The Oral History of Chance the Rapper's 'Acid Rap'
It's been five years since the young Chicago rapper put himself on the map with his now-classic debut. We talked to everyone who helped him make it to hear the story behind the album.
Image via Complex Original
Five years ago, on April 30, 2013, Chance The Rapper released his sophomore mixtape, Acid Rap. It's the project that changed everything for then-20-year-old Chancelor Bennett: Before Chance was the first artist to be nominated for, and win, a Grammy for a streaming-only release—before he became the global superstar he is today—he was a scrappy, eager kid who was best known for naming his 2012 debut mixtape 10 Day after a 10-day suspension from his high school, Jones College Preparatory. To say Acid Rap fulfilled the promise displayed on his first effort would be an understatement. Rather, it was the immediate beginning of a stratospheric rise and a calling card for a truly new voice in hip-hop.
Acid Rap sounds like youth. Songs like "Good Ass Intro" playfully combined a lifetime’s worth of Chicago musical traditions, from hip-hop to soul to juke, interpolating samples from both Common and Kanye West. The album had the wide-eyed optimism of childhood, but was unafraid of coming to terms with the difficulties and nuances of becoming an adult. Even at its most ebullient, like on the call-and-response single "Juice," Chance grappled with the loss of his friend Rodney Kyles Jr., who was murdered in 2011: “I ain't really been myself since Rod passed.” Chicago in 2012 was a city where a new class of young creatives were blossoming while over 500 total homicides were recorded; death creeps in throughout the album, like on "Paranoia," which contains the album’s most pointed line: “It’s easier to find a gun than a fucking parking spot.” In Acid Rap’s emotional highs and lows, Chance captured the contradictions that define life in Chicago.
It was incredible songwriting, and a considerable artistic leap from his earliest music. On top of that, the features Chance was able to assemble on Acid Rap were just as impressive. Lending credits to his longtime friend and then-Kids These Days bandleader Vic Mensa, Chicago legend Twista, and burgeoning national rappers like Action Bronson, Ab-Soul, Childish Gambino, and many others, the project felt bigger than anything anyone was expecting. It wasn't the big names, though, that made Acid Rap what it was. Instead, it was the close-knit crew of collaborators that Chance assembled, most of them homegrown and still making music together today, finding an unmistakeable shared sound. Upon its release, it felt like the whole city had Chance’s back. The first day posts for Acid Rap crashed both Audiomack and Fake Shore Drive’s websites, based on the local buzz surrounding him that had reached its boiling point. Immediately, every major label would try to sign Chance. He would turn them all down.
Five years after its release, Acid Rap is the story of collaboration. While Chance is its nucleus and auteur, the album is the product of a bunch of free-spirited and wildly creative friends who worked their asses off making music that they loved. There were late-night sessions across several studios, acid trips, tight deadlines, packs of cigarettes smoked, industry meetings that never panned out, and a ton of wild coincidences that felt like magic. Everything happened quickly, and the project they created would define a new generation of Chicago artists by capturing the sound of the city they came from.
This is the oral history of Acid Rap—a free mixtape that inspired a city, launched a promising career into the stratosphere, and made hip-hop a better, more exciting place—told by the people who made it.
Alex “Papi Beatz” Baez: Engineer
Andrew Barber: Founder of Fake Shore Drive
Ceej: Member of Two-9, producer (“Pusha Man”)
Elton "L10MixedIt" Chueng: Engineer, mixed and mastered Acid Rap
Peter CottonTale: Chance the Rapper's Music Director, Producer (“Good Ass Intro,” “Cocoa Butter Kisses”)
brandUn DeShay (Ace Hashimoto): Producer (“NaNa”)
J.P. Floyd: Trombonist, former Member of Kids These Days, former Frank Ocean Touring Member, featured artist (“Good Ass Intro”)
Nate Fox: Member of the Social Experiment, featured artist (“Pusha Man”), producer (“Juice,” “Lost,” “Favorite Song,” “Chain Smoker”)
Alex Fruchter: Founder of Closed Sessions, Owner of Ruby Hornet
Rich Gains: Member of Blended Babies, producer (“Smoke Again”)
Ludwig Göransson: Composer (Black Panther, Creed, Fruitvale Station), former Childish Gambino Musical Director, producer (“Interlude [That’s Love]”)
JP: Member of Blended Babies, producer (“Smoke Again”)
Kiara Lanier: Singer, featured artist (“Good Ass Intro”)
Lili K: Singer, featured artist (“Good Ass Intro,” “Pusha Man”)
Mike Kolar: Engineer, owner of Soundscape Studios, founder of Closed Sessions
Vic Mensa: Rapper, former member of Kids These Days, featured artist (“Cocoa Butter Kisses”)
Cam O’bi: Producer (“Good Ass Intro,” “Cocoa Butter Kisses,” “Everything’s Good [Good Ass Outro]”)
Stefan Ponce: Producer (“Good Ass Intro”)
Nico Segal: Trumpeter, member of the Social Experiment, former member of Kids These Days, former Frank Ocean touring member
Na’el Shehade: Engineer, owner of Force One Seven Studios
Twista: Rapper, featured artist (“Cocoa Butter Kisses”)
Austin Vesely: Director (“Juice,” “Everybody’s Something,” "NaNa")
Vic Mensa: I went to do to an open mic at Jones College Preparatory my freshman year, which was Chance’s high school. It was the first time I ever rapped in front of people and I remember shaking the microphone back and forth so nobody could really hear me. That’s where I met [Chance]. I thought he was kinda funny looking. He dressed funny. We became friends though that day, and we started making music that year. We did this hot-ass verse, I forget what it was, but there was this line, “stares harder than a teddy bear’s eyes.” This was pre-Kids These Days.
Nico Segal: I was probably 13 or 14 when I met Chance. I was in a band called Kids These Days with Vic Mensa and we did this show at Jones College Preparatory, where Chance went to high school. He might have even booked the show but I’m pretty sure he got us to be the act that performed. We just became friends. I was hanging out with Chance more at YouMedia, the after school program Brother Mike ran at Harold Washington Library. We started recording music literally in that library. One of the main things I remember from that time is that there were all these kids from all over the city sharing their deepest, darkest secrets and their poetry who were already really good like Fatimah (Noname), Saba, Mick Jenkins, and Malcolm London, but Chance was always one of the people who stood out. There was just so much happening in that space so it was really something that Chance could stand out.
Andrew Barber: Before the 2012 boom in Chicago, there was a lot of music popping off locally that didn’t have the same legs nationally. The only artist who got a major label deal, which isn’t the biggest barometer of success, was Jeremih. We also had the Cool Kids and Kidz in the Hall. Before drill and Savemoney, the industry only cared about the Lupes and the Kanyes of the world.
Alex Fruchter: Drill was about to blow up, and Kids These Days were making a lot of noise. It was also during the time there was a pretty organic blog infrastructure in Chicago with Ruby Hornet and Fake Shore Drive. You also had people like The Cool Kids, Kidz in the Hall, Mikkey Halsted, and GLC. It was an in-between time but those acts were still laying the groundwork for Chicago music.
JP: My Blended Babies partner Rich and I knew Chance through Kids These Days. Vic Mensa and Nico Segal brought him over to our house when I was engineering for Kids These Days. Chance would show up to sessions, hang out, rap and just kick it.
Rich Gains: Chance didn’t even really rap when we met him. He was just Vic’s homie who was coming through but he always had this uptempo energy to him.
Papi Beatz: Just being in the studio and being around Chicago, I had wanted to work with Chance for so long. I think the day I met him at LPZ Studios, he was on acid that day, and he came in and just gave me this big hug. We just hung out in the studio that day. I think he was sitting in on a Vic Mensa session. He was just genuinely one of the nicest dudes I’ve met in the industry, especially at that point. He just brought light to the room and there was never an uncomfortable moment with him. He smiles a lot.
