[Photo by Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune]
“Pusha Man/Paranoia” by Chance the Rapper
Elaina: Chance the Rapper has gone from young rapper hopeful to full blown Grammy winner, Chicago star and role model in a few short years. Hanif Abdurraqib wrote an essay “Chance the Rapper’s Golden Year” in his collection of essays “They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us” that speaks to Chance’s commitment to community, joy and Chicago way better than I ever could, so check that out. This song, from Chance’s mixtape Acidrap starts out poppy and fun which is enjoyable in it’s own right, but has a second song buried within (unofficially called “Paranoia”, thank you Rolling Stone). The lyrics directly address the gun and gang violence, primarily affecting black youth in Chicago (“they murder kids here/why you think they don’t talk about it/they deserted us here” “down here it’s easier to find a gun than it is a fucking parking spot”) but then turns softer and reminds listeners they’re just kids (“I know you scared/you should ask us if we scared too/if you was there/then we’d just knew you cared too”). To me, this one song truly encompasses the range that Chance has and the perfect power to have joy and sadness in one track.
5songpjct: You and I have talked about this before. The cousins our age tend to be huge hip-hop fans. I talk about it in one of my posts, but what about hip-hop speaks to you?
Elaina: I really do love hip hop, which I cringe at saying because I fully know it’s not made for my enjoyment, but on a simplistic level, I love the beats and lyrics for exercising and going out in particular. On a more musically analytical level, there are some really incredible lyrics in hip hop and rap songs, Lupe Fiasco and early Kanye West being perfect examples. Chicago is also known for drill or trap music, a smaller hip hop subset with more local rappers which focuses more on gang and street culture. It’s definitely not as palatable for a broader culture, but some rappers from the genre have become a little more mainstream.
5songpjct: What about Chance the Rapper in particular?
Elaina: Chance the Rapper is quintessential Chicago. He grew up in Chatham on the South Side and his father was heavily involved in local Chicago politics. Like many Chicago hip hop artists/rappers, he is very proud to be from Chicago and keeps it his home. He recorded his first mixtape “10 Day” on a 10 day suspension from high school for smoking weed, and has remained that goofy kid straddling a very mature young adulthood. He has incredible energy and he’s a very dynamic performer–the song I selected has such range within that buried track as do the lyrics below, from “Summer Friends”
JJ, Mikey, Lil Derek and them
79th Street was America then
Ice cream truck and the beauty supply
Blockbuster movies and Harold’s again
We was still catching lightning bugs
When the plague hit the backyard
Had to come in at dark
‘Cause the big shawtys act hard
Okay now, day camp at Grand Crossing
First day, n***** shooting
Summer school get to losing students
But the CPD getting new recruitment
The idea in Chicago is that we really soak up and enjoy our summers because they are so short (pop culture reference, Bravo show 100 Days of Summer), but summers are the most violent and brutal for gang violence and murders. Chance never glorifies gang or street life because that’s simply not him, but never backs down from calling out this dark paradox.
5songpjct: These lyrics hit me particularly hard in your pick for your second song.
“Cause Everybody dies in the Summer
Wanna say your goodbyes, tell them while its spring”
Read about Elaina’s previous Chance the Rapper pick here
Don’t forget the question of the week up on Facebook today at 2:PM PST
NEXT UP… a singer Elaina introduced me to