On Friday morning, Chance The Rapper’s young and cherubic face loomed over my Spotify, without any new music attached.
Earlier this week, he announced that his cult classic mixtapes, 2012’s 10 Day and 2013’s Acid Rap, were joining the rest of his discography on all major streaming services after years of confined to Datpiff, LiveMixtapes, and SoundCloud. Along with 2016’s more official Coloring Book, they’re hailed as foundational to Chance’s career, but in keeping with his reputation as an independent artist, he had refused to make them widely available (or monetized) until today.
“I think it was dope that we all got to live through a time that we can remember when Acid Rap wasn’t everywhere and when 10 Day wasn’t everywhere,” Chance told Nadeska during an Apple Music interview. “I think it’s just time for more people to hear it and for people that grew up with it to have a little time to reminisce before the album drops.”
Of course, the release of his seminal projects does coincide with an album pre-sale (it’s really going to be called Owbum, apparently), and tour and merch sales. It’s a savvy chess move.
Owbum‘s first single, “Groceries,” was pitched as an event. The song came with savvy Triller and TikTok placements, and an offer for Chance to pay for ten fan’s groceries for the next year if they uploaded videos of themselves dancing to the track. Extra points were rewarded depending on if you danced with your friends/family, at school or work. It was philanthropic pop, engineered for virality. Despite that, audience response was lackluster and the song failed to dent the Billboard Hot 100. It also didn’t help that Chance’s five previous solo songs — “65th & Ingleside,” “Wala Cama,” “I Might Need Security,” “Work Out,” “My Own Ting,” and “The Man Who Has Everything” — all released throughout 2018 — didn’t make an impact commensurate with Chance’s reputation.
Luckily for Chance, he had an ace in the hole. If the singles didn’t work, he could always reengineer his most culturally influential mixtapes into singles. Releasing 10 Day and Acid Rap plays a little like a break-in-case-of-emergency maneuver for the Chicago rapper. He is the rare rap superstar at the precipice of becoming a household name, but doesn’t have a singular solo hit. Out of his nine songs on the Billboard Hot 100, six are as a featured guest. His highest charting song as a solo artist was 2016’s “No Problem” featuring Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz, which peaked at 43. Part of this stems from his status as an independent artist working outside the major label system, which means if he’s not standing next to DJ Khaled or Cardi B (and their massive marketing dollars), the chances of getting on the radio regularly are slim. Partnerships with Apple Music and Spotify can only do so much. But there’s an audience that grew up on Acid Rap, and simply giving them a reason to stream Chance the Rapper is, well, what a hot single is for.
Chance The Rapper often compels his listeners to reminisce. The Rugrat raps, Arthur theme song covers, The College Dropout homages and Sesame Street-esque puppets (not to mention an album called Coloring Book) all further that goal. The revival of 10 Day and Acid Rap will serve as a necessary jolt, but underlines how much he relies on mining the past. Whether Owbum will have something new to say remains to be seen.