Nico Segal: One of my biggest memories of Chance was him passing out 5 Day tapes, one of his earliest projects. I remember walking around downtown Chicago with him and a cardboard box of scribbled-on Best Buy blank CDs that Chance and his dad burned. It was like we were raising money for a basketball team. It’d be Chance passing out his mixtape and asking people if they like rap music. Back then, we didn’t think it was funny at all. We thought we were really doing something and in the end we actually were, because people that went home and actually listened had to be pretty blown away at how good he was even then.
Andrew Barber: Chance had this idea to go to high schools after school was over and sell tickets to his peers. It was genius, because rappers are usually too cool to do stuff like that and sell tickets hand-to-hand. You make an intern do that! That’s what helped him build this genuine relationship with his fans. He’s always done that.
"I remember walking around downtown Chicago with Chance and a cardboard box of scribbled-on Best Buy blank CDs that He and his dad burned." —Nico Segal
Lili K: Peter CottonTale and I met in 2010. I was going to Columbia and while he didn’t go there too, he was in a band called HD that played an open mic jam session. Since I was new to Chicago, I went to go sing and prefaced it by saying I was looking for a band to play with. That’s when I started working with his band, but it was Peter who I really hit it off with. I was taking a class with Alex Fruchter, who went on to found Closed Sessions, and Chance was supposed to be a guest artist for the class’ student-run record label. I insisted on bringing Peter to produce the song because I knew they’d hit it off.
Peter CottonTale: My band at the time used to back Lili K and I was pretty open making music and just collaborating with as many people as I could. I went to Lili’s class with [producer] Thelonious Martin, and Chance was there. I had seen him around and from what I can remember, he introduced himself and asked us to help out with beats.
Lili K: Peter and I met Chance that day and that’s how we started working with Chance was on 10 Day on “Hey Ma.” We did that song in a single night because Chance’s grandma was about to go into surgery and he wanted to play it for her before she went in.
Peter CottonTale: We were all doing the same thing musically so I don’t even remember my first impression of Chance. Our hobbies were the same so it’d be like having my first impression of myself. Some people play video games, some people play basketball, but we make music and we just started creating. It’s been that way for years. It’s still is the same feeling.
Austin Vesely: I remember he had played me his song “Fuck You Tahm Bout” and that went so hard so we made that the first video we did together. But our first official collaboration was me shooting a 10 Day listening party in November of 2011. It was a rough time for everyone. Chance’s friend Rodney Kyles had been stabbed in Lincoln Park and died a couple months before. It affected everyone but it really affected Chance. He was there when it happened. He wrote “Missing You” on 10 Day and I think Kyles’ loss really colored the project. He had to let it sink in.
Andrew Barber: Chance’s first manager, Mat Lyman, used to do some writing for Fake Shore Drive. He had brought Chance to the Fake Shore Drive office in late 2011 or early 2012. I was really impressed with Chance. When he came to the office, we had a really long chat where we played music and talked about life and I just remember thinking that he had already really thought this through and knew what he was doing.
Alex Fruchter: I had Chance the Rapper open for Kids These Days at a show at Subterranean in July 2011 that my blog Ruby Hornet was sponsoring. I didn’t think too much of adding him on because we had been doing so many events then. He was soundchecking before the show and he came up to me and I just remember thinking he was a really eager and nice kid. When the show started and he played “Fuck You Tahm Bout” and “Brain Cells,” he was just incredible. I remember tweeting about how dope he was. It sounds corny but from that show I had a feeling about him. Not to this level but I knew he had a bright future.
Andrew Barber: At that time, I was getting calls from every single industry person because they were trying to sign an artist from Chicago. This was when it was Chief Keef, Lil Durk, and King Louie mania. I remember having these conversations with these label that while those are great and popular acts, there’s this whole other side of Chicago hip-hop that are young, selling out venues, getting local hype but aren’t getting the attention that they should be getting. I told them, pay attention to Chance the Rapper, Kids These Days, and Rockie Fresh. There’s this whole other movement going.
Nate Fox: I was at SXSW in 2012 with some friends of mine from Cleveland and I randomly saw Chance come out and I decided to go say what’s up. I introduced myself and he recognized me. I have no idea how he had heard of me but I was making beats and he was just about to drop 10 Day so I knew who he was. I gave him some beats and then he called me two weeks later asking me to come to Chicago and work on his project. At the beginning of making Acid Rap, I was living in Cleveland and would drive to Chicago every other weekend. I later moved to the Pittsburgh-area to work a construction job and I’d still make the drive as we were wrapping it up.
Stefan Ponce: Chance had DM’d me on Facebook when he was like 15 and I was 19 at the time, asking me to promote his shit like a little asshole. We officially connected when I was working with Greg “Stix” Landfair, who told me that I had to work with him. I worked on a version of “Prom Night” with Chance and then his 2012 song “Yolo” but I think the first thing I recorded him was his verse on “They Don’t Like Me” that song off Childish Gambino’s 2012 mixtape Royalty. We got close really fast. We have the same humor.
DJ O-Zone: When Chance was a teen, I saw him perform at Leaders, a streetwear store here in Chicago. It was interesting because I got to see his whole transition. When I first met him, he was really shy. To remember that individual at that age, I would’ve never thought that he would become who he is now. But as time went on, it became more clear.
Na’el Shehade: I had met Chance when he was shooting a promo at Leaders with guys in our office for 10 Day. I invited him to my studio Force One Seven and I remember how driven, energetic, and professional he was. We worked a lot on music together. The bulk of the vocal recordings on Acid Rap started at Force One Seven. Most of the writing started at my studio and most of the songs would only take two or three takes. It was one after another.
Michael Kolar: I met Chance when he started tagging along for the Kids These Days sessions for Traphouse Rock at Soundscape Studios and I remember he was tripping on acid. He was young as fuck, precocious, and inquisitive. You could tell he was sitting on the sidelines at that point but it was clear he was happy to be in a real studio. You could tell the wheels were turning in his brain observing how people were recording and making music.
Vic Mensa: I remember when Chance introduced me to acid around the time Kids These Days were finishing up Traphouse Rock and Chance had started work on Acid Rap. We were working on the song with Chance on that album. It was a fun time because in our circle there was a lot of psychedelic experimentation going on: Towkio thought he had the meaning of life at that time. I was doing a lot of mushrooms and Chance was doing a lot of acid.
Elton Chueng: I first linked up with Chance right after 10 Day came out. I was a huge fan of his and he was looking for studio time at Classick Studios. Stefan Ponce would bring him there for late night sessions and I would catch Chance sleeping on the couch to wait for his 3 a.m. slot. It was really cool to see how much he wanted it and was willing to wait patiently so late at night to work.
Michael Kolar: With Acid Rap, he’d come in at late hours at Soundscape and needed the space of the studio to write and cut different verses. The kid was crazy driven. He buckled down and worked. Because of that, it was a by-the-numbers successful recording process. He never caused any problems or made it a party, which doesn’t make for great quote fodder, but the main thing I noticed was how he battled being so young to stay focused. He’d always light up when he walked into the studio.
Elton Chueng: One of the first times I worked with Chance was for Childish Gambino's Royalty cut "They Don't Like Me." I had just finished my internship with Classick and one of my friends Jeff Jackson was supposed to work on it. He had been working a lot and since it was another 3 a.m. session, I offered to take over. Sure enough, that's the session that made the project.
