For almost two decades now, rap has been about being a scary monster. Certainly Alizé and the club are well represented, but the dominant narrative in hip-hop is that the rapper is a powerful, aggressive person with a lot of money who would not mind killing you. It's fun. It's also a theme that has been mined so deeply by gangsta rap, snowman rap, trap rap and horrorcore as to reveal its fundamental limitations.
Enter Chance the Rapper. He is not scary, although he is periodically scared. He is not dark, although he is sometimes drug-addled. Mostly he is light, both in his behind-the-beat wordplay and in his production, which regularly reaches for the ecstatic mellow of Arrested Development and leaves room for Chance's quirky vulnerability.
Will this year's Acid Rap frighten people when you blast it out of your car? Probably not. It's hard to think of an influence less cool than Arrested Development, and thankfully Chance eschews their smug sincerity. He is honest, though, and he invites the listener to identify with his particular universal problems. "You blast this shit in Abercrombie when your work is finished," Childish Gambino says on his feature in "Favorite Song." It's a moment that acknowledges where rap is listened to and what it's for, and it is realer than what heads call real.
Chance the Rapper plays the Wilma Thu., Dec. 12, at 8 PM. Doors at 7 PM. $25/$22 advance at Rockin Rudy's and online at jadepresents.com.