In the summer of 2017, I stood waiting to see Chance the Rapper perform at Boston Calling.

As the crowd poured in, three drunk and aggressive college students shoved past me. All three of them were draped in fraternity letters, with matching fitted snapbacks. "F**kin move!" one of them cursed as they plowed through, "I said all of you f**Kin' move!"

It was a dissonant moment of aggression considering who we were mutually waiting to see. Chancelor Johnathan Bennett has always been relentlessly optimistic in both his music and personal life, and I'm certain he would have been disappointed by the altercation had he witnessed it. But, as Chance took the stage and dove into "Angels" off 2016's Coloring Book, I was surprised to watch the three men emotionally sing along, arms wrapped around each other's shoulders. They screamed every word at the top of their lungs. They looked at each other with boarish appreciation. "Wear your halo like a hat, that's like the latest fashion! I got angels all around me they keep me surrounded!" At that moment, I understood the importance of an artist like Chance The Rapper.

As a member of the 2014 XXL Freshman Class, Chance rose alongside hard-hitting trap rappers like Lil Durk, Kevin Gates, Lil Bibby, and Vic Mensa. But unlike his colleagues, Chance's goofy demeanor, combined with his soulful and heartwarming lyrics about love and the glory of God, painted him as a different breed of artist. In short, Chance The Rapper had made jubilance cool. Even these three rude frat boys couldn't resist his charm. They were filled with childish glee.

This past March, Chance took to social media to tell the charming story of how he met his wife and recounted in touching detail how he slowly fell in love with her. The series of posts made national news and gave his fans a unique look into who Chance was as a person. It's rare for rappers to be so vulnerable; many of today's biggest rap stars tend to keep their fans at arm's length when it comes to their personal life.

As a result of this special relationship with fans, when The Big Day didn't release precisely at midnight, fans reacted as if they had been betrayed by a close friend. Then, around noon, it appeared out of nowhere. Chance fans immediately deemed the project a classic just from the setlist alone. The album is a staggering 22 tracks, with a wide breadth of features from Ari Lennox and Megan Thee Stallion to Death Cab For Cutie and Shawn Mendes. The Big Day appeared to be exactly what the title suggested.

But as Aesop once noted, "It is possible to have too much of a good thing," and The Big Day's relentless enthusiasm can be suffocating, at times even corny. "Hey there, lovely sister, won't you come home to your mister?" Chance mutters on the cringe-worthy "Let's Go On a Run." "I've got plans to hug and kiss ya, I've got plans to hug and hug and hug you!" Additionally, despite a well-placed feature from Ben Gibbard, "Do You Remember" tries too hard to evoke nostalgia. "Do you remember how when you were younger, the summers all lasted forever?" Gibbard sings. "Days disappeared into months, into years, hold that feeling forever." Yikes.

The Big Day succeeds when Chance loosens up and just has fun. "Handsome" is a playful bout of braggadocio, with Chance's exuberance oddly complementary to the lyrical prowess of Megan Thee Stallion. "Big Fish" is another endearing concoction of humor and swagger, with Chance casually rapping things like: "I swear my story just like Big Fish, I've seen hoes I was always just like 'Which? Which?'" At other moments, the optimism does strike chords. "I Got You (Always and Forever)" is whimsical and makes perfect use of Ari Lennox's pristine voice, and "Roo" is enjoyably impish: "I'll leave you inside the freezer and let you chill for the weekend, but forget over the weekend and come back inside in a month." As lethargic as the listener is by track 25, Chance's self-reflection on "Zanies and Fools" is a welcome look inward, with Chance and Nicki Minaj offering some of the strongest lyricism of their careers.

Given all that fans now know about Chance, every misstep made on The Big Day is easily forgivable. To believe Chance doesn't believe every single word he says would be a fallacy; at no point does the listener suspect Chance of being inauthentic. The Big Day is an imperative album in 2019, and while it doesn't strike every chord, its formidable number of features and overall runtime is a grand statement to the friends Chance cherishes most: his fans. "I really truly did this for y'all," Chance said during his album release party at Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago. "As long as our relationship stays mutual, this can go on forever."

The Big Day


Big K.R.I.T. Transcends Time and Space on "K.R.I.T. Iz Here"

The Mississippi-born rapper and producer strikes a balance between his roots and the future of rap on his latest album.

Between the years of 1997 and 2007, southern rap was unavoidable.

