of help from his collaborative albums "Surf," with Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment, and "Free Based Freestyles," with Lil B — and we finally got it three years later with "Coloring Book." The album has been praised by critics and regular people and is the only album to hit the Billboard 200 based only only streams. Also, thanks to a new change in Grammy Award rules concerning the eligibility of streaming-only albums, Chance may win a Grammy next year.
Chance has accomplished so much so fast. He's toured the world and played all the big fests: Lollapalooza, Coachella, Bonnaroo more. He's collaborated with legends and rising stars: Justin Bieber, Kendrick Lamar, Lil Wayne, Kanye West, Macklemore, 2 Chainz, Jay Electronica, Saba, Busta Ryhmes, Ryan Lewis — the list goes on.
It's hard to predict what Chance will do next but it will surely be special. In the meantime, here are his 10 best songs.
It all started with a mixtape so it's perfect that Chance brags that he's the only rapper who "still cares about mixtapes" on this "Coloring Book" track featuring two other artists who've made a name for themselves through mixtapes, Young Thug and Lil Yachty. However, it's not entirely clear what a mixtape even is anymore, thanks to artists like Drake and Chance the Rapper, who release mixtapes that you have to pay for or exclusively through some streaming service. That important issue aside, it's a fun track featuring three fun rappers.
9. "Favorite Song" (with Childish Gambino)
Rappers don't normally rap about hacky sacks and Rascal Flats, but Chance did just that on this track featuring actor/rapper Childish Gambino. It's a song about his favorite song, and it's probably one of your favorite songs from "Acid Rap."
Chance raps a lot about the past (and the present and the future, to be honest). This tune from his "10 Days" mixtape shows him waxing nostalgic and sharing details from his life. He's not afraid to get intimate.
To be honest, the star of this track is Saba, a rising Chicago rapper, whose chorus on "Angels" is fantastic. The two link up for an uplifting song about their city and the people who hold it up. We hope these two make some more music together.
6. "Cocoa Butter Kisses" (with Vic Mensa and Twista)
With fellow Chicago rappers Vic Mensa and Twista supporing him, Chance rapped about the old days and love and his mom and his grandmother and Chuck E. Cheese pizza and being spanked on "Cocoa Butter Kisses," from "Acid Rap." He can pack a lot of color and detail and life into a verse, and this tune proved that.
5. "All We Got"
Even when "Acid Rap" shifted everyone's paradigm, nobody could've predicted that three years later Chance the Rapper would be working with Kanye West. But here we are in 2016, and Chance appeared on the first track of Kanye's "The Life of Pablo" album and Chance returns the favor by putting Kanye on track one of "Coloring Book."
4. "Good Ass Intro"
This is how "Acid Rap" begins. With a banging track filled with so much joy and hope and psychedelic wonder. It features Chance celebrating all of his accomplishments at the time, and they are huge accomplishments, no doubt, but think about how much he has achieved since then. Incredible.
In the upbeat "Acid Rap" single "Juice," Chance raps about how much juice he has. It was one of the first songs many of us heard from him, and he sounded so darn happy and confident it was contagious, and it made us thirsty for more. He had the juice — lots of it — and in the "Juice" video, he danced around in Times Square, flaunting all that juice.
2. "No Problem"
This "Coloring Book" track featuring both Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz has Chance sounding tougher than he has ever sounded before. The chorus is a battle cry, but it still zips with the uplift Chance specializes in. Even when he makes threats, he sounds like a sweatheart.
1. "Chain Smoker"
This one might make you cry tears of joy. It's about how Chance wants us to love him and his music, and how life is too short and every moment is precious. "I play this so loud in the car, I forgot to park my whip," goes the chorus. Play it loud, but maybe make sure to park the whip, too.