Ludwig Göransson: I was the musical director for Childish Gambino and produced his mixtapes, put a band together, and went on his first tour. Chance was opening up for us then. At first, before I saw him perform my impression was that he was so young and had so much energy. I immediately got his energy. I saw him perform at our first show and I was struck by him, like this is something else.
DJ O-Zone: His original DJ Stefan Ponce ended up going on tour with Childish Gambino and Chance needed another DJ and that’s when he reached out to me. It got to a point where his peers, these high school kids, would line down the block for his mixtape releases and shows. It grew and grew and 10 Day came and I was able to foresee his ascent. I knew I needed to be on the next tape.
"I feel like people across the board on 'Acid Rap' can point to that one night with Chance that changed their lives." —Nate Fox
Nate Fox: Before Chance and I had started making music for this project together, I was in Chicago and we had a really amazing evening sharing our favorite music back and forth. He had never heard James Blake or Francis and the Lights, so I played him their music and blew his mind. He showed me Joanna Newsom and a few others and I always think about that moment because since then, Francis has become one of his best friends and he’s made great music with James Blake. I just think about the impact one night has on our whole lives and I feel like people across the board on Acid Rap can point to that one night with Chance that changed their lives.
Andrew Barber: When Chance started making Acid Rap, when he linked up with his new manager Pat Corcoran. I loved Pat, he was this hustler: a hungry, up-and-coming kid, so friendly and interested.
Elton Chueng: The Acid Rap sessions I worked on had to have started around August or September of 2012. I remember Chance’s manager Pat Corcoran had hit me up to have him come in two or three times a week. He just chipped away at all those songs during those 6 pm to 10 pm sessions, which would often bleed out until the wee hours of the night.
Twista: I probably first heard about Chance in Chicago from one of the younger cats that would come around to my studio and just play different music. Up north, Chance and I had a show together at some small gig at a shoe store. I don’t remember exactly where or why but at that show I realized how dope he was. I could tell early on that he was going to be a star and that I wanted to work with him. When he saw me, he was like, “Oh, the OG! Let’s exchange numbers.” We did that, and you know how charismatic he is already.
Nico Segal: In early 2013, we brought Chance out on tour with Kids These Days and a lot of Acid Rap songs were being worked on, finalized, or released, and I just remember a lot of kids at our shows screaming his lyrics and freaking out whenever he came to the venue. It was a really different vibe for us, the members of Kids These Days, because we were a band so none of us, except maybe Vic, had that star power.
Austin Vesely: I was shooting that March Madness tour for Chance and it truly felt that a lot of the kids at the shows were there for Chance.
Vic Mensa: That tour was fun, but it was a weird time because Kids These Days were breaking up. It was our last hurrah traveling cross country in a van. We’d go back and forth about who’d open and close the show. He’d come out during our sets. Some shows had 400 people and some shows had 10 people.
Nico Segal: Just remembering firsthand witnessing my friend ascending in real time, it was inspiring, actually. There was no competition at all, even though Kids These Days was headlining that tour, if you can believe that.
Andrew Barber: Right around that time, I was hosting a show at SXSW. We had Master P headlining, the Cool Kids, ShowYouSuck, and a few others. The doors had opened at 3 so Chance was on at like 4 p.m. He was wearing that tie-dye tank top that he ended up wearing on the Acid Rap cover. This was just a few weeks before the project came out but I remember that every A&R and label executive came out to watch him. I saw Lyor Cohen, Paul Rosenberg, and so many other people. He was a force of nature at that point.
Alex Fruchter: Chance played us Acid Rap in full in the Soundscape B Room. We had a session with Freddie Gibbs in the A Room and Chance had invited me to listen to it in the other room days before it came out. It was incredible. I had no idea if he knew how big it was going to be. He was also the talk of the industry at that time so I’m sure those feelings were there.
1. "Good Ass Intro" (featuring BJ the Chicago Kid, Lili K., Kiara Lanier, Peter Cottontale, Will Miller, J.P. Floyd) [Produced by Peter Cottontale, Cam O'bi, Stefan Ponce]
Peter CottonTale: We had started work on “Good Ass Intro” before Chance even knew he was going to call it Acid Rap and have an acid jazz-inspired project. I came through and he had this Common and John Legend sample that I’d always play, and wanted me to flip and add chords on it.
J.P. Floyd: I still remember when Kids These Days were recording our song “Don’t Harsh My Mellow.” Chance was there. He came up to us and said that he had the exact idea for Acid Rap by showing us “Faithful,” that Common song featuring John Legend and Bilal. He said, “I want to start my next project with this.” Even after the session I was on for Acid Rap and this song, I didn’t put two-and-two together until way later.
Lili K: When we started work on Acid Rap, Peter would call me in to the studio and we’d throw around different vocal arrangements and experiment with different sounds and arrangements. With those EPs Peter and I made, the gospel, soul, and hip-hop fusion we were crafting ended up being the sonic foundation for this project. Chance would watch us work and ask us for advice. It was really creative and collaborative and our sound blended perfectly with what Chance wanted to do. We started “Good Ass Intro” together and then brought in BJ the Chicago Kid to add more vocal layers and textures. Those original vocal arrangements we did were what ended up on the song and I’m the majority of the backing vocals you hear on the track.
Elton Chueng: This took a few sessions to get right. I remember that Chance had the John Legend sample in there at first. There was a crazy vibe for this one because it just a huge group of friends working on a single thing. We had Lili K in the studio, who’s the first voice you hear on the whole mixtape. Peter CottonTale and Cam O’bi were both in the studio and we had Stefan Ponce do the drums. They all brought their own perspective but it was super collaborative. There were also so many instruments that I remember having a really hard time making space for all of them sonically. I probably mixed that track 10-plus times. It was all so extensive.
Stefan Ponce: I had these drum sounds so I could make beats live and I remember with Peter CottonTale we would perform that song as a Chance the Rapper freestyle before it was even made. I’d do the drums and Peter would play the keys. I did the drums for that recording process but the song changed so much. I only ever did the juke-style drums for this song.
Elton Chueng: I’d do a session at Classick and then get a phone call from Peter Cottontale to come over to Soundscape to track horns. We’d be crunched on time but Peter works so fast and he can arrange things at such a crazy pace. It was all of Chicago and then some on this project.
Lili K: We bounced around studios and all of those sessions were kind of a blur. We kept adding more and more layers to it. We would just go into creating things without knowing where it’d end up, we just really believed in what we were making in the moment. I believed in Chance’s vision.
Kiara Lanier: I had been working on my own music after I was done with a stint on American Idol and Chance, who’s been a family friend for forever, called me to ask if I could put vocals on a record. There were so many people on the track so it was important for me to figure out my place with all the competing elements. Chance was really excited about this one part, which was an allusion back to that “Faithful” sample, and he asked me to do my own take the “I wanna be” part and add harmonies to Lili K’s arrangements.
J.P. Floyd: Me and my boy Will Miller were doing an Alex Wiley session over at Soundscape Studios for his song “The Woods.” That was my first time meeting Elton Chueng. When we were done with our session we were just chilling in the studio and Peter Cottontale, who I knew from our high school after school jazz band, came into the room and asked us to stay over and record on something for Chance. We were both like, “Sure.” It was out of nowhere. It was “Good Ass Intro” and I thought it was already raw as fuck. At that time it wasn’t all the way done but it was definitely a song. Peter had a vision and he just needed the horn players to get the idea too.
Peter CottonTale: I wish I could say it was done when there were just too many layers but I wasn’t confident enough to have realized it at the time. We worked on that song forever and it was done when it was just time to put it out.