In the wake of a bloodsoaked war for hip-hop dominance between East and West Coast rappers, Southern artists quietly rose to prominence. As tensions escalated, Tupac Shakur was gunned down in Las Vegas on September 7, 1996. He died from his wounds six days later. A little over a year afterwards, on a chilly March morning in 1997, The Notorious B.I.G. was murdered in Los Angeles, behind enemy lines. Following these back-to-back tragedies, many feared that the very foundation of hip-hop might crumble. In a 2014 interview for Music Times, Nas reflected on the culture's darkest age: "Those two things hit me real hard, because I knew both of them [...] what they meant to the art form can never be redone, can never be replaced [...] And when those two guys passed away I thought [it] was the end of rap."

Meanwhile, two little-known emcees in Atlanta were poised to change the game forever with their refreshingly fun and funky Southern sound. Not only did Outkast keep lit the torch of hip-hop in its hour of direst need, they also contributed greatly to redefining the genre's increasingly polarized sound—which, for the majority of the '90s, existed in two extremes: the gritty street griots of NYC and the G-Funk stylings of gangsta rap artists from South-Central LA. They offered something brand new by laying out the blueprint for another regional sound in hip-hop, that of the Dirty South. In the years to follow, radio waves were bombarded with new and unique artists like T.I., Ludacris, Lil Wayne, Master P, Trick Daddy, Three 6 Mafia, and Mystikal, as well as (more recently), J. Cole, Killer Mike, and Big K.R.I.T.

K.R.I.T., however, found his beginnings at the tail end of the Dirty South's commercial reign. His 2006 mixtape, Hood Fame, garnered him some well-deserved recognition, prompting some high-profile guest spots on albums like Curren$y's major label debut, Pilot Talk, as well as Wiz Khalifa's critically acclaimed mixtape, Kush & Orange Juice. From there, K.R.I.T. quickly rose through the ranks of rap as an emcee and producer, often praised for the ways in which he rapped like T.I. (raw, lyrical, and quintessentially Southern), yet his beats were reminiscent of the late Pimp C (heavily rooted in '70s funk grooves and trap drums).

Big K.R.I.T., unlike some of his Dirty South contemporaries, has been able to adapt and evolve in order to survive the modern hip-hop landscape, which is seemingly always in flux. And his latest album, K.R.I.T. Iz Here, is yet another testament to that rare propensity for longevity.

In terms of production, K.R.I.T. Iz Here is a far cry from his early work. There are certainly elements of that iconic Dirty South vibe thrown in throughout, particular on songs like "M.I.S.S.I.P.P.I.," a horn-driven ode to his roots (and succeeding despite great adversities), On this track, K.R.I.T. raps, "Daddy worked up on a train / Momma always had brains, she a teacher now / You knowin' how we get down / So stop with all them bullshit moves about where I come from…"

He raps about fighting his way out of poverty so he could help his parents and his community find reprieve from struggle, demonstrating all the while a wealth of lyrical growth since the days of Hood Fame, skillfully bobbing and weaving through rhymes with the grace and patience of a veteran boxer. "Proud parents, black parents, my parents," he rhymes, "They standin' on the same steps that they supposed to / In the same place that they supposed to / And I'ma keep raisin' 'em higher and higher / And the biggest house I can find, I'ma buy it and buy / I'ma keep tryin' and tryin' to make 'em proud and all."

Other standout moments on K.R.I.T. Iz Here, though, see the rapper and producer solidifying a new voice—one for which he began laying down the foundation with 2017's critically acclaimed, 4eva is a Mighty Long Time. On much of …Iz Here, K.R.I.T. has traded in that signature Dirty South sound for beats that could be characterized as echoing that classic late '90s/early aughts East Coast aesthetic. Songs like "K.R.I.T. Here," "Make it Easy," and "Everytime," for example, rely heavily on smooth and flourishing soul samples—which make for unexpected and interesting backdrops to K.R.I.T.'s Mississippian, drawling flow.

There is a third ingredient, too, in this eclectic mix of hip-hop's multifarious and ever-shifting sounds. Songs with a more contemporary trap feel are darkly synth-laden and pummeled with speaker-shaking 808s; bangers like "I Made It" (featuring Yella Beezy), "Believe," "Prove It" (featuring J. Cole), and "Addiction" (featuring Lil Wayne and Saweetie) all showcase K.R.I.T.'s ability and eagerness to put his own spin on not only where rap has been, but also where rap appears to be headed.

