You may have noticed that earlier this month, Complex published its annual list of the 20 best rappers in their 20s. At the top is Kendrick Lamar, a rapper who has released five mixtapes and three albums since 2003, the latest of which is To Pimp a Butterfly, an album we rated 4.5 out of 5 and called “tremendous.” Below him is Drake, the guy who, among other notable achievements, had the majority of his fourth platinum-selling album, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, make it onto the Billboard Hot 100 chart. After that are five rappers (A$AP Rocky, Meek Mill, Young Thug, Earl Sweatshirt, and Vince Staples) who each dropped stellar projects this year. Then there’s you, an artist who hasn’t released a proper solo project since 2013’s Acid Rap.
We need more, Chance.
Granted, Acid Rap was a hell of a mixtape. So good, in fact that Complex named it the fourth best album of 2013. Thanks to Acid Rap, you made it onto the cover of Complex without a deal. In that story, writer David Drake noted that you brought producer Peter Cottontail on tour with you so you could begin recording new material when you weren’t fielding calls from the likes of Lyor Cohen and Nigil Mack. Whatever happened to that?
Most would be forgiven for taking time out of the limelight to focus on the next chapter of their oeuvre. After all, we’re still waiting on Ye’s next project. But that’s Kanye: the rap vanguard who’s now six albums deep and, through constant innovation and culture-shifting, has earned the right to take a sabbatical from music to raise his kid and make sneakers that then get resold on eBay for four times their retail price.
But you haven't retreated. If anything you've been more visible over the past two years. You gave Action Bronson an amazing verse on what is arguably the best song on his latest album. You appeared on your homie Towkio’s standout mixtape, .Wav Theory. You were a guiding hand on Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment’s excellent Surf album, the only other project Complex rated 4.5 out of 5 this year. But everyone was on that album—J. Cole, Erykah Badu, Quavo, D.R.A.M., and even, for some reason, Kyle. And you just dropped Free Based Freestyles Mixtape with Lil B—but, come on, b. You admittedly knocked those six songs out in less than a day.
It’s not enough, Chance.
On “Last Dance” from the Lil B tape you say, “they want me to go back to Acid.” That’s not true. We just want you to make something that cements your status as one of the elite rappers in the game right now. You’ve somehow managed to work your way into a conversation with people who have not only made great albums, but sold platinum records, packed out large arenas, and produced enough hit songs to make a best-of album. Hell, you came in above Big Sean on the 20 Rappers in their 20s list and he had three songs from his last album on steady rotation on national radio. That's how ill you are.
We get it. You have a different vision of rap stardom. One that’s not completely clear to the masses, but one that is clearly working as you’ve managed to headline Pitchfork Fest, get your own beer, and perform to sold-out crowds via shows underwritten by huge brands like Converse. All of this without a song on national radio. It’s a commendable conflation of independent hustle and big brand pay-off that many can’t do.
By many measures it would seem that you’ve won. Your success has allowed you to jumpstart your friends’ careers and put on for your city with open mics and festivals for Chicago’s youth. Your hometown hero, Kanye West, shouted you out, and the two of you have reportedly worked on some music together. That’s great. But you know what would be better: another solo album. While many would love to hear the fruits of the Kanye collaboration, I assure you there are many more who would rather hear a project from you with an undiluted vision that's yours and only yours. One that details all of what you’ve learned in the years since you’ve blown up. You know what would truly inspire all those kids in Chicago? Seeing the guy who's doing all that good in their city take the mantle as the top rapper in the game. And you can only do that with another proper album. Bring your crew along, drop it for free on iTunes, do whatever you want, we don't care—just make sure it’s a Chance the Rapper album.
Do that and you could very well be the best rapper in his 20s.