2. "Pusha Man / Paranoia" (featuring Lili K. and Nate Fox) [Produced by Ceej, Nosaj Thing]
Ceej: I first met up with Chance before Acid Rap dropped. My group Two-9 were playing in Columbus and he was opening for us. He was always such a great performer even during 10 Day. After the show, he came to our hotel room and I said, “Bro, that ‘Pusha Man’ joint is about to be fire.” And he was shocked and asked how I had heard it. He was mad! But I told him, “No, man, I produced it!” And then we just started talking and hit it off. The reason why Chance had heard it was that I’d used to let Nate Fox go through my computer and take whatever beat he liked for making his own tight-ass hooks even though he wasn’t taking his own rapping seriously. He told me later that Chance was on it and kept Nate’s hook.
Nate Fox: In Cleveland, I was bored and started making my own album. I originally got into hip-hop through rapping and I realized pretty quickly I was much better at making beats but I’d ask my friends around Cleveland and other producers I knew to send me beats. Ceej sent me the “Pusha Man” beat and I wrote a verse, my friend wrote a different verse, and I made the hook. I was in Chicago driving around with Chance and it was on my mix CD and he asked, “Wait. What is this?” and I told him it was just some dumb shit was I making. He said, “Take off the verses and send this to me.” I jokingly asked him to leave my verse on there and he said, “Absolutely not.” But the hook that’s on there is exactly how it was when I showed him it originally.
Ceej: I have no idea how I found that Dave Grusin “Modaji” sample but I remember when I heard it, the song screamed 2Chainz to me. I’m from Atlanta, and that was when 2Chainz would go by Tity Boi and would be doing songs like “Pimps,” that soulful trap joint he did with Big K.R.I.T. and Bun B. That was my favorite era of his career. I made the beat for him which is why I added the trap drums. It just happened that it ended up in Chance’s hands. Years later, Chance and I were at 2Chainz’s studio and I had to tell everyone that I originally made the beat for 2Chainz. Chance had no idea.
Elton Chueng: When the song starts, I’m the one that exclaims “chyeah!” right in the beginning. We were bouncing the one of the mixes and I was just goofing around and said “chyeah!” Chance then stopped and asked me to record myself, saying, “That’d be the perfect way to kick off this song.” He recorded me saying that and the rest is history.
Lili K: For “Pusha Man,” Chance just had me come in because he wanted some very subtle vocalese parts in the song. He played me the track and said, “Do whatever you want to do. I just need something here. I added a few “oohs.” People always ask me where I was featured because it’s so subtle but it’s mainly my voice being used as production that’s woven throughout the track.
Ceej: I didn’t hear it until Nate played it for me. I was in shock. He ended up shortening it and making the song a double song with “Paranoia.” “Pusha Man” was originally three verses and the third verse was so fire. I want to put it out. Chance snapped. I knew from hearing that that Chance would be really big.
Nate Fox: The fact that it was supposed to be two songs in one with that big space in the middle was a huge selling point for me. One of the big conversations Chance and I would have would be about James Blake and the way he uses space in his songs. I remember Chance wanting to really create that feeling of paranoia, not knowing what’s coming next, and being timid about it. I love that moment. It was one of the most creative ways of implementing a thought into music that he pulled off by just adding space between the two songs.
Austin Vesely: I was in the studio when Chance did “Paranoia.” He did that one in Los Angeles. We were shooting the “NaNa” video with Hannibal Buress. There was this thing happening called Songs From Scratch where an artist and a producer would be put in a room and make a song from nothing. We spent six hours in the studio with Nosaj Thing and watched him build the beat. I remember Chance got a really bad headache and couldn’t finish it.
Elton Chueng: What I remember about “Paranoia,” besides it just being fun to mix, was that a few days before Acid Rap came out, Chance came up with the tail end of the song. The, “I know you’re scared” part. He was so focused in the booth, and had one of the most perfect takes. It only took two or so tries. He knew it needed to sound super vulnerable. While he was recording it, there was something about his vulnerability and his lyrics really resonated with me and a lot of people in Chicago. Lines like “it’s easier to find a gun than a fucking parking spot” were so truthful and so real. It was undeniable. I had chills just witnessing him jotting down the words and going into the booth.
3. "Cocoa Butter Kisses" (featuring Vic Mensa and Twista) [Produced by Cam O'bi, Peter Cottontale]
Vic Mensa: I was staying with my manager Cody Kazarian a lot at his apartment in Humboldt Park. Chance came through one day and he showed me this verse and hook he wrote earlier. Then I did mushrooms for the first time at that point and I didn’t know what would happen. I went into Cody’s bedroom, which had this really janky setup which probably sounded worse than what would happen if I just plugged in to a laptop. I started to write and felt the mushrooms and I was floating. I felt like I was in-between dimensions when I was recording.
Cam O’bi: Vic Mensa wanted me to produce this record, so he put me in touch with Peter CottonTale. There was a song that they already had written but they needed a beat for it. I remember the original producer that made the song had his beat taken by another rapper so he didn’t want Chance to use it even though they already had it recorded. Chance wanted me and Peter to take the acapella tracks they had recorded and make a new beat for it.
Peter CottonTale: The original version of the song was produced from a friend I knew from back in the day, O_Bonjour. It was this demo I got from him and I think it was called “Gunshots and Babies Fuck Hawaii” it was just a goofy title. We still bump it too, low-key. I remember Vic was really killing it on there. It was a whole different vibe, it was laid-back and much more sly.
Vic Mensa: It was actually called “Babies and Gunshots: Fuck Hawaii Pt: 2” That wasn’t the name of the beat that’s what we called it. The beat was some bossa nova shit. We called it that because we were ruminating on the effects of violence in our community. It was “Fuck Hawaii” because we’re in Chicago: it’s cold, dark, and dangerous. Fuck that state!
Cam O’bi: When Chance and Vic had asked us to remake the beat it wasn’t too much of a challenge because it was the same process as making a remix of an already-released track. I’d been taking acapella tracks and making new beats for ’em for years, even though I don’t really put them out like people like Kaytranada do. It was actually really organic when we made it because Chance and Vic were there and singing the hook live for us, Peter was on keys and I was on my laptop. Once we had the chord progressions, they left the rest of the song with me because Kids These Days and Chance were about to go on tour together. They wanted the song to be done by the time they came back.
Papi Beatz: Those sessions were just fun. I remember when the song was originally recorded Chance was thinking about getting Twista on it. He was a legend and potentially getting him was big time shit for us, and still is, but we kept thinking it’d be absolutely crazy if it worked it. Sure enough, a couple weeks later Twista’s verse comes in.
Twista: Chance already had an idea for a song that he wanted me on and I was just glad to be a part of it. The song reminded me of being young. It put me back in my childhood memories at my grandmother’s house, but it also took me into my memories of becoming an adult like when you start smoking weed and doing adult things. That memory of trying to talk to your mom but realizing you shouldn’t because you smell like weed. Those type of feelings right there put me in a genuine place so I could write my verse.
Peter CottonTale: Hearing Twista’s verse was amazing, but it wasn’t until we played Lollapalooza when Twista came out that it hit me that, “Damn! I really had Twista on a song that I made!” It’s fun being excited like that because it inspired us.
Vic Mensa: Having Twista on it was a mindfuck for me because I love his music so much.
Twista: I wanted to really give a Twista version of what I was hearing from the song. Both Chance and Vic went off. I wanted to ride the rhythm, and sync it to my mindset of where it feels to me. I had that, “That's the new principle, sometimes I'mma be about some hoes / Sometimes I'mma wanna make a movie” and I remember I knew I wanted to rhyme “Higgs Boson” with “Voltron” so I thought, “I want to use this fucking word in there.”
Papi Beatz: I was mixing and working on a bunch of other projects that meant a lot to me like Vic Mensa’s Innanetape so I couldn’t mix the entirety of Acid Rap. Because of that, “Cocoa Butter Kisses” is the one song I mixed start-to-finish and I just wanted it to sound the fucking best. It was already a great song, I was just determined to really show what I could do.