Like Outkast did before him, Big K.R.I.T. is bridging a chasm in rap—again at a time where the culture is fractured and segmented, albeit to a much lesser degree. At a point in hip-hop history when the Dirty South has all but faded from the conversation, Big K.R.I.T. is here to keep it from disappearing, to open the doors for the Southern emcees and producers of tomorrow to bring their roots into whatever new terrains hip-hop traverses in the years to come.



Logic Bucks Critics on "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind"

The 29-year-old emcee trolls his haters on refreshing new album

Logic is done with hate and negativity.

On the title track of his latest release, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, he raps, "That's why I keep flowin', that's why I keep perserverin' / Even when I'm hearing I'm a bitch, I'm a fag / I'm a motherfuckin' hypebeast, I ain't black in the slight least / I ain't good enough, I should quit, I should kill myself / ''Cause you'll never be Kenny' / 'You'll never be better than Drizzy or Cole' / 'You're losing your hair, you're too fucking old' / These are the comments I'm readin' on Twitter right now / That made me depressed and they pullin' me down / I'm trying to swim but I think I'm'a drown / So I'm'a turn my feelin' into a sound / And play it when nobody else is around."

This opening track sets the tone for the scathingly honest, self-aware, introspective, and devil-may-care attitude that Logic adopts throughout the rest of the project. On Confessions, his sixth studio album, we see a different side of Logic – one that has been notably missing from his more recent releases, and one that often leads to good music (especially in hip hop) – and that is the side that doesn't care what you think. This sentiment manifests itself not only in the album's lyrical content but in how much fun Logic appears to be having on some of these songs.

He's assembled a motley crew of features, too, with no regard to how pigeonholing rap elitists may perceive them. In addition to the Eminem feature on the chart-topping "Homicide," there are also special guest verses from Gucci Mane, YBN Cordae, G-Eazy, Wiz Khalifa, and none other than Will Smith. If nothing else, this features list feels a little antagonistic, as if Logic might be trolling us a little bit. Or, more accurately, Logic seems to be trolling the armchair hip hop critics who will, no doubt, find plenty to complain about when they hear Will Smith rapping with his characteristically buttery old-school flow in 2019; when they find out that the emcee who controversially dubbed himself Bobby Biracial has chosen to feature the other two biggest white rappers in the game on his album; and when they hear Logic dabbling in trap with Gucci Mane on the funky ode to ballin', "Icy." His goal on Confessions may be best summed up by a line in the second half of "Mama / Show Love:" "I'm pushin' 30, my man, it's time to have fun."

In addition to addressing his haters and focusing on doing things his way despite all the criticism, Logic weaves a couple other tangible through lines into this album. On songs like "Wannabe," "Mama / Show Love," "Lost in Translation," and "BOBBY," he goes in on the trappings, difficulties, and stresses that come with fame. On songs like "Pardon my Ego," "Icy," "COMMANDO," and "Still Ballin'," he flaunts his material success. And on "Clickbait," "Cocaine," and "Homicide," Logic flexes his muscle as a cultural critic, satirizing the current state of hip hop, as well as touching on addiction (both to drugs and social media).

Although these themes are all clearly present on Confessions..., together they make the album feel a little bit scattered – as if there was a definite attempt to create a thematically cohesive project, but it never quite came together in the end. The individual songs never really coalesce to become something greater than the sum of their parts in the end. Which is perfectly fine; a great album certainly does not need to be thematically cohesive; however, you get the sense that a concerted effort was put forth to produce an album that was, and so it registers as falling slightly short of what this album seems like it wants to be.

That being said, there are definitely some great cuts on this record. The production – provided primarily by longtime Logic collaborator and executive producer, 6ix, along with !llMind, DJ Khalil, Keanu Beats, Shroom, Bregma, Haze, and others – is on point from the first track to the 16th, with little to no filler. We probably could have done without Will Smith's paternal lecture on "Don't Be Afraid to be Different" (although it was still kind of fun to hear him rap again), and there are definitely a couple of tracks that are more forgettable than others.

Even so, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is firmly rooted in hip-hop (which fans will likely find refreshing after Logic's brief foray into alt-rock and pop for his last album / the soundtrack to his book, Supermarket). And, at the end of the day, even though the emcee is taking a relatively carefree approach to his music, both in terms of the subjects he's tackling and with whom he's collaborating, he is still carefully crafting his songs, bar by bar, and it shows – in the amount of thought put into his lyrics, and the exacting precision of his flows.

Dustin DiPaulo is a writer and musician from Rochester, New York. He received his MFA in Creative Writing from Florida Atlantic University and can most likely be found at a local concert, dive bar, or comedy club (if he's not getting lost somewhere in the woods).

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