Canal Street.

   I was on the train sometime earlier this week. This huge Latin dude with long , shaggy black hair and burlap sacks as clothing came into our car. If you’re a New Yorker, homeless people on the train asking for assistance is nothing new. I see people all over the car go into their “omg its a homeless dude” routine. Some fake sleep (the extremely fly white girl 10 seats away) , or suddenly pretend their reading material is SUPER interesting. He was really loud and usually this annoys me; I was at ease that day for some reason. By the time he comes over to me , I dig in my pocket for change. As soon as I reach into my jacket , I remembered I have a bag of Lays(PRODUCT PLACEMENT) Potato Chips in my pocket. I felt guilty for even having the chips , as I’m a fake healthy young goon. I nervously croak out to him “hey…hey…I have some chips! You want em?” “That’ll work!”. I hand the bag to him and he takes it graciously and ambles further down the aisle. He comes back and plops down noisily in the seat across from me. I noticed an older Jamaican woman in nurse garb look at him like he was the ASSIEST of assholes as he POPPED the bag open. She kept staring as he chewed. I moved on from the scene.
    He eventually gets off. A well dressed older white dude take his seat. This whole scene and experience kinda touched me. The train is the great equalizer. Everyone from the established(or those who look it) to people who don’t know where they’re sleeping tonight…all in one place. We all have somewhere to go; coincidence(destiny?) put us on the same route.
   Really , seeing the homeless dude and giving him the chips reminded of an experience I had in 2011. I was fresh out of college , on the way to my internship at Power 105. I was BROKE as shit and relatively miserable. I was glad to have the opportunity to be in the building with all of those talented people, but I had no job. They were doing well ; I was struggling. There’s almost always a person with a cart with food on it on my train. They start explaining their doing it for anyone in need and they’ll appreciate donations etc etc. I didn’t really pay attention. Next thing I know? The person with the cart rolls up to me and offers me food DIRECTLY. Just me. No one else.
    I was SUPER embarrassed and I never get embarrassed. All I felt was anger. I quickly said “Nah , I’m good” and then had to refuse again ; they kept pushing the sandwiches and snacks on me. I hid how i really felt and somehow stayed respectful. I could feel other people’s stares ; I felt even dumber. I didn’t need food but something about my energy bought that person to me.
    I was definitely in need ; I had no money but that wasn’t what I was really lacking. I needed hope. I needed signs that chasing the dream was “right”. I didn’t get it that night or even that month. I don’t fully have that now. I’d like to believe I’m on the right path but I don’t have much to show for it yet.
So I’ll just have to ride along until my stop arrives.

Ten Days to listen to #10Day.

Now , I was pretty late to the party.

I first heard Chance on Childish Gambino’s “They Dont Like Me“. I was impressed by the rhyme scheme he decided to go with and how crazy his voice sounded. He held his own and did what he had to do on there. Didn’t think much past that.

I managed to catch the “Juice” video a few months ago late one night (I’m always up late yet fall asleep very easily) and thought “this is sorta interesting.” Admittedly , I wasn’t super impressed but immediately thought dude can rap , I’ll revisit this.

Fast forward a BUNCH of months and its March. I’m getting ready to head to my second annual dose of “SXSW teach me things about life”. I typed in my Notes app “LISTEN TO CHANCE THE RAPPER”.  10 Day is Chance’s debut mix tape, which he recorded after a 10 day suspension from high school. In pure cool guy fashion , I couldnt get to Chance’s tape unless I listened on the plane. As I took that good “middle seat on a 4 hour flight” loss, I settled in and finally hit play.

What a great decision , Robby.

First off , my mind is blown that he’s this young (19 years old as I write this) and this confident. #10Day clearly feels like he did whatever he wanted to. There’s no fear , no sense of holding back his creativity.  His beat selection is good , he can actually put coherent words together , he’s descriptive, he sings and most important of all??

He’s happy and serious all in one breath.

Happy ass rap annoys me and makes my skin crawl. Thus if you hand me a B.O.B. cd….just call me Uncle Rico. The thing is , Chance is happy about life and shows hope but is no stranger to the darker parts of life. He makes them both work seamlessly in a world where all the big rappers are extremely moody. I love some moody ass rap….because I’m sort of a dark dude (SKIN JOKES SKIN JOKES!) , but that burns you out. Chance is just…refreshing.

Every time I hear this song I grin. Does this not just sound like a HS crush at a sweaty basement party your mom would probably kill you for attending? It’s just fun. Everything from the catchy bars and the carefree energy to how easily Chicago juke/footwork music is worked into the song. It’s perfect for what it’s supposed to be. Chance is a young kid having fun , which we all are at heart (or what we should try to be.)

Then you have a song like “Acid Rain” off of his upcoming tape Acid Rap.

My big homie died young; just turned older than him
I seen it happen, I seen it happen, I see it always
He still be screaming, I see his demons in empty hallways

Jarring.  To hear someone just clearly rap about being haunted by visions of a murdered friend says so much. I immediately knew Chance had quite a personal story of his own to tell. He comes off as somewhat of a tortured soul with lots of talent. Aren’t we all tortured souls? The thing is , we won’t all turn that strain and suffering into art. He spends the duration of Acid Rain rapping about the darker realities of being a Chicago teen , even with his newfound and building stardom. Self doubt , fear of the future; things any 19 year old has come face to face with. Chance chooses to go that route and is never preachy. It’s just…real. He gets vulgar like anyone else but it nothing like the drill music from the likes of a GBE.

Which is another interesting thing about Chance. He has shouted out Chief Keef on multiple occasions , even leading a “SOSA FREE!” chant at SXSW on the day Keef was released from Cook County Juvenile Detention Center. Chance’s music is nothing like Keef’s but he understands the balance needed. Chief Keef needs to exist , even as violent and dark as his music is. Keef and Chance speak for a generation of teens that in reality, aren’t all that different. Being that both hail from the inner city of Chicago , things are tough out there. Chicago is not a scene out of a Wild West film to be ridiculed and ignored; those wonderful children have hopes , goals and dreams like anyone else. Regardless of what side of the tracks the teens fall on , they need outlets. Keef’s music is very angry and aggressive but guess what? So are those kids. They are frustrated, displaced teenagers seeking guidance and answers. Chance like Keef , is a talented kid from Chicago with a lot of painful things going on around him. He just expresses himself differently and didn’t end up so firmly planted in the street. Clearly , teenagers like that exist in Chicago and everywhere else.

I say all of that to say this: Teenagers from Chicago are not inherently bad people. They are putting themselves into music and creating a world for themselves that they could’ve never imagined. Keef is doing it. Chance is doing it. I’m proud of both. Chance is a better rapper in the classical sense and is excellent at relating his personal life and experiences to other people. With that said, I truly believe Chance is next and I’m excited to see what his future holds.