Despite his evasion of stylistic pigeonholing and no label affiliation -- not even a major-bankrolled vanity imprint -- Chance the Rapper is one of the most significant independent artists to infiltrate the mainstream. Through several mixtapes, his output underwent a rapid evolution as he celebrated…
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Review: Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment's 'Surf'
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Donnie Trumpet and The Social Experiment’s Surf is a celebration, and everyone is invited. The genre-defying album is the collective work of a massive array of musicians, ranging from seasoned veterans such as Busta Rhymes and Erykah Badu to rising sensations such as Raury and Quavo. The artists draw upon several discordant genres for inspiration, weaving elements of neosoul, Latin, jazz, gospel, pop and hip hop together in a seamless, self-affirming manner. Despite the wide-ranging musical influences and eclectic mix of collaborators present on each cut, the sixteen-track album runs with remarkable coherence and fluidity.
Bouncy, smooth, and irresistibly optimistic, Surf dares to rid listeners of any and all cynicism they possess. One of The Social Experiment’s greatest triumphs in crafting the album is their rare ability to promote self-love and individualism without ever reverting to sappiness or insincerity. Surf is characterized by a multitude of beautiful contradictions, as it is playful yet still serious in tone, musically complex yet effortlessly cool, and innovative yet saturated with retro influences. The bending of genres and expectations that occurs throughout the album’s hour-long run sets it apart from the previous hip hop releases of 2015.
While Chance The Rapper is not the official frontman of The Social Experiment, he certainly plays a prominent role in the group’s dynamic. His lyrical acrobatics are the driving force behind the album, injecting boundless charm into the album and setting the tone on nearly every track. Off the success of his 2013 mixtape Acid Rap, Chance spent the past year and a half fielding offers from major and indie labels alike. He could have chosen to direct his career in a more profitable and glamorous direction, but he instead chose to continue making music on his own terms with the artists who inspire him the most. Surf serves as a testament to the power of collaboration and the prevalence of artistic integrity in underground hip hop’s current landscape.