Cam O’bi: I knew that it was going to be a hit when I finished it. They re-recorded the vocals to match it up with the finished product. I knew it was special.
4. "Juice" [Produced by Nate Fox]
Nate Fox: I had been in a little bit of a struggle creatively, just making trap beats in Cleveland even though what I was listening to at the point was stuff like Donny Hathaway, The Beatles, and soul music. After realizing I was overthinking it, I just ventured into my personal listening playlists and I heard Hathaway’s live version of John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy” and knew it was so sample perfect. I made the beat in probably 15 minutes.
Elton Chueng: On tour, he started performing a rough version of that song and his fans were going wild for it. To see him do that at a show, and a few weeks later come into the studio and ask to open up “Juice” was crazy.
Austin Vesely: The video for “Juice” was made before the project came out by a few months. The song was in some degree done by November of 2012. We had a video concept that we wanted to do and we made a teaser for the video that zooms into Jones College Prep from space, but we never actually shot that video.
Andrew Barber: I heard “Juice” early and I remember this really dope trailer for the video. We were so stoked on it but what’s funny is that trailer ended up having nothing to do with the actual video. That was crazy. People didn’t know what to expect.
Nate Fox: When Chance sent back the demo for “Juice” it really blew my mind. I hadn’t heard anything like that. We had a pretty long discussion on the phone. I remember sitting on my porch in Cleveland and it was a conversation I was waiting to have for a long time about having that connection with an artist. I don’t how to explain it but it was almost spiritual. I had only been making music for me up until that point but talking to him I knew there was something bigger than the both of us happening.
Austin Vesely: January comes around and we never shot the original video but Chance hits me up to go to New York because he was going to have some industry meetings. We had planned on doing something silly like Chance handing out juice boxes to random New Yorkers but when we got to New York, it was our first time there as young dudes. New York had this different meaning to us as Chicagoans because it signified sort of the come-up and it just feels like success if you’re there. We were staying close to Times Square and we’d go out really late at night and it felt like we owned the city. We just shot that. We’d done these artistic videos before but we really just wanted to embody Chance as a performer and his energy. It was the proper introduction.
Nate Fox: I have two major takeaways from working on this project, one’s positive and one’s educational. The first is that I learned about the power of collaboration and being able to go with someone else’s ideas and how beneficial that can be for the music. The other thing that I learned that was education is about sampling, publishing, and registering songs. As much as we wanted to have this project on Spotify and iTunes, there are a lot of samples and it is tough to clear. For instance, that Donny Hathaway song is a clearance from Hathaway and John Lennon’s camp and we know how hard it is to clear anything Beatles-related. For every sample, there’s a story.
5. "Lost" (featuring Noname) [Produced by Nate Fox]
Nate Fox: This was another example of me trying not to overthink my samples because Willie Hutch’s “Brother's Gonna Work It Out” is another classic song that everyone knows. It was also really easy to chop because it’s just an eight-bar loop of the song. I didn’t do too much with it but I do remember giving it to Chance and him assuring me it was going to be on the album.
Elton Chueng: I remember when I was mixing it, I had to dim the lights and set the mood because it was such a heavy song. I was super tuned-into that mix on that record. Another big thing for me was meeting Noname through those recordings. She had come through one night after she had just written her verse. She laid down the track but didn’t like how it sounded. They called me the next morning to schedule a four-hour session. They came in with 20 minutes or so remaining and she just knocked it out so fast. It only took her one or two takes to run through.
Nate Fox: One of the last weekends before the release, he played it for me and I was just amazed. I had never heard Noname at that point I was like, “Who is that?” I think everyone had the same reaction to “Lost” and while I think it’s a song people enjoy, I think the main reaction is that it’s the first time people heard Noname.
6. "Everybody's Something" (featuring Saba and BJ the Chicago Kid) [Produced by DJ Ozone]
DJ O-Zone: After Chance asked me to be his DJ, we did a couple shows together. There was one particular date in Minneapolis where “Everybody’s Something” started. I got to the city first and he was coming in from L.A. While I was waiting for Chance’s plane to land, I was in the airport working on beats. It just so happened the beat I was working on became “Everybody’s Something.” He gets there and we do soundcheck and I plug in my aux cord in the green room. He heard the beat and said, “Yo! I need this.” I get artists all the time asking me for beats so I didn’t think too much of it but the next day he still asked me for the beat. I sent it to him, he records his part. The Slum Village song I sample, “Fall In Love,” is one of my favorite songs of all time, so I’m happy he used it.
Vic Mensa: We had a studio session at the Traphouse and we were doing drugs and I think we even called the session “drugs.” Me and Chance were doing this song and freestyling something about “Lambskin Luxury” but I don’t really remember and then Chance said, “Everybody’s somebody’s everything.” And I said, “Wait, no they’re not. What about a homeless person who doesn’t matter to anyone? Not in society’s eyes.” We had a show at Reggie’s the next day and he said, “Hey, I made a song out of that.”
Elton Chueng: When Chance was working on that one, it was almost like a puzzle for him to piece together to figure out the hook. He’d be thinking up lines and then he said, “Everybody’s somebody's everything / Nobody’s nothing” and then it was, “Oh, my god! That’s it!” It was an epiphany for him, like, “Did I really just say it like that?” When you break it down or if you say that to someone directly in regular conversation it’s actually very meaningful and holds a lot of weight. Off that hook, he just wrote like a madman. As soon as he found that first match of the puzzle piece it all came together. Also when BJ The Chicago Kid came in to lay down those backing tracks I realized that it was amazing. Saba’s verse, too! He went crazy! I didn’t even really know who he was but he really snapped.
Austin Vesely: Being at Classick and hearing it for the first time, I knew immediately it was going to be a jam because of that sample. Vic also put a verse on it that didn’t come out.
Vic Mensa: I don’t remember having a verse on that one. I very well could’ve but I don’t really remember it.
DJ O-Zone: Fun fact: I believe he originally had a Lupe Fiasco verse on this album and from what I was told Joey Badass also had a verse, but the only one he kept was Saba’s. I was ecstatic when I found out it was going to be on the project.
Elton Chueng: That was the first time I saw my work on TV. MTV 2 had Austin Vesely’s video on In Rotation. I was tripping out and I couldn’t even process it. But it’s just another reminder that it was just the beginning for everybody! Austin Vesely has a feature film coming out. Saba is killing it on tour right now with his new project. If you take a step back and put yourself in that time and see how talented everyone was, it’s no shock to see where everyone’s at right now.
DJ O-Zone: I’ve had so many times in my life where I’ve told people songs of mine were going to be on projects and then it doesn’t happen so I didn’t have any expectations. It didn’t really click until Chance told me one time that this was his favorite song on the project. He was for real and he wasn’t just pulling my leg. Especially for a song like that, which isn’t a club record, for it to resonate with him. It’s a special record. That year was when I had my first son and I dedicated it to him.
7. "Interlude (That's Love)" [Produced by Ludwig Göransson]
Ludwig Göransson: This was the first collaboration I did with Chance. This was originally supposed to be a song called “It’s Electric.” I remember after the Childish Gambino tour he hit me up saying that he was in Los Angeles and wanted to record. He had a few songs out already, and I was such a fan I happily invited him over. We basically started from scratch. I had this little piano intro on my iPhone and I played him those chords. He got inspired by that and we put it all into Ableton.
Elton Chueng: This was one of my favorite songs to mix. First of all, shout out to Ludwig. That man’s a genius and I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know his résumé at that time with his scoring work. Everything on that record sounded incredible when it got into my hands for mixing. I was blown away, “I don’t know who this Ludwig guy is but he must have a really nice studio.”
