Few albums radiate happiness and positivity like Chance the Rapper’s most recent project, Surf. Born as Chancellor Bennet, Chance’s humble beginnings in south side Chicago shaped his musical mantra. He has no record label, and views himself as both an independent artist and a member of his band, Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment. And Surf indeed is an experiment in many regards: it was released for free on iTunes, dabbles in many genres, and espouses messages of hope and happiness that feel all too rare in today’s musical marketplace. Deriving inspiration from hip-hop (obviously), R&B, gospel, rock, soul, funk, and jazz, Surf is the epitome of summertime freedom. Chance’s poetic discussions of self-love and affirmation are artfully intertwined with effects-heavy trumpet solos and guest verses from major recording artists, including J. Cole, Quavo, Big Sean, and Erykah Badu, among countless others. Here’s a snippet from an especially powerful track, “Wanna Be Cool”:
Is being cool that cool? (Really?)
Is being a tool that big of a duel? (Is it?)
It doesn’t matter if a n**** is wearing Supreme
If a cool guy shits his shit’s still gonna stink
If a cool guy’s cool in the middle of the forest
Man nobody f*****g cares
So why don’t you just be the you that you know you are
You know, when nobody else is there?
You’ll be aware, it’s easy, and it’s so important
Being cool shouldn’t cost a fortune
Baby got her jeans from Goodwill
But I bet that ass look good still
Okay let’s remember that shopping at Payless
It just means that you pay less, it don’t make you bae-less
If you don’t get re-tweets, it don’t mean you say less, okay?
So I’mma post this shitty-ass selfie on IG
And I don’t care if anybody likes it or likes me, it’s cool
Albums like Surf often serve as anthems to different periods of my life. In particular, this album, released in the early summer of 2015, was the soundtrack to my soul-searching that took place between my Junior and Senior years. Each track is a completely new experience that defies summarization. In essence, Surf ‘s message is this: you’ll only find true happiness if you love yourself. The world is full of joy, so trust yourself enough to go out there and experience some of it for yourself. Live in a way that brings happiness to you and those you love. Dark winters help you appreciate the sunlight of the summer. And, above all else, everything is going to be okay.
Imagine how different the world could be if more artists made music like Surf.