Obviously there’s a story behind the release, details to pour over and larger pictures to consider, but all of that will come in time. For now all that really matters is that Surf is out and we I can all stop literally driving ourselves myself insane with anticipation.
I feel like I should do some big intro, some epic introduction to match this historical moment, but really I just want to listen. I didn’t obsess over this project for months to sit here and explain why I’m in dire need of clean pants right now; can I just review it already?
Per "1 Listen Review" rules, I'll be listening and writing in the moment with no pausing or rewinding, just my gut reaction thoughts as I listen to the album for the first time, then following up with a second review in a few months. [Read this if you want the full "1 Listen" concept explained.] Let's do this.
As in it’s a miracle Surf actually dropped? It’s a Christmas miracle in May! I can already tell it’s going to be hard to do a review, I just want to listen. So many sounds already. Wonder who that girl is? Wonder who that dude is? I can’t wait for the liner notes. Man. I don’t even know what to say. That intro. OHHHHH here we go. Chance! Is this rap or poetry? 3 Stacks-esque. Oh shit! The way the beat kicks back in. This is so pure. It makes me feel better. I’m happy. That little “knewwwwww” sound from the guitar, this album’s gonna be filled with detailed little effects, I know it. It’s nothing like I expected and everything that I expected. Holy shit. Maybe I’m just gassed up like Rick Ross after a bean burrito, but I think it’s love at first listen. It’s exciting. It’s different. It’s a miracle to be alive and well and listening to music.
Expecting a Donnie driven number here with a name like "Slip and Slide." It just sounds trumpet-y, and the first few seconds do not disappoint. Dude. This feels like a play. Wait, now it feels like a college football game. Now it feels like church. Wait...who is that? Fuck. I can’t rewind to hear his voice. Fuck. Holy shit. This is fun! Why don’t I know who this is? Busta? No way he got Busta, right? It’s totally Busta. I’m gonna have to not worry about all the names attached and listen for the sake of listening. This is just fun. Like, I’m chuckling. There’s so much charisma. Who was that? Kinda sounded like B.o.B. You know what? This is B.o.B! Dude got B.o.B and Busta! I never in a million years thought I’d hear B.o.B and Busta on the same song. Not much Chance here, probably the point. A colorful, fun tune.
Woah. Different vibe. Feels like I went from a carnival to a cave. Chance is amazing. He cannot be singing well but sing well; just so different.
Woah. Who are you? I thought that was Eryn Allen Kane singing at the beginning, but I don’t know who’s rapping now. I know that voice. Wasn’t she on Acid Rap too? “Who are you to tell me I can’t love you like mothers love daughters?” Wow, that line jumped out at me. I’ve been trying to soak it all in at once, but it’s hard to not get fixated on that line. This is poetry man. It’s all those open mics. AAAAHHHH!!!!! COLE WORLD!!!!! Too much to listen to. So much I need to talk about. Can I please rewind? No? I hate the "1 Listen" format sometimes, but rules are rules. On to the next.
“Nothing Came To Me”
Those horns! I’m gonna need to know who engineered this album too. The way the sounds hit you and where they hit you is incredible. Ha, I love this. Donnie is incredible man. This feels like the start of a vintage horror movie about a swamp creature or some Dick Tracy shit. Anddddd…..now it sounds like a goddamn sunrise. Good lord. I don’t even know what to say. The way this builds and builds on top of itself, the way it rises is incredible. Ready and waiting for the kick now. Or maybe I shouldn’t be - I really have no idea what to expect. It’s over? I think?
Yeah, it’s over.
“Wanna Be Cool”
Rugrats! Can’t tell me that’s not the influence! I know about how Chance loves those orange tapes! Woah. Who is that? Man. This right here is just good for my heart. Fun music that’s incredibly thought out and has so much life. Big Sean? Is that you? You know, he may be the rap version of parsley to me, but he’s not bad on this. Who is that now? Jesus. There are so many guests. I’m a little overwhelmed right now. For a "1 Listen" this is really hard. Also, that’s definitely Eryn Allen Kane back there. I see you! Also-also I just wanna be me!
Surf had to have some ocean sounds, right? Wow. Chance is riveting. These drums. The singing in the back. I’m telling you. It feels like a carnival. I can’t remember the last time an album has really drawn me in this much. Like, I’m feeling places and locations, if that makes any sense. These drums. Kanye would be proud. Maybe we’ll hear him later. It’s my biggest hope. There's literally like 15 lines in this song and yet it doesn’t lack depth or artistry. Wow. No hook. No real rhyme scheme, barely any words and yet you don’t feel cheated. These aren't rap songs, they’re experiences. Seriously, can we just take a minute to talk about the way that song was constructed? Nope, it’s ending.
It just hit me I’m listening to Surf. Life is good. I like this, but really i’m just trying to catch my breath. I feel like this is kind of a change of pace. I’m starting to really settle in and really focus. Wait. Silence scares me.