Ludwig Göransson: We pretty much made the whole song in half a day. While we were in the studio together, I was putting on all these instruments. He wanted guitar and organ. We kept adding and when the whole track was done he recorded vocals. It was very quick. We were in a really creative moment with each other.
Stefan Ponce: Not a lot of people know this but Donald Glover is doing the background vocals on this song. He’s the one that’s doing the harmonies. He sings so fucking good that people don’t realize it’s him.
Elton Chueng: It took me halfway through making the song that all those backing vocals were all Donald Glover. I didn’t know he could sing like that at the time.
Ludwig Göransson: When the song came out in the album, I was thinking back on the session and listening to the song. That day when we were in the studio, looking back, I can’t believe that we did all that in half of a day. It’s a pretty intricate song with a lot of stuff going on, lots of instruments, and really cool vocals and choirs. It was such a special day in the studio.
8. "Favorite Song" (featuring Childish Gambino) [Produced by Nate Fox]
Vic Mensa: “Favorite Song” was originally a song that me and Chance were recording in L.A. We might’ve been sleeping on Chuck Inglish’s couch on that trip and had gotten into the studio by finessing our way into it. I made a hook idea for it and then fell asleep on the couch. While I was sleeping, I remember waking up and seeing Chance come up with the parts that made the song.
Stefan Ponce: Chance would tell me he wanted to have an acid-jazz inspired sound for this project so I’d send him some ideas but it formulated so much more with him and Nate Fox. They really knocked it down. He had “Favorite Song” and we had performed that song at a show with Kids These Days.
Nate Fox: The same day I made the beat for “Juice,” I made “Favorite Song.” It was pretty much the same concept where I let go of my inhibitions and just sampled songs that I liked and chopped them real simply.
Stefan Ponce: I remember I played a version of it when I was DJing and the kids in the crowd already knew the words even before the song was out.
Nate Fox: The original version of this song we recorded in L.A. and it had Vic and Chance on it. I don’t remember why he didn’t end up on it but I remember that session being so much fun.
Stefan Ponce: Chance had asked Donald to get on it and when he did, I was living with Donald at that point. He had asked me while he was writing, “What’s like a place that kids go to buy clothes?” and I replied jokingly, “Abercrombie?” and he used that line, “You blast this shit in Abercrombie when your work is finished.”
9. "NaNa" (featuring Action Bronson) [Produced by brandUn DeShay]
brandUn DeShay: As far as all the joints that [Chance] recorded for Acid Rap go, I heard that “NaNa” was the first record he did, period. He came to the crib while I was living in Brooklyn and asked if I had any beats. I played him a few of my own records and he was instantly drawn to what I had for “NaNa.” He knew exactly what he wanted to do with it immediately. I made the beat originally when I was working with Mac Miller in 2011 during the time he was working on his acid-inspired project, Macadelic.
Austin Vesely: I remember going to Force One Seven and him doing “NaNa,” and seeing him trip on acid and write verses. It was really interesting as a friend to see him work that way. It was super creative.
Elton Chueng: I just remember those drums. They were so dope and had this crunch to it. I was listening to a lot of Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City then and I just remember how those drums sounded. The drums on “NaNa” were a loop and I really wanted them to smack. It was cool as hell to have Action Bronson on it. I thought his verse was hilarious.
brandUn DeShay: I thought the record was done for a long time but a couple days before it was supposed to come out, Chance sent me the final version and Bronson was on it. I’ll be honest, I was upset when I first heard it. Bronson is cool and he’s a great dude but at that time I wasn’t that into his music. I thought it was good enough with just Chance on it! But it’s since definitely grown on me.
Rich Gains: When you listen to the end of Bronson’s verse on this song, it’s the perfect intro to “Smoke Again” with his coughing and the beat drop.
10. "Smoke Again" (featuring Ab-Soul) [Produced by Blended Babies]
JP: We made that beat years before Chance had it and it was actually one of our favorite beats. It had a really messed up name “Chingy Mungy” and I think that’s one of the reasons Chance clicked on it when he was over at our spot in Los Angeles. He just stumbled upon it. We had played him maybe 50 beats and that’s what he stopped on.
Rich Gains: When we originally made the beat, we're at our home studio on Walton St. in Wicker Park. JP was messing around with this MOTIF keyboard and pretty much the whole beat got made on there.
JP: And then there was live drums on there. When Chance heard it in L.A., he looked at us and said, “This is going to be the single. This is going on the project I swear to god.” He wrote the whole thing right there.
Rich Gains: I didn’t believe him but it was nice. I was like, “Cool, man, let’s just make the song.”
Nico Segal: When Chance sent me the official feature list for Acid Rap, I was just blown away. I remember going crazy by the fact that he got Ab-Soul on his album. At that time, that was so big for me and I remember thinking that no matter what people are going to be into Chance’s tape. Because he was my friend that I knew he was an amazing rapper, but being gone with Frank Ocean and Kids These Days it seemed like all of the sudden he was an amazing rapper with people like Ab-Soul and Action Bronson on his tape.
Rich Gains: I’m going to be honest. When I first heard Ab-Soul’s verse, I thought, “I don’t fucking like this shit.” I had heard the Chance stuff so much and Soul came from such a different perspective. But after the second listen everything clicked. I love that verse now.
JP: Not a lot of people know this but Rich is actually on the hook on “Smoke Again.” The one thing about Chance is that his discernment was there even then. It was amazing. I was so taken aback by how he knew that beat was the one. He saw the vision and executed it.
11. "Acid Rain" [Produced by Jake One]
Elton Chueng: When we were recording Chance may have been shrooming, I couldn’t tell because I never do or knew people who do drugs, but I think he was on mushrooms. He had written the song that day and he was just going crazy kind of like how he was on “Everybody’s Something.” There was epiphany after epiphany, and then each piece would fit with another puzzle piece.
Austin Vesely: Rodney Kyles’ murder really changed 10 Day but it also affected Acid Rap. [Chance] was working through it on lines like, “My big homie died young; just turned older than him / I seen it happen, I seen it happen, I see it always.”
Elton Chueng: He wanted to be super-vulnerable on that one too in his takes. He spent maybe five hours writing and every now and again he’d turn around to Pat Corcoran and say, “You think it’s okay if I say this?” referring to the line, “And I still get jealous of Vic / And Vic's still jealous of me.” I just remember that being a special moment, where he wanted to be vulnerable but didn’t want to go too far. While Chance and Vic still go at it every now and again, they’re still brothers. Pat said to keep going and Chance kept writing.
Vic Mensa: It was real when I heard that. I was still with Kids These Days when it came out and I was in the van with all of them. The band was breaking up at that point, with seven people, and most of them were resenting me at that point. Chance was right because I was jealous. Here he was doing what he wants to do and I’m sitting here with a band that was breaking up, with people who want nothing to do with me, and feeling creatively stifled. It hit hard because there were plenty of times that he was jealous of me.
Andrew Barber: Pat gave me “Acid Rain” early before they dropped it. I played that record over and over again. [Chance's] rapping had only gotten better and was so next level.
Austin Vesely: It might be my favorite Chance song to this day, even. It came out right before the project came out and I hadn’t heard anything about it. Hearing it, there were just so many timely lyrics from his life and it was interesting to see the stuff he’d talk about in intimate moments with his friends in a song.
Vic Mensa: It was honest, man. I was actually taken aback by some of his honesty at some parts in the song. It was dope.
Elton Chueng: His wordplay was incredible and Jake One’s beat sounded amazing. Every word that he said it was clear that something was in the air. It was special. He recorded it in like 10 minutes. Everything he was saying just cut through.
