Chance the Rapper rolled out four new singles late Wednesday, and they’re not just place-holders for a long-in-the-making new studio album.
The tracks work together as Chance prepares to headline the Special Olympics 50th concert Saturday at Northerly Island. They provide a snapshot of the artist and his relationship with Chicago, his family and those who have ticked him off.
“I Might Need Security,” a track loosely inspired by a 2002 stand-up comedy special of the same name starring Jamie Foxx, is not so much a song as a rant, a musical platform for what sounds like some deeply pent-up anger about, well, you name it. Over an explicit refrain, the rapper lashes out at certain media publications, social-media trolls and high-profile politicians with escalating intensity. Chance names names. He calls out Crain’s because “they tried leaking my addy.” He blasts the Chicago Sun-Times because it called him a “deadbeat daddy” amid his child support court proceedings last year. He slams Mayor Rahm Emanuel for giving “paid vacations to murderers,” in reference to the way the city has handled police shootings of young African-Americans.
“And Rahm you done, I’m expectin’ resignation,” raps Chance, whose father was once one of Emanuel’s advisers.
And, in case that isn’t enough to pack into a couple of verses, Chance also casually mentions that he’s buying the local news website Chicagoist from public radio conglomerate WNYC. His goal, he raps, is framed as a kind of retribution: “I bought the Chicagoist just to run you racist b—— out of business.”
The track also delivers another chilling warning: “The bad guys better stay on my good side.” For much of the song, cuddly Chance is nowhere to be found. In his place is a more threatening Chance than ever in a still-blossoming career notable for its musical inclusiveness and do-gooder civic deeds.
In its raw immediacy, the track echoes some of Kanye West’s recent work on his hastily released “Ye” album a few weeks ago. Chance recently told the Tribune that he and West would soon begin working on a new album together in Chicago.
The tone of the other three singles is less inflammatory but just as Chicago-centric as the caustic “I Might Need Security.”
“65th and Ingleside” focuses on the South Side neighborhood where Chance and his fiancee, Kirsten Corley, used to hang out, and traces their evolution as a couple. The organ intro suggests the prelude to a church wedding. Chance’s vocals take on an open-hearted glow, with a slight hint of a Caribbean patois, as if channeling one of Bob Marley’s love songs. Biblical scripture underlines the testifying in the refrain: “Made a way out of no way.”
“Work Out” is a companion piece of sorts, focusing on the narrator’s determination to remain faithful to his love. String bass and organ underline the track’s delicate, dreamy tone. “I don’t want my next album sounding all Usher-y,” Chance raps, a reference to R&B star Usher and his tales of two-timing his lover on some of his early music.
The most buoyant track, “Wala Cam,” shouts out to the Chicago online platform Wala Cam TV for rising rappers, singers and dancers. It’s a late-night party track, which sounds like it was much-needed given the heavyweight topics addressed in the rest of Chance’s Thursday musical outpouring.
Whether these tracks will be part of Chance’s next album isn’t clear. What is apparent is that he continues to address his life in increasingly unfiltered fashion. His transparency is one of the greatest strengths of his music, even as it no doubt will continue to bring increased scrutiny to his every move not only inside but outside the recording studio.
These tracks aren’t just designed to keep the Chance the Rapper “brand” active. They’re designed to shake things up. If you believed that GQ headline from a couple of years ago, “How Chance the Rapper’s Life Became Perfect,” The rapper’s “I Might Need Security” takes all of four minutes to undermine it.
Greg Kot is a Tribune critic.