It has been three years since Chance the Rapper shared Acid Rap with fans. It’s a visionary work by the young Chicagoan (and his many collaborators) that rightly vaulted him into the music world’s upper echelon.
More importantly, however, it was an inspiring, cohesive work by an independent artist. Chance made this album without the help of a major label. He also made the polar opposite of drill music at the height of Chicago’s drill movement. In these and so many other ways, Acid Rap was a revolutionary release. But its last legacy may rest with the artist’s that followed in its wake. To celebrate the albumturning three years old, we asked some of our favorite rising artists—and some of the musicians who worked on the album—to share memories about the album and what it means to them.
Evanston, IL rapper and singer
“It’s hard to explain what Acid Rap means to me. I was in high school when it came out, and we all got it that night. It was all we listened to. To me, Acid Rap is sitting in the back of my chemistry class with a earbud up my sleeve. It’s belting out my favorite song in the hallway because “this my jam, this my jam, this my jam.” It’s ditching class to go kick it with the homies at lunch. Shit like that. Acid Rap is what high school sounded like.”
Madison, WI rapper
“Acid Rap means a lot to me. It showed me that you don’t have to be boxed in, and that you can experiment with however many sounds you want. It made music a lot more interesting to me in general. One of my favorite songs on the tape is “Paranoia,” because the production is so smooth and the wordplay is so clever. I never bumped it in just one spot, but played on the way to school, in the car, the crib… Every once in a while, I go back and relive it all.”
The Social Experiment producer
“When I reflect on the Acid Rap time period, I don’t ever really think about the music made or how the beats came about. I think more about things that preluded its creation and its eventual success. I think specifically to a night that involved an introduction to James Blake and Joanna Newsom, a song about an apple that will never come out, and a very, very long walk. I’ll always remember making a friend, more than I will making a mixtape.”
“Man, Acid Rap meant the world to all of us. Our friends, our city, and our generation. It’s like a defining turning point for us.”
Chicago mixing/mastering engineer
“First and foremost thank you to Chance and company, Classick Studios, and Stefan Ponce for vouching for me, because Acid Rap changed my life. It really validated my career as a mix engineer. While working on the project I never thought about how big the project was going to be until the morning of the release. It was 5 A.M., and my homie Cam O’bi was working on the outro while everyone was KO’d. I stepped into another room at Classick to clear my mind, and one of my friends told me, ‘Hey, if you don’t finish this project on time the entire world is going to hate you.’
“I went back in and tried to get Cam to finish his fixes so I could get back to mixing. When the project started receiving all the accolades and people started connecting with the album, it hit me like, “Man, I helped create that.” I couldn’t have felt more proud because it’s a huge bookmark in so many peoples’ lives, including mine. I’ll never forget those sessions because they were legendary, and hope for this next project to break HELLA rules and set trends on a much larger scale. Happy third Acid Rap!”
“I first worked with Chance when we recorded “Hey Ma” for 10 Day. We stayed super late to finish the song so that it would be done in time for him to play it for his grandma before her surgery the following morning. We loved how that turned out so it only made sense that I would be on Acid Rap too. Peter Cottontale and I worked on some fun vocal arrangements for “Good Ass Intro,” and then Chance asked me to add some “oohs” to “Pusha Man” as well. I think my favorite memory was translating all of those recordings to live arrangements when we performed at Lollapalooza. It was a damn good time.”
Memphis rapper and singer
“Acid Rap came out at a very transitional point in my life. I was just graduating high school and I was that kid that was super into music and researching up-and-coming artists. I was a harsh critic, and I was not trying to listen to Chance. And then like everyone else, some way somehow, the mixtape wound up in my hands. I remember playing it for the first time in the car going to Atlanta. We kept running through the tracks, trying to decide if we loved Chance the Rapper or we hated him. Good art does that. It’s polarizing.
“At first, I couldn’t get with it. Months later, it become the soundtrack for the beginning of my college experience. Really all the way through sophomore year. I would say—man. I would say it’s one of the top ten free releases ever. It shows you how much an independent artist can really do. When they tell you what grassroots campaigns can do? Chance is living proof. He’s not an industry plant. He didn’t sell out and do all of that extra shit. He really did it by putting his city on and the city put him on. He’s like the last internet superstar. Damn. It’s so good.
“’Paranoia’ is the song that gave me the heebie jeebies. When I first heard “Paranoia,” that’s when I was on the Chance the Rapper train. I could feel it. I could feel the urgency. He has that line, “Where the fuck is Matt Lauer at?” Immediately after hearing that song, I looked up all the statistics about Chicago. I honestly felt his pain. It’s special to see an artist who’s so lighthearted switch to something so serious and conflicted so quickly. It’s very human. To hear someone like Chance the Rapper, who has such a cool demeanor, to feel so bent and broken down? There’s something there, it’s very genuine. If you stick to your craft and your methods, and you really stand for what you believe in, it will come back to you.
“Chance is one of those guys you only hear good things about. I’ve never met him, but it seems like he’s a really good human being who cares about the people around him. I think we can all take something from that. He doesn’t care about having Billboard hits and yet he’s huge. Chance is huge. When you stick something out, it will pay off. That album was so damn good. That shit came out in 2013. How crazy man, how crazy. So classics still be coming out, huh. There will always be classics. I’m still rooting for Chance, and I can’t say that about a lot of artists from then. That’s powerful.”
Queens, NY rapper
“I think there are a few artists who can bring something refreshing to the table where people can’t say: ‘This sounds like someone else.’ After their release, other artists get compared to the artists who paved the way. Chance is one of them, and Acid Rap was the project that did that.
“I remember being downtown somewhere in the city to meet some friends, and they had the doors open blasting Chance, dancing around the car. Immediately I asked who it was and made them play the project from front to back. Definitely had replay value on my playlist for a while.”
“Acid Rap was the dopest project that came out in 2013, and is still one of the best of what’s come out since. That whole mixtape got me through my senior year of high school, and it was kinda like a soundtrack to those last few months. Chance was just breaking out at that time, and drill music was really popping that year so it was like a breath of fresh air to get something that amazing from an independent Chicago artist.”
“Acid Rap is the reason I’m where I am today. Chance opened the door for everyone in Chicago that wasn’t making drill music.”
Ventura, CA rapper
“Acid Rap showed me how much power every artist big or small actually has. It was completely against the grain musically and, more importantly, message-wise. It raised the bar for all of rap music. Acid Rap inspired all of us artist to become more innovative, musically impressive, and a little more loving with every message we put in a song.”