12. "Chain Smoker" [Produced by Nate Fox]
Nate Fox: Making “Chain Smoker” offered a lot of insight for me into Chance’s process, more so than “Pusha Man” because I wasn’t really around when he was recording those verses. “Chain Smoker” originally started as my own song and when I played it for Chance, he had this vision of making a song with Prince-inspired background vocals.
Elton Chueng: Chance just wanted to do something super Prince-y. This was supposed to be his “Purple Rain” or whatever. This one was also supposed to be the outro and the mixtape closer. Nate Fox just killed it again.
Nate Fox: To Chance, I think he thought of “Chain Smoker” as his first opportunity to really be that Michael Jackson, Prince-type: creating a dance song that he could make choreography to. You could see him making moves with his hands and his body while he was writing to it. I really learned a lot about the way Chance listens to music and his process. That sort of vision would evolve to Coloring Book, because when he were writing for that he said, “I have this idea that the single is going to start with the 'if one more label try to stop me' line.” He said to create a song around that sentiment. He’s been consistent with his vision ever since.
Elton Chueng: I remember, again, being really into Good Kid, so I went overboard with the drums. I wanted them to hit super-hard on an earlier version. Chance had caught it and said, “Hey, those hi-hats sound a little weird” and Pat chimed in, “Yeah! They sound wack!” They gave me the reference of what they wanted it to sound like and we worked it out. That’s why it was so special because everyone was able to say how they felt. For Acid Rap in particular, the art was the priority over our egos. Pat was able to say it was wack and I knew it was and got back to work. It shows for everyone. The songs spoke for themselves. With “Chain Smoker,” something as simple as just being honest with the drum sound allowed it to get where it needed to be.
Nate Fox: Pat was present and involved throughout this whole experience. He’s the unsung hero of this Acid Rap situation. He has no problem giving his opinion or lending his ear. It’s one of the most special things he brings as a manager is his 100% honesty. If Chance insists, he’ll always let up because Chance is the artist but with Pat, you’re always so grateful for him because so many people will just give you garbage and what you want to hear. He’s just unfiltered and helpful in the best way.
13. "Everything's Good (Good Ass Outro)" [Produced by Cam O'bi]
Cam O’bi: Towards the end of the mixtape process, Chance was looking for new beats so he asked me if I had anything to send him. Normally, I like to start songs from scratch but he didn’t have the time to do that so I sent him that beat and a few others. We did a session for it and I watched him write that whole song while he was sitting in the studio for a few hours.
Papi Beatz: Chance’s father called at one point when I was in the studio and Chance was in the vocal booth. For some reason, Chance told me to press record. Normally, I wouldn’t be chill with recording someone without their consent but lo and behold, Chance’s dad starts saying the most heartfelt and lovely things to his son. I remember everyone in the studio was reaching for a Kleenex.
Cam O’bi: It was a super-organic, spur-of-the-moment decision. Chance told us after he got off the phone that he knew that was going to happen because whenever his dad calls him he always says all these nice, sentimental things.
Elton Chueng: It was so amazing. I think it sums up Acid Rap really well.
Papi Beatz: It was such a magical moment. Besides Chance’s talent, there’s something so genuine behind him.
Andrew Barber: One label A&R who I was friends with, Riggs Morales, who works at Atlantic, asked me to introduce him to Chance and Pat. We went to lunch at Big Star and then we went to a studio at the Music Garage. He played us what would become Acid Rap. It was probably a month before release and the memory that sticks out to me was “Everything’s Good (Good Ass Outro).” This was right after his dad had called him while he was in the booth. I remember saying, “Dude, you have to add that. This is your outro. This could be one of the dopest outros since Kanye’s ‘Last Call.’” That’s when I knew it was about to pop off.
Cam O’bi: I remember later that Chance got Nico on the track because he wanted him to interpolate that Common “Faithful” sample.
Nico Segal: I played on one song on Acid Rap because I was on tour with Frank for the rest of the whole process and I just wasn’t around. Compared to 10 Day or any future project. I remember recording “Everything’s Good (Good Ass Outro)” at Rockie Fresh’s studio down the hall from Kids These Days’ in the Music Garage.
J.P Floyd: It’s funny that I was only on “Good Ass Intro” and Nico was only on “Good Ass Outro.” We live together now and have always played together. We didn’t do the same session at all but it all sounded so cohesive.
Nico Segal: I actually remember this being a pretty frustrating session for me. It was still pretty early in my “recording the trumpet” phase of my life and I feel like it wasn’t my best playing, feeling, or day. Everything’s a learning process and while I wasn’t too confident in those takes, I was so happy that Chance liked it. Cam and Chance were both into it and I remember that feeling of gratitude and letting go of my insecurities.
Elton Chueng: That song was actually mixed the night before Acid Rap was supposed to come out. I remember damn near having a panic attack because of it. I took a break from mixing it and I went into the Red Room at Classick Studios and my friend said, “Are you ready for the world to hear this album? If you don’t finish this the world is going to be mad.” That's the worst thing you can possibly hear on a deadline. Everything worked out. Everything was so special for everyone throughout and it was just captured. Chance also had this idea to have the mixtape sound like an infinite loop but I made it so that when you finish listening to “Everything’s Good (Good Ass Outro)” and the whole project on repeat Lili K’s vocals on “Good Ass Intro” come in on time.
Andrew Barber: The day of the release, the mixtape leaked. It’s crazy that it’s a free mixtape and it leaked on the day of its release! So I put it on the site and my site crashed for a few hours. That had only happened one other time, which was when I got to premiere the remix of “I Don’t Like.” I don’t even remember how it leaked and I still don’t think anyone got to the bottom of it.
Twista: I knew Acid Rap was something new when I first heard it. I had the same but slightly different feeling when I heard Nas’ Illmatic or Biggie’s album—nothing sounded like this. Same goes for Snoop’s album [Doggystyle]. As a hip-hop fan and a music fan in general, with Chance’s project, I was like, “Damn, this is still happening in my lifetime where I’m hearing someone coming with something so different and unique. It’s what hip-hop was building to.”
Elton Chueng: Post-Acid Rap, I didn’t really go out much but I just didn’t realize how big of a song that was. One time I was at a bar in Logan Square and saw that they were playing “Favorite Song.” Everyone around me was just going crazy. Working in the studio so much, I didn’t really get a chance to see how much this music we made resonated with people. You can see some posts online but it’s different when you see people reacting to it in real time.
Nate Fox: After the tape came out, I was back in Pittsburgh working construction so I had no idea how it was initially received. On the job, Jeff Vaughn from Atlantic called me and he said, “Is this Nate Fox?” and I had no idea how he got my number but he said, “You do realize this is the biggest album in the country right now?” All I knew was that I had to knock down walls with a sledgehammer that day.
J.P. Floyd: When Acid Rap dropped, Nico Segal and I were on tour with Frank Ocean. We’d retweet and spread the word but we weren’t actually in Chicago when it was happening. We would see more and more people spreading the word and publications picking it up. It was insane. In Australia, on the tail end of the tour, we were sitting in a Melbourne bar and they were playing Acid Rap. I heard my trombone and I couldn’t believe it. It was out of nowhere. It was so crazy to see something this special over Twitter. It’s mind blowing and even when Kids These Days took off it felt like a different life. The impact that Acid Rap had, it’s really crazy to look back on five years ago and to look back on where we’re all at now.
Nico Segal: Hearing Acid Rap in full with J.P. at that Melbourne bar completely blew my mind. It was a total shift in our heads about what was really happening and how big this was. We knew our friends were into but we didn’t realize the magnitude of it. At that time, rap blogs were the world to us but this was even more than that. It’s crazy that I wasn’t around for it but as soon as I got back Chance wanted me to go on tour.