Okay, see, now I have to dance. Whoa man. Preach Donnie! This is AWESOME! THIS!!!! This is just what I wanted; a little ham and eggs coming at ya. Donnie’s a star. Just wait? Did Chance say just wait? For what? Now I’m kinda scared….building...building...building…. It’s so funny his name is “Chance The Rapper,” can we even call this rap anymore? Good things come to those who wait? Trust us Chance, we know.
Pharrell? Is that you? This has me in the zone. When the drums are kicking in, I’m moving right along with it. It’s natural. I’m trying to listen to Chance but there’s so much going on. He really isn’t the focal point, he’s just part of the equation. Who is this? This guy’s voice is kind of rough but I don’t hate it. Ohhh, that organ and that little flute. Man, there's so much small stuff to take in. Wait….what?
MIGOOSSSSSSSSSSSSSS?!?!!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! NOOOOO WAY. I JUST FIGURED IT OUT! These dudes got Migos to rap over a horn? Shit on my dick. That’s insane. Do you realize what they've just done!?!? For so long I pitted Migos and the likes of Donnie and Chance against each other as polar opposites and here they are together. It’s like the Cubs and the White Sox coming together. Migos? I’m done.
No I’m not. Keep bringing it on guys.
Im trying to focus but I’m still tripping on that Migos. Sorry. I’m trying to keep up but it’s really hard. I need a Gatorade. I’m not quite sure who that was - maybe Saba? - but it was great.
I really do need a Gatorade or something. These reviews are exhausting, especially when you care this much.
Can we get one regular hip-hop track? I need a breather. Something I can easily process. No? Looks like I’m gonna have to get my dancin' shoes on again. I love the way this album flows and progresses and builds. No wonder it took 400,000 years to hit my earholes, it’s so perfectly packaged and yet it still sounds loose and free. This is an absolute pleasure to listen to. No disrespect to my man rapping right now (can’t place him) but I want Kanye over this. It would be like “Slow Jams” meets “American Boy.” I love that there are so many quality featured guests on Surf, from Quavo of Migos to Busta to Big Sean to names I don’t even immediately know. It feels like a very communal effort; hip-hop needs stuff like this. It’s like an All-Star game.
Woah. This is different. A little more electronic than anything else on the album so far. I know this girl’s voice. I know you, but, who are you?
Wait, I wanted to see where that was going...
“Something Came To Me”
While these horns are playing can we just talk again about how collaborative this whole thing feels? That mysterious crooning lady just had essentially her own song on this album, that could have gone to Chance or been given to some other huge feature, but they just made this for the sake of making music.
What effect is that on the horns? That’s so cool. It’s the little things that really sets this album off. The small, textured touches that jump out at you no matter how small. I’m geekin' over a weird horn. Is this just an instrumental? Don't get me wrong, I love me some instrumentals, but I wasn’t expecting it.
Goddamn man. I feel like Billy Madison with his French tutor, I'm trying to keep up but Chance is going so fast, saying so much, and there’s so much meaning behind the words I can’t process them and type at the same time. Again, I love the way the lyrics are constructed, so abstract. So -_____)FDLJUPODFJDOFHJDFHFERYKAH!!!!!!!!!! They got Ms. Badu?!!? Do you realize how special that is? I saw a picture of them together when I was stalking Chance for some clues about when the album would drop, but I didn't even think there was any way it would happen. Chance better be careful though because that co-sign comes with a cost. Just ask Andre, Jay Elec or Common. Badu!
Ah, “Sunday Candy.” I’ve been on the edge of my seat this whole time, it feels so good see familiar face. Hearing it as a drop in the bucket is kind of crazy when you think about how much of a fuss was made over this one song. Now we have what feels like 40 other “Sunday Candy”s. God this is great. It feels like it’s the most traditional song, but maybe that's because everything else is so new. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever written anything about “Sunday Candy” so let me use this chance to say the drums at the end are amazing.
“Pass The Vibes”
Oh boy. Last song. Ok. Bounce bounce bounce. Haha, this is dopeeeee. I’m laughing right now. There’s just so much charisma here. No album, please don’t end. I take it back. I could 1-Listen to you all night.
Holy shit. I just finished Surf for the first time.
Wow. Wow. Wow wow wow.
So much to process I don’t even know where to begin.
Actually I do….
Kidding. Well, no, I’m not really. If you had told me the album would feature Migos and Erykah Badu, I’m not sure I would have believed you. I touched on it above, but to me the thing that stands out the most about this album is how truly collaborative it is, beyond even The Social Experiment collective, and the Migos-Badu connection goes to show that. You can really feel the love of the music. Nobody's worried about their image, catchy bars, hits or time in the spotlight, they are only worried about making the music the best it can possibly be. It’s that spirit that allows for Chance to have 15 words on a song followed by an instrumental rounded out with a spoken word poem. If I’ve learned anything about putting words together for a living it’s that the best stuff, the articles that suffocate slideshows and click-bait and really mean something, always come from the heart and are done for a love of music. Surf is both of those things and so much more.
Its unexpected yet everything I wanted. It’s refreshing, it’s ever changing. It’s colorful, it’s heartfelt, it’s theatrical, it’s vibrant.
It’s The Social Motherfucking Experiment!
[Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth.net. His favorite album is “College Dropout,” but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth.]