We’re really alive in 2014. Quite a few wack jobs (myself included) half-seriously feared we’d all be dead a couple years ago. Music’s cultural norms and business structures have evolved tremendously, its listeners latching on for the ride. Records now built upon would-be corniness and formless structure defy all expectations, toppling the human wall of hatred in full force. Indie hip-hop’s star child, Chance The Rapper, has sought after genre-bending to the point of no return; he’s essentially constructed for himself an imaginable costume shaped after a giant middle finger, emitting incessant “F*CK YOU” signals to those who dare confine him. By the looks of things thus far, his skeptics aren’t succeeding. The New School’s leader (re: those below the young, ruling class of contemporary rap—Drake, Kendrick Lamar, etc.) proved long before Acid Rap‘s juke-soul-rap-jazz-dance-interpolating intro he had high ambitions. He proved to be at the forefront of both commerce and creativity.
“Wonderful Every: Arthur” is everything right about music today. It’s not a perfect song in itself, but that first point matters more. The Chicago rapper released his latest record yesterday, gathering a group of worldwide talents perhaps only matched in world affairs by the Treaty of Versailles-producing Paris Peace Conference of 1919. Bull shit aside, Chance’s happy-go-lucky single finds support in a cast of acts including Jessie Ware, Eryn Allen Kane, Elle Varner and Wyclef Jean, among others. This is what an avant-garde assembly of all stars sounds like, whether you’re ready to accept that or not. A league of laudable artists, all with different stories, advocates for one unified nation with one law: no negativity.
Despite some song-ending, sublayer synths sounding like audio squashed through a cheese grater, leaving strings of wispy nuisance in its wake, this track is pretty perfect. Weird, wacky (in a good sense), worldly and pretty perfect. Nearly a dozen distinct voices take turns trading a few seconds of solo spotlight for a magical mesh of each, a chorus of musical happiness so over the top it’s a wonder we’re not laughing at it. But we’re living in the future now, and this is seriously blissful.
Chance disappeared for a minute after the panned liberation of “I Am Very, Very Lonely” (a large number of fans drowned out the backlash—including Potholes—but best believe doubts of Chance’s unprecedented direction ran rampant), only to surface with yet another effort that bows to no categorical boundaries. Yet as sonically pleasing as this song is, all the glitter—the thoughtful piano, a sonorous drum set and quiet clash crescendos—is glib compared to the central points here: (1) Follow your dreams, and (2) embrace a smile every now and then while doing so.
I have vivid memories of Arthur, mostly because I was very frightened by Teletubbies and some other kids’ shows as an inexplicably disturbed ’90s baby. To this day, I can remember the former’s catchy theme song bordering jingle territory, at the time teaching our decreasingly blank minds about keeping an open head and heart. Positivity will find its way in. And even though positivity is not a limitless resource (you’re kidding yourself, and anybody listening to you, if that’s all you preach 24/7), it would do us all some good if we stopped giving it the cold shoulder so often. Chance recognizes that “it could be wonderful”—whether “it” means a relationship, his violence-stricken hometown or the world at large is irrelevant. Whether or not you recognize the simple truth and internalize it matters a bit more. A lot more, actually.
Leave it to a rapper—a mass communicator and musical phenom who would have hardly seen a grain of respect 30 years ago—to make a theme song from a seemingly archaic pillar of childhood TV more relevant to today’s youthful generation(s) than yesteryear’s. Many of us have lost hope in the established systems, often to the point where it’s easiest to disregard them entirely. Hell, even presidential elections aren’t as all-encompassing as they were ten years ago. We have the option to turn away from mainstream media force feeding to enter our own worlds, be it with friends online or in a physical sense; we also have the power to start carving out our own slices of heaven, our own solutions, our own happiness, with the same distracting tools. Chance The Rapper’s successful stint as a keeper of the peace several weeks ago in Chicago should not be taken lightly—nor should the role his social media played.
“Everyday when you’re walking down the street/and everybody that you meet/has an original point of view.”
Truth is, kids five years from now are going to look to Chancelor Bennett as the zero-fucks-given God that Kanye West is to countless creators of the past decade—and not in the teleprompter-abandoning, pop star-trashing sense of the phrase. Hardly beyond his teenage years, a young man from that same Windy City has the chance to make culture-defining music without the gossip and clutter. If that means we have to take tales of an instrumentally eclectic utopia in place of a dark fantasy, so be it. Truth is, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Long live the prince.