Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment – Surf – The STiXXclusive Review

It’s really funny how much of a fan I became of Chance the Rapper even when I first heard 10 Day. I didn’t care for it at all, and through whatever reason, I felt like I should have listened to Acid Rap to gauge a 2nd opinion. Now that was a great idea, because that’s what made me a fan. Beyond his unorthodox flow, it’s the musicality that he brings to the table in a sense that he’s an orchestrator and his ad-libs are on that Kirk Franklin hype that just works for his sound. Young Chicago artists have uniqueness about them that has been taking over as of recent (outside from the already established Kanye West, Lupe & Common). It’s something that I appreciate from an overall music aspect, not just Hip Hop, because when it comes to Chance and Vic Mensa (just as examples), at times it’s hard to just place them in one category because they have broadened music range that they can step in and out of. Now this album is another example of that musicality as it introduces to the world, Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment. This is not a solo album by Chance the Rapper, although Chance is the notable name that everyone knows. The quartet of talent is composed of the aforementioned Chance & Donnie, Peter Cottontale, and Nate Fox. To best describe their sound is a Hip Hop-Jazz fusion that breathes from the old school and speaks to the new. Their initial EP The Social Experiment was the introduction to the masses, but it’s this album that takes it to another level. First of all, it’s the first free (F-R-E-E) album on iTunes ever, so that in itself is a game-changer. Also, there weren’t any features listed, although it was known that there would be. The beauty was that you didn’t know where they happened, so that element of surprised made it intriguing to listen to.


Miracle sets it off in moody, yet dramatic fashion as the build up of instruments and synths before Chance the Rapper starts his verse that to many would seem like a spoken-word rant, but that’s the unorthodox style that I had mentioned earlier. Hailing from Chicago, where there’s some rough territory and a history of known widespread violence, it’s sad that it is recognized that it’s a miracle to be a live, which is the emphasis driven in the opening track. It feels spiritual to some degree because it’s taking the little things to appreciate in life that many don’t.

“Homies breathing
Families eating
Mama singing, is a miracle”

To be able to be young, and especially Black during these times, you can tell through the music (from certain artists) that there’s a sense of uplifting and empowerment to keep the positivity high at times of crisis where it’s as though the whole world is at your back. That’s why when you have albums like D’Angelo & The Vanguard’s Black Messiah and Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, which are very black music & content focused, it’s being instilled that not only Black lives, but Black culture matters. Jazz is an entity of Black culture, and thus here we have a group from Chicago (one of the most musically influential cities) putting that on display. It’s a miracle.

Slip Slide brings us our first feature that comes from the unlikely Busta Rhymes. I was confused at first, because of all people, I didn’t expect to hear Busta Rhymes because he’s had a seemingly abysmal ‘slide’ in his career that involved some stints with Google Music & Cash Money (although The Abstract & The Dragon EP with Q-Tip wasn’t half bad). It was good to hear him doing what he’s been known to do with his double time rap over a different sound of music that connected him to the kids a little bit. But it didn’t stop there because right on the next verse, B.O.B shows up, and to this point all bets were off as in trying to determine who else would show up. It’s the equivalent of watching Summerjam or OVO to see who the special guests are that are brought out. The first listen of this album for me was full of “what the hell’s” all throughout. When you’re an established person, not just an artist, and you’ve had that taste (or full on gulp) of success, you don’t want to lose that. Ways to keep yourself motivated are having confidence in oneself to get ahead (as was attributed to Busta’s verse), and also recognizing the humble beginnings that push you into wanting bigger and better things for your life, as B.O.B reflected in his.

“Used to drive a hoopdie that broke down on me usually
Nas was lookin’ at me, pockets was lookin’ through me
Never planned on college I dropped out as a student
My GPA started with a decimal like Dewy”

It’s encouraging music that people will have a split opinion on because it’s on the happier side of the music spectrum as opposed to the turn up & boisterous lyrics that come with that. Think of the children.

