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.

The Players

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")