Like many of you, my introduction to Chancelor Bennett, aka Chance the Rapper, was Acid Rap. Even if you were keeping Hip-Hop at an arm’s length in 2013, you just couldn’t ignore it. Chance’s sophomore mixtape was fawned over by Hip-Hop heads and non-heads alike. And it was adored because it was different. Chance was different. Drug use or no drug use, he pelted 13 tracks of bright production with playful charisma, quirky ad-libs, and self-assured individuality.
To be clear, I did not fall head over heels in love with Acid Rap. My stoner friends insist it has to do with my own lack of substance use. But I found Chance’s cartoony persona refreshingly distinct, and when my housemate threw Acid Rap on five times a week junior year, I wasn’t necessarily complaining.
As the Chi-Town sensation releases his third project Coloring Book, it’s absurd to consider the remarkable status he has achieved through just two free mixtapes. And while Acid Rap is Chance’s good kid, m.A.A.d. city, it was 2012’s 10 Day that introduced him to the world. Initially following Acid Rap, when traveling back in time to give Chance’s modest debut a listen, I tapered back my expectations, anticipating perhaps another lo-fi listen to a budding rapper spitting freestyles over “Big Spender”. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. 10 Day isn’t as glossy or maximalist as Acid Rap, but its 14 tracks carry an irresistible charm and an abundance of great material.
10 Day may have the sonic presentation of a debut mixtape, but that’s where any major criticisms end. Its title comes from Chance’s ten-day high school suspension for weed possession, and Chance’s lovably immature, devil-may-care attitude throughout the tape does the premise justice. Chance consistently comes across like he is just making music for his own entertainment. It’s the same vibe that has helped make Acid Rap and Surf so appealing (the latter being Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment’s 2015 project on which Chance guested on over half the songs).
On “14,400 Minutes”, Chance sounds eccentric right off the bat, and DJ SuchNSuch’s silly yet focused production is able to meet him on whatever planet he’s flowing from. Those “AHH” ad-libs with which he peppers the track quickly clue listeners in; 10 Day is not your average bravado-pumped rap mixtape. After all, Chance doesn’t even speak your language –according to closing track “Hey Ma”, he speaks “Chanish”.
Singularity aside, one of the main selling points of 10 Day lies in the rapping itself, which is considerably advanced a majority of the time. Look no further than “Brain Cells”, “22 Offs”, or the second verse of “Long Time” for complex, carefully constructed rhymes that suggest Chance’s extensive study of first-class lyricists.
In addition to his technical ability as an emcee, Chance yanks listeners in numerous emotional directions, showcasing a palette far beyond his 19 years of age at the time of 10 Day’s release. With its gentle acoustic guitars and tender melodic chorus, “Nostalgia” forgoes an opening “one-two punch” for a serene comedown after opener “14,400 Minutes”. He captures the intended nostalgic mood exceptionally well with lines like “remember the old days, the ones you’ll never get back/at the end of parties, passing around gift bags”.
Meanwhile, the following track “Missing You” plays out like two opposing acts of the same play as its tone undergoes a dramatic shift halfway through. Act One finds Chance slurring through a series of casual bars, including one in particular that always cracks me up: “niggas was too busy scrappin’, put ‘em up/I was too busy rapping, good as fuck”. Then with a little bit of reverb tossed on his singing voice and a piano entrance, Act Two is somber and tear-jerking.
He’s just as convincing on an upbeat number like “Prom Night”, which contains the tape’s best instrumental, with its soaring strings and bouncy, indie-flavored piano. His flow in the second verse recalls Blueprint-era Jay-Z, while he sings the last four lines of the first verse in Drake fashion (this tape was, after all, directly post-Take Care). In general, Chance’s firm grasp on expressing a multitude of feelings is a large factor in making 10 Day such an engaging listen.
“Juke Juke” and “Fuck You Tahm ‘Bout” are consecutive latter-half cuts that make a key statement: Chance has an ear for smashes at his disposal. “Fuck You Tahm ‘Bout” in particular proves that amidst all of Chance’s goofiness and quirks, if he wanted to, he could make aggressive, Southern-influenced bangers for days on end, even if they include his “nana” ad-lib! Yet despite its trilled-out hook and trap instrumental, “Tahm ‘Bout” still manages to be tongue-in-cheek, especially when Chance raps the following in the second verse “I’ll stab you with a screwdriver/that shit ain’t even rhyme nigga”. On “Juke Juke”, Chance attacks a recycled “Big Poppa” beat with a nimble start-stop flow in the first verse that brings Big Boi to mind. The silky electric guitars at the end wrap things up perfectly. Personally, I’m somewhat surprised this track didn’t take off as a single, especially considering its mild frat-rap flavor having a welcome spot in the 2012 Hip-Hop climate.
10 Day didn’t just plant the seed for Chance the Rapper’s career. It stands alone as an excellent body of work. Chance clearly knew he was something special on 10 Day, yet delivered his bars like he didn’t give a fuck about the fame and accolades that were soon to be his. But after all, as he spits on “Long Time II”, “Things ain’t been the same since Ms. Patterson called me famous.”