Already on the third song, Warm Enough is one of my favourites because of the chill vibe that Noname Gypsy (featured on Lost from Acid Rap) brought right off the jump. Female rappers have been making a splash this year in the talent pool that hasn’t been seen since the early 2000s when there was some variety. Now you have the likes of Noname, Tink (also from Chicago), Rapsody (although she’s been out for a while), and Dej Loaf knocking on the door to bring lyricism back into the mainstream light to represent the female MC’s that I grew up listening to. That’s where my appreciation stands. There are so many different levels of love that were put on notice in this song from Noname, Chance, and (another surprise) J.Cole, as that was the theme throughout, and it was layered well to push the message forward.

“Our city is bleeding for crimson
I don’t protest
I just dance in my shadows
Hallow be thy empty
When my name don’t sing, shallow waters
Under bridges don’t forget ’bout me
Who are you to love me and not call me by my name?” –

“Who are you to tell me I can’t love you
Like the way mothers love daughters?
The way Mary was closest to Joseph
And babies is close to The Father
You don’t know me and love got a secret hand shake
And mad inside jokes
I could tell it’s knock knock when my heart beatbox” –

“You like the flower that I won’t let die
Right before your petals start to wilt
I choose to give you one last try
Fill your vase up with water, refusin’ to neglect you
Like your father, so I promise that it won’t run dry
Good intentions cause I wanna see us both fly
But I often put me first and I been wonderin’ why
I know you probably think you’re blessed to have a wonderful guy
And that’s the truth but at the same time a wonderful lie”  –
J. Cole

I’m not in the slightest an expert in the love department, but what I liked about these particular lines from each artist was that there were different degrees of honesty that poured out. You had Noname go from the love of her city while it’s in pain to expressing that frustration. Chance also expressed just how much love he had with vivid comparisons (the knock knock joke line was a goody), and J.Cole who’s no stranger to being self-expressive in that self-evaluating department, as he does so here. It’s probably one of his best guest verses I’ve heard since Pray on The Game’s Jesus Piece album. He’s not picture perfect, but the picture’s worth it, as he so poignantly said once. It’s recognizing our flaws that in a therapeutic way help us grow as individuals for the people we care about. And give that he’s about to be married, I’m sure that there’s a lot of experience under his belt that makes verses like these so effortless.

What’s a constant on this album is a good dosage of instrumental vibes to carry out the feel, as it’s reiterated that it’s not a project that revolves around Chance, but more so the rest of the band being put in the spotlight, and I think that’s the best thing about it. Nothing Came To Me features a nice solo piece by Donnie for a few minutes as it felt like it was going to build into something because of the hums in the background that suggested it, but that wasn’t the case. It was a little misleading at first, but it was alright in the grand scheme of things. It was a change of pace which would feature to be common throughout.

Feature Alert: Big Sean has been having a good year for himself thus far with the release of his third (and best) album, Dark Sky Paradise. He joins Chance & R&B artist Jeremih on Wanna Be Cool, which is definitely on the more happy-go-lucky side of life, but like J. Cole, Big Sean also is a staple for talking about the come up and struggling his way to get to the top. The message of being yourself, that’s heard in the hook, is the key here, and it’s a good message to get out there when the world seems to be telling everyone that you that you have to be like so and so to get what you want; to fit in with the rest of the world. No thanks.

“Looking for the inspiration that’s already in me
All the confidence I was trying to buy myself
If you don’t like me, fuck it, I’ll be by myself
Spend all this time for you to say I’m fine
I really should have spent it trying to find myself”

It’s crazy that a lot of people don’t really find the necessary value of positive lyrics in a rap song. They either dismiss it as too ‘pop’ or just call it noise. Everything serves its purpose, and I know a lot of people will find good use of these words, specifically Sean’s verse, that will be beneficial to them. It was actually the next lines from Kyle (whom I’ve never heard of before) that struck me and I wish (I wish, I wish I wish) people could realize in their heart of hearts how much common sense is embedded here.

