Chance the Rapper jumped onto the scene earlier this year by dropping the best verse on the best song of Kanye West’s latest release The Life of Pablo. That performance was the intro, as Chance says on the opening track of his new album (or mixtape… I think I’m too old to know the difference) Coloring Book.
The best track on Coloring Book might be “Summer Friends,” a soft-and-sweet trap beat (I think) that Chance bounces along on accompanied by someone who sounds exactly like Justin Vernon but apparently isn’t. At first listen, “Summer Friends” feels like a nostalgic look back at early days — “79th street was America then / Ice cream truck and the beauty supply / Blockbuster movies and Harold’s again” — and something good to have with you now that the weather is finally hot. But it’s all a set up for this:
We still catching lightning bugs
When the plague hit the backyard
Had to come in at dark cause the big shawtys act hard
Okay now, day camp at Grand Crossing
First day, nigga’s shooting
Summer school get to losing students
But the CPD getting new recruitment
Our summer don’t, our summer
Our summer don’t get no shine no more
Our summer die, our summer time don’t got no time no more
This kind of looking back/good kid; mad city thing isn’t rare, but it’s rarely so subtle. The setting on “Summer Friends” is so sonically comforting that you could easily miss the whole thing, until you’ve got it blasting at your Memorial Day barbecue and suddenly get hit with its full tragic intensity.
Chance hails from Chicago. If you’re interested in more than one verse from a song, a good place to start might be Crook Count: Racism and Injustice in America’s Largest Criminal Court by Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve.