"For Chicago". This is what the digital gift tag says on what might be the most appreciated surprise gift I've received this year. I say, "I" as if the mixtape from Chicago's most influential rapper this year (name another, I dare you) and Chicago's most underrated and talented singer-songwriter personally left the digital download under my tree, but after listening to this musical ode to the Windy City at Christmas time, convince me you won't feel the same. By now, you know I like to make a soundtrack for every occasion, a la Bluetooth Boom, but the nine track holiday soundtrack from Chance The Rapper and Jeremih has just rendered a Christmas playlist futile.
If the Chicago Tribune and the soundcloud upload dates can be taken at face value, the project was finished Monday, December 20, 2016, and released very early this morning. I've listened to this musical mosaic of rap, soul, gospel and dub-step all day and I'm still not done, but here were my immediate reactions.
1. I'm just here for all of the 'ho' and 'sleigh' entendres
Christmas never sounded so appealingly raunchy. Autotune, homophones that sound like bad words, Christmas carol titles being used to described sexual advances. Honestly, how could you go wrong with the tape's opening song, "All The Way" .
2. Oh heeeeeyyyyy Cherimih *inserts body roll*
Finally, the cold and snow in Chicago are a good thing in the second song from the mixtape, "Snowed In". Jeremih's lazy tongue and Midwest drawl is the perfect instrument for the sexy song, which is now being added to our Bluetooth Boom: Baby It's Cold Outside. They both delivered smooth and sexy with references to tricks, gifts, lists, and rides and Chance has that depth to his voice that sound's like he's talking while laying in the bed in the wee hours of the morning with one arm stretched above his head. And yes, I called them Cherimih because I couldn't decide which of the two stole my
panties musical heart first.
3. Yaaaasss! Wait are they dirty macking to Michael?
The only artists who have ever done a Michael sample right are The Weeknd and Janet... until now. "Stranger At The Table" is Cheremih's (I decided I like the name) ode to loving your ex and using the holidays to get back in their good graces. On this Jackson 5 "I Want you Back" sample, Jeremih begs for another chance while letting his ex know the man next to her is playing with her heart. Exes always know when someone else is on game but say 'wow' with 12 w's at the end when you call them on theirs. But it is the holidays, and "Jesus was a baby, let's do it for the babies" .
4. Use those voices for good, guys.
Joy is a soulful directive and love letter to the people of Chicago. Jeremih sounds like the teen soloist in your church's choir the day they bring the good choir out, backed up by a gospel choir and organist that would make a baptist preacher envious (think Ryan Toby in Sister Act II). Chance's rap at the 2:30 mark is a socially pivotal moment of the song. Chance calls for a cease fire in Chicago, and brings light to the tragic story of Bettie Jones.
5. Quick, someone lend me their fine daddy or uncle.
There is no way you can listen to "I'm Your Santa" and not break out a Chicago step. Too young to remember that other Chicagoan's song with the directions? No worries, Chance teaches you how to step in this undeniable dance hit. Jeremih still has some of that Jackson stank on his vocals, and you can hear Chance smiling through his ad libs. On a scale of skip to repeat, I'm voting repeat as I dance circles around your fine daddies and uncles.
6. I don't eff with you part two
Exes, friends, jobs, everybody is getting left in 2016 and Chance is not having you back in "I Shoulda Left You". This one is a perfect anthem for all of you new-year-new-me-ers with the Instagram memes to match. Chicago MC Lud Foe starts the song off strong with giving his ex and foes the strong arm. Jeremih raps in a sing song staccato that works (I know the two words in theory should cancel each other out, but this is why Jeremih is a genius, because it works), and Chance sings a hypnotizing chant of "I shoulda left you in 2016". I guarantee the line "I didn't like your ass anyway" will ring through the new year on snapchat videos, Instagram captions, and twitter timelines.
7. I'm not sure if the tragedy is love or addiciton but this is beautifully sad
Honestly, I'm not sure if the tragedy of winter referenced in the song is love or drugs a la Ed Sheeran's "A Team" or Jay Z's "I know" but the instrumentation combined with the raspy sadness of Chance's voice is an emotional win as he pleads for mercy for the song's principal character. In the second half of the song, Chicago emcee Noname grabs the beat and she doesn't let go, another shining moment of the project. Noname, "Tragedy" is your song now.
8. Weed and "Carol of the Bells"? Does Snoop know about this?
No really. Cherimih got on a track and remixed "Carol of the Bells" with references to weed, fly-ins, being a boss, and wings with sauce. Jeremih produced, rapped a verse, and harmonized..with himself. Chance shouted himself out humbly on 7 Grammy nominations. Y'all. Y'all. These boys are good.
9. Awww shucks.
I'm at my desk rolling my shoulders and popping my booty. Clients and coworkers alike are side-eyeing me. I can't resist. This mix of Chicago EDM and Dub Step in the final and title track of Merry Christmas Lil Mama reminds me of a Hampton University Holland Hall Party (which was also where I first heard an influx of music from the mid-west). You know that first time you hear something you never heard before but you know your body and soul immediately identify? Yeah, that.
Listen to the early Christmas present here.