The Social Experiment is a musical creative comprised of Chancelor Bennett (The Rapper), Peter Cottontale (Music Director/Keys), Nate Fox (Keys), Greg Landfair Jr. (Drums) and Donnie Trumpet (Trumpet & Backing Vocals). (source: chanceraps.com)
Last year, Chicago rapper Chance the Rapper came out with his second full-length mixtape, Acid Rap. Pairing the rapper’s utterly unique and spastic flow with some dope, horn-filled instrumentals, the mixtape went on to become one of the most popular releases of 2014, and as Chance began to land high profile features with people such as Justin Bieber, his fan base grew exponentially.
Now, in mid 2015, Chance is one of the most popular new rappers, and besides a few stray soundcloud tracks he’s dropped, he’s remained relatively silent since the release of Acid Rap. Instead, he’s been hyping up his new music collective/backing band, The Social Experiment.
Listen: “Cocoa Butter Kisses” – Chance The Rapper
After much anticipation, we’ve gotten our first taste of The Social Experiment in the form of group member Donnie Trumpet’s new album, Surf, which is free to download here.
Surf, which many had previously believed would be Chance The Rapper’s next solo project, is a large, ambitious, and collaborative album. In addition to the huge cast of live musicians and producers in the band, the album brings in a revolving door of guests like Busta Rhymes, King Louie, Quavo from Migos, J Cole, Big Sean, Noname Gypsy, and Erykah Badu.
For the most part, these collaborations go over incredibly well. Busta Rhymes goes in and delivers an impeccable verse as he always does. Upcoming Chicago rapper Noname Gypsy and J Cole have a track with Chance, and they both deliver some of their best work yet, while Quavo and King Louie make a surprising appearance on the bouncy and feel good “Familiar”, and the two trap rappers thrive while riding an instrumental they would never normally touch. Most astonishing is that Big Sean turns in a verse on the track “Wanna Be Cool” that doesn’t make my finger fly right to the “skip” button on my iPod (although it did hover over it for quite some time).
Watch: “Sunday Candy” – Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment
However, even though there are a handful of tracks that I really do love on this album, the album has a couple major downfalls, the biggest being its one-dimensionality.
Besides a few songs, such as “Miracle” and the single “Sunday Candy”, there isn’t that much on the album in the way of good songwriting, or captivating concepts that tie a track together from beginning to end.
If I were asked to describe this album to someone, I could only really use the words “feel-good” to do so. There’s all this positive, celebratory, horn filled instrumentation, with happy ass summertime singing and rapping on it, but that’s pretty much all this album has in the way of concept. This bland positivity is ubiquitous throughout the entire record, and it doesn’t take that long for it to start to feel stale and corny.
The other big problem I have with this album is the instrumental tracks, of which there are several littered throughout. However good Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment are at playing their instruments, they really need to work on being able to write for them. Almost every one of these instrumental tracks starts by stating a pretty simple musical concept, with one or two people soloing on top of it, sort of like a jazz track. However, on almost every one of these tracks, the musicians fail to drive those concepts forward and change the piece as it progresses, creating some pretty boring and stagnant elevator music.
The whole time when I’m listening to these instrumentals, I just think, “Wow, I wish Chance the Rapper or someone else dope was on this beat.” Perhaps if they were, they could’ve written an interesting song that maybe even differs sonically from the rest of the record. But they weren’t. Leading, overall, to this album having a lot more style than it does substance.
If you’re looking for some simple, feel-good music to play in your car on a warm summer day, a lot of the better tracks on Surf will be perfect for you. Despite the fact that this album falls into corny, sleep inducing “stay in school kids!” type music from time to time, when it’s good, it’s really good.
However, if you don’t know Chance very well and you’re looking for a quality release that you can listen to front to back, download Acid Rap here. I’ll still be readily anticipating Chance’s next project, with which the Social Experiment will definitely be heavily involved.
Listen: Surf – Donny Trumpet & The Social Experiment