“You’ll be aware, it’s easy, and it’s so important
Being cool shouldn’t cost a fortune
Baby got her jeans from Goodwill
But I bet that ass look good still
Okay let’s remember that shopping at Payless
It just means that you pay less, it don’t make you bae-less
If you don’t get re-tweets, it don’t mean you say less”

We, as human beings, make too much of a habit trying to impress other human beings by so many different outlets, and Social Media has been evidence of that. The whole ‘If I didn’t see, I don’t believe it’ era that we’re living in, is one that can be of great annoyance because you’re judged on what you have, what you don’t have, and other people praise their luxuries although there could be more behind closed doors that would suggest that they’re not doing as well as we, the people, are led on to believe. People like to put on fronts, drape everything up in a nice mask to ‘stunt’, and really the jig has been in plain view for quite some time. A valuable lesson I learned in 2010 was that rich people stayed rich because they don’t live beyond their means. So in Kyle’s lines, he mentions Goodwill & Payless Shoes. In elementary school, and maybe the early years of high school (for me, that’s 10 years ago), that’s fine because the hypebeast culture wasn’t that high and I could walk into an Athlete’s World to buy a pair of Jordan’s’ with no issue. Maybe it was the emergence of Macklemore’s Thrift Shop, or maybe the hipster culture that made retro fashion the in thing, but I know for a fact shopping at Goodwill & Payless would have people looking down on you as if you were broke or you have no sense of fashion. No, maybe because that’s not their priority. If your priority is to look top of the line, but struggle to keep your bills paid, is it worth it that much to appear ‘cool?’

Windows changes the pace up again, but it’s like a therapeutic chant that engulfs the song in which Chance encourages the listeners to not pay attention to what he says and always stick to your own script and stay in your own lane. The repetition of “Careful” would warn the listener that if you are to listen to what he has to say, just be sure that you know – he did warn you. Just like Jay Z once said, “Like I told you to sell drugs – No. Hov did that, so hopefully you wouldn’t have to go through that.” The positivity is flowing, and I like it. You should too. If not, cheer up, bud. For some reason, and maybe it’s not just me, but sometimes Chance’s voice reminds me of a young Wyclef Jean. I heard it a lot in this song alone, but maybe that’s just me.

In my top my favourite songs on this album, Caretaker is definitely in the top 3, because this is just smooth as a slow motion video of syrup being poured on a stack of pancakes (now, I’m hungry). R&B (male R&B specifically), there’s this notion that you’re not allowed to have any emotional attachment to those you’re in love with. More times than not, it’s the bitterness and passive aggressive nature that ends up in a way bashing women in this “IDGAF” culture that promotes an overload of testosterone in a genre which featured a heavy dosage of sensitivity. I mean, you’re allowed to be upset, but how it’s been translated has been lackluster and melodramatic for the most part. This song takes a different spin on it, as D.R.A.M takes the approach of being the side guy wanting to take care of a woman he used to be with although he’s getting his needs serviced by groupies (what a life). Typically, that’s mocked, but you can’t question the power of love and what people do when it gets that deep. And you know there are men and women would be certainly in a heartbeat do something for someone they were once in love with, regardless of one’s circumstances. That’s what makes this such a great song; the simplicity of the lyrics with the smoothness of that old-school R&B feel. It helps that the beat samples a Jaheim song. I won’t lie, I wish this song of all songs, was long. A minute and 35 seconds? Teasers.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled hype. Can’t Wait starts off with a thunderous, and very 80’s Prince sounding instrumental that gave the band some much deserved shine before it slowed down and Chance got into his groove. The repetitive chants have had me on hold when I’ve heard them, because it’s really just the little things that I appreciate when artists take time to do some new things with their music. If I’m the only person to have thought that the “Good things come, then they go” chant didn’t sound like Bone Thugs N Harmony, then we have a problem, because I really thought they got Bizzy, Krayzie, Layzie, Wish, and Flesh-N to do some work. Either way, it’s some good stuff that got my nostalgia going for a brief moment or two.