Nate Fox: I remember on that first Acid Rap tour people would take the concept of acid rap so seriously that they’d show up to our shows tripping their balls off. The project’s been interpreted in different ways for sure. We all had a conscious moment on that tour where we had a conversation that this isn’t what we wanted to promote. Instead of focusing on substance use, we wanted to instead look to spirituality and creativity. We didn’t just have that shift in what we promoted and how we carried ourselves, but musically too. That’s what you saw in “Sunday Candy.”
"Chance told us after he got off the phone that he knew that was going to happen because whenever his dad calls him he always says all these nice, sentimental things." —Cam O'Bi
Peter CottonTale: We learned so much doing this project. It was just a group of people being inspired together. We did music every day, combined our work ethic with our passion, and got something innovative out of it.
Papi Beatz: This whole process felt like the epitome of doing what you love. I didn’t realize it had even been five years before I was hit up for this interview. Those songs have really stood the test of time. Half of a decade is a long time in today’s music but I know this has already solidified itself as a classic.
Elton Chueng: I love Acid Rap. This was my first project. It was dope because I’d never mixed a whole full-length. Because it was Acid Rap, I could show off what I could actually do. I’m so grateful. It opened up a whole lot of doors for me. I think it’s a classic and it’s been told to me so many times over how it’s inspired people. We were all extremely broke at the time but that didn’t matter. The music came first.
Nate Fox: What’s so amazing is that pretty much everyone who worked on this project was in a similar creative space, especially the Chicago folks. Everyone had been waiting to do something this important and they felt like they could just throw out all these ideas and freely create. Chance loves that. He loves to rebound and talk through ideas. I don’t think anyone from the producers, the featured artists, the engineers, anyone involved at all has backtracked creatively or professionally since Acid Rap came out. And everyone comes back to each other and still collaborates. Noname, Elton, and Cam O’bi made a whole album together! That’s just one example.
Cam O’bi: Still, to this day, the impact that this project has had is hard to fathom. People have told me a bunch of times about how that project ended up starting a new sound or a new trend in Chicago hip-hop that ended up being globally recognized. It blows my mind to this day. It’s surreal. It feels like the fulfillment of my dreams because I had always wanted to be a part of something like this and make an impact musically since I was a kid.
Stefan Ponce: I saw a meme that said “best mixtapes of all time. Fight me!” and it had Acid Rap on there and it blew my mind. It’s dope. Because I was so involved I never really thought about it that way, but it was really like being involved with The College Dropout.
Ludwig Göransson: The songs are just so good. It’s incredible songwriting. I can still listen to these songs today and not realize that it’s five years old. People are going to want to be listening to it again and again well into the future.
Andrew Barber:Acid Rap was the perfect storm of just everything. Everyone was just ready for this. You had the right artist, the right sound, the right city, the right message, everyone was excited about, and you had the most perfect group of people behind it. You can’t fabricate that or go to a lab and make that. It was so organic and it was very real.
"We learned so much doing this project. It was just a group of people being inspired together." —Peter Cottontale
Michael Kolar: You feel vindicated in a certain way with a project like this. At that point in Chicago, it felt like so many people outside of the city were focused on one type of music coming from here: drill. And I love drill and have recorded so many things by Young Chop, Lil Durk, and others, but I remember being out on trips to New York and having those people only focus on those acts. I’d say Chicago is just getting started. I look back at that time of Chance and all of his music friends finding their sound and there was so much creativity, innocence, and in some ways, naivete. It was such a happy time and I had such a good vibe from that era with all these young people coming together and working and showing that Chicago is a city of unity. I was the older guy remembering a very different era in this city and that was so refreshing.
Andrew Barber: It was time to let everyone know that there was this new, equally exciting generation showing an alternative side of Chicago. It was so exciting and Chance just kicked all the doors down. Chicago was completely on the map at that point. I remember during the 2012 Chicago boom, where labels were signing artists left and right, someone was telling me that Chicago hip-hop would be a flash in the pan and we should just enjoy our moment. They were so wrong. You couldn’t stop it. Chicago is no one-trick pony and Chance really shook things up. He didn’t even need to sign. From that first day, he had a plan.
Na’el Shehade: It’s historic. When you’re an artist and you have that first project that gets you to where you want to be, you can never duplicate that. To be a part of that history was amazing. There was a select few who were a part of it. A lot of artists have come to me to ask if they can do what Chance did and while it’s possible, he had everything necessary and everything aligned for him. It wasn’t about the money. It was secondary to what everyone wanted. It just revolved around the music. It’s the best project I’ve ever worked on in my life.
Austin Vesely: It’s hard to believe. It was a really important time in my life. You can’t underestimate how rare it is to see someone so close to you become a superstar in your own eyes. I believed in him and that’s why I worked with him so much early on. A year goes by and Chance was more than he was at the beginning and it just keeps going exponentially. I remember when it came out, I’d just bump it on Lake Shore Drive and beyond him just being my friend, it was incredible music.
Nate Fox: Five years later, I’m just blown away. During the time we made it, although it all felt special, I don’t think any of us had a clue how impactful it would be on our lives and on other people’s lives. I definitely have received more personal messages from fans about Acid Rap songs than anything else I’ve worked on. There are a lot of albums that came out five years ago but there is something about Chance, Acid Rap, and all the people who worked on it that the story is way deeper than just a regular full-length.
Twista: I knew something like this would happen in Chicago. That was no surprise to me because Chicago is so diverse. What else would you expect to get from the middle of the map? I’m hearing so much different music from here but Chance was able to combine all of those sounds. I’m so glad to be a part of something so historic, to watch his growth, and also see him stay true to himself. He’s so charismatic and needs that freedom to create.
Vic Mensa: It was like our own Harlem Renaissance in Chicago. There were just so many talented people really just making music that completely unrelated to what was commercially popular at the time. It was special because we didn’t even think about that. It never occurred to us that we should be catering to that. Around that same time you had drill break through too. It really felt like Chicago was on top of the world.
Lili K: It’s crazy to see how much it did. For me personally, I have a slightly different experience because there were some issues with proper crediting after it came out. Like, it’s so weird and sometimes pretty funny because so many people I’ve met have heard me sing but they don’t know that it’s me. I’m still super honored and super proud to be a part of it, and looking back it’s so clear that Chance killed it and made a really amazing career out of it. Overall, it’s a positive experience and it was so great to be a small part of this new Chicago wave.
Vic Mensa: That time period was special, man. I don’t want to say that we were naive but we were all so ambitious. Everything was a hustle and there were no resources. We were just trying to record in any studio we could, doing features for a couple hundred bucks and scraping change out of my mama’s couch to get together money for studio time.
Austin Vesely: I look back on that time as just it being the halcyon days of being a kid. I don’t know how Chance feels exactly but to me it seems like that was the last time he was afforded that amount of freedom where he could just run around and be a kid. People weren’t expecting what he could come up with and he definitely blew everyone away. You hear how much it’s changed in that song he put out last year, “First World Problems.” This time was such a nice memory.
Nico Segal: I keep coming back to when Chance came down to Kids These Days’ studio at the Music Garage and played 5 Day for us for the first time. It made us want to go out and pass mixtapes around downtown with him. That was a big thing for me and how we looked at passing around music and how literal it is having our music pass from one hand to another. We get lost in that in the internet world. That was never our mentality: Our mentality now is the same as it was when we were passing out those burned CDs, except multiplied for the internet. We really want to talk to people and we really want to engage with them and have them know that we’re like them. Acid Rap had a lot to do with how we all think about putting out music and had such a huge impact on all of our lives. My friend killed it.