He hasn't always been popular, but like nearly every artist who's famous for a reason, he's nearly always been great.
Our new column delves into musicians' HTML attics, searching to see what remains of their earliest forays online. Sometimes, there's astonishing early material that has only been heard by a handful of people. Sometimes, it's just them being a dick in the comments section of Gawker. Whatever happens, though, The Internet is Written in Ink.
A little over a month ago, Chance the Rapper put out Acid Rap, his second mix tape, which has since been downloaded over 135,000 times on free-hosting megalith site Dat Piff. It wasn’t just snap-backed teens with Instagram accounts and a basic knowledge of hip hop who sat up and took note, though, as the record earned him a Best New Music accolade on Pitchfork.
The first time I listened to the record, I loved it. “Good Ass Intro,” with its reworking of Kanye West’s Freshmen Adjustment 2 opener, felt like the overdue sibling to early millennia Chi-town rap, while “Cocoa Butter Kisses,” “Lost,” and “Chain Smoker” rotated through my head for weeks, all three so good that my brain almost forgot to stop passively rotating Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.”
But for someone who had appeared from almost nowhere into rap blog stardom, I was intrigued. How did Chance get so popular? He’s a nice guy, sure, and his mixtape is great, but how did he go from being a guy with a Twitter page to the guy whose mixtape was posted all over my Twitter page? I needed an answer, so I did some investigating.
I’d been told countlessly through school to never, ever use the world’s greatest free resource, Wikipedia, but since I’m about to graduate, I threw my middle fingers up to digital immigrant authority and parked my mouse firmly within Jimmy Wales’ walls. Here, I learned that Chance used to be in a group called Instrumentality, which is an interesting name, since the instrumental is the only good part of Childish Gambino’s rap on “They Don’t Like Me.”
A little bit of digging later and I ended up on Chance’s old blogspot page, instrumentalitysodope. The page, which was run by Chano (Chance) and J-emcee, features a bunch of videos and information that suggests that the group put out three full-lengths before Chance decided to up sticks and release his debut mixtape, 10 Day. Like a fresher fuelled by Maximuscle and unchartered social relationships, keen to distance himself from his lonesome Friday night past, Chance has deleted the majority of videos from his YouTube account.
It’s sad, because unlike all the creative work that I produced at school, Chance’s output is really good. Like this video for “Beddy Bye,” which was released in 2009.
I’m not trying to pontificate, but if I made music like that then, I’d probably no longer be scraping together pittance for a weekly shop at Aldi. Without hovering over the cringe-inducing name too much, “Beddy Bye” is the sort of piano-led track that sticks in my heart and lumps up my throat.
On a thirst for more unheard material, I trawled through the blogspot bakaara of private YouTube links looking for more music. Unfortunately, it seemed as though Chance had covered his tracks pretty well, which must have taken ages since there was at least thirty videos to get rid of. However, I did come across a mix. It was uploaded to Reverbnation, rather than Soundcloud, which gives an indication of how old it is.
Sure, half of the tracks from the mix are taken from 10 Day, but “Kick Back,” “September 7th,” “Home Again,” and “Something About Us” are all pre-Chance the Rapper material. On a similar vibe to Acid Rap, the tracks are all a refreshingly slanted take on the Chicago orientated hip hop that Kanye fore-fronted at the turn of the century.
My next stop was Instrumentality’s MySpace, which was essentially a graveyard for HTML. It was silent until one of those stupid automatic advertisements started playing and made me flip out at my laptop until I found where bastardized MP3 was playing.
Here, I found a couple more tracks, all of which have under 1000 plays—the majority sitting under 300 plays—which made me feel confident that I’d stepped across something previously unfound. Here’s the Kid Cudi-aping “Cruisin”:
And here’s “Somewhere Nowhere USA,” which is the best indication of Chance’s future success with Acid Rap that I could find. At the time of writing, the track has only had 203 plays, which is solace for all you bedroom producers out there who spend afternoons hustling on Twitter.
The last track on Instrumentality’s MySpace was “Swell Guy,” which you can also listen to below.
At this point, I decided that I could no longer search through the realm of the worldwide web. It felt creepy looking back through information that had been uploaded aeon's ago. Like looking through a diary, but on the Internet, with multimedia embedded throughout. Still, I'd answered my own question about Chance. He hasn't always been popular, but like nearly every artist who's famous for a reason, he's nearly always been great.
Follow Ryan on Twitter @RyanBassil
Read more on Chance: