On May 28, the Social Experiment — a music collective that includes Donnie Trumpet, Chance the Rapper, Peter Cottontale, Greg Landfair Jr. and Nate Fox — released Surf, its free debut album that features Chance the Rapper’s vocals alongside contributions from artists such as Erykah Badu, Janelle Monae, Jeremih, Big Sean and J. Cole.
Surf begins with a ray of positivity. The vocals in the first song, “Miracle,” sound as if they are being delivered by an extraterrestrial electronic gospel choir singing, “If it’s a miracle / To be alive and well/ If we fell, we feel we’d be OK.” Chance the Rapper follows this optimistic, alien-like introduction with a talkative rap verse that discusses the perceived negativities in everyday life. Not to let these negativities triumph, he quickly tackles them by singing examples of life’s positives, such as: “Homies breathing / Families eating / Mama singing, is a miracle.”
Surf continues to play with the theme of positives outweighing negatives. The second track, “Slip Slide,” concludes optimistically, affirming, “It ain’t so easy / But it’s not so hard / To stand up.” Slip Slide also features Busta Rhymes delivering a rap verse, which — in true Busta Rhymes fashion — includes chuckling and the sort of fervent, rhyming wordplay that fans of the rapper are sure to enjoy.
Duality, exemplified by the album’s ruminations on life’s positives and negatives, is also present in multiple song titles. Before listening, the title of the third song, “Warm Enough,” could be taken as a hint to Chance the Rapper’s upbringing in Chicago, a town known for its frigid winters. Instead, “Warm Enough” actually explores matter of love, resilience and survival.
Song order is sometimes very important on the album overall but falters a few times. One song in particular, “Familiar,” does not fit in with the others in the album. In the song — despite its upbeat sound — Chance the Rapper defies the album’s otherwise inclusive musings with lyrics that degrade women on the basis of their appearance. Chance the Rapper, along with featured artists Quavo and King Louie, lambastes women, complaining, “These bitches regular and they smoke regular / If these bitches bad, then bad bitches regular.”
Occasional lyrical offenses aside, Surf is worth a listen — if not for Chance the Rapper’s standout vocals, then for the treasure trove of featured artists involved in the collaboration. When it comes to Surf, the more is certainly the merrier.
Contact Peter Alexander at [email protected].