If this album wasn’t random enough, Familiar proved to be one of the most random because never mind the cheerful soundtrack underneath, it’s one that brings the most ignorance, which makes it hilarious. One time for the women out there who are bad chicks, aspire to be bad chicks, but end up looking like every bad chick that they’re trying to emulate because every other girl these days is trying to look like the other. Enough already, for the love of Ja Rule (shout out my Aunt for that one). You look around and you end up seeing carbon copies everywhere, so there is a familiarity and it’s just a regular thing. There aren’t any standouts when all you want to do is look like a Bad Bitch (Lupe knows). King Louie’s verse was funny in pointing that out, but I think the person who stole the show on this track was Migos member, Quavo (who people often debate him & Offset as being the best of the trio). I think it’s the fact that because of Louie & Quavo’s rap backgrounds, to hear them on a song like this, it just makes no sense in the world, but the song is still dope for that absolute purpose. The element of surprise kept going, and it won’t stop.

One thing that I’ll really salute Chance, and Chicago artists period, is that they support each other in their music and are featured in their respective works. Saba has been a name I’ve been familiar with for quite some time and I even saw him perform in Toronto (hype), so for him to have his moment on SmthnthtIwnt (Something That I Want), it was a good moment, but it wasn’t the first time he’d been featured on a Chance project. He was also on Everybody’s Something on Acid Rap (which he bodied, might I add).

“I just totally want utopia to surround my conscious
So I can give a fuck about the fabrics that I found in my closet
What’s so bounded by sound is that her word never left me
While the departed all counting sheep, I am busy counting my blessing
Unc been on house arrest since his release
Just found him dead in his sleep, dead”

Music is more than just music, but it’s about the tales of the personal experience that separate it from entertainment and art. Entertainment is an art form, let’s not get it twisted, but I value the powerful expressions of one’s vulnerability. I’m weird, whatever, but Saba’s piece, albeit short, was meaningful and to the point where it held a lasting impression. Repeat worthy. The flow on the hook reminded me of Aaliyah’s We Need A Resolution. I don’t know how I thought of that, but it’s the first thing that came to my head.

If you didn’t know, Chicago is the originator of House Music, and you can feel that element in Go, and you can throw in some stepping while you’re at it, because it’s funky. Funk seems to be the consistent vibe through some albums these days, and I’m very much here for it. Mike Golden & Joey Purrp contribute verses here, and when Joey started his verse, I could have sworn that it was Kanye for the first line (like, College Dropout Kanye) and it tripped me out, but he put in a dope verse. More Chicago talent straight out of the waters of Lake Michigan, it’s unreal I tell you.

“I could show you something different baby girl
Sometimes the bullshit glisten baby girl
Standing in the club with your eyebrows furrowed
Second hand watch on so you know your time’s borrowed
I don’t really mean to look at you the wrong way
But did the cover free shots get you home, bae?
When you woke up were you still in the wrong place?
Guess the little money that he spent on drinks done went a long way”

Joey similarly picked up where Familiar left off with his verse, but tries within his best intentions to get the subject girl to change her ways, but that doesn’t stop him from doing what needs to be done, and it makes her conscious feel heavy in the end. The plot twist was something else, I tell you. I like how the first and second verses clashed with each other to bring this out: Boy number 1 says he’s gotta go, girl tells boy no to go, boy leaves, girl says “shouldn’t have done that,” girl finds another boy, goes home with said boy, and after doing the do, goes home to original boy. Soap operas, I tell you. I liked this song because of the vibe at first and really didn’t get into the lyrics, but it’s truly good how it was all stitched out.

Jamila Woods has Questions that I don’t think many can answer, and they’re good questions at that.

“Rain so hot in the neighbourhood
My love don’t call when she said she would
Friends who come don’t stay for good
Pigs want take black mama’s kids
Bible say we all from the same rib
But some of us go to heaven too soon
Why some of us get to heaven too soon”

One question I have is, why isn’t it raining in California? That’s odd to me. But her questions are better because for a lot of young people, we do ask a lot of questions. Have been since we started talking, but now it’s really about getting down to the critical thinking. Whether it’s about love, the society around you, or religion, we all have questions as to why things happen, why things aren’t happening, and why we’re supposed to believe in what happened, and what might or might not happen. The world is puzzling, and where there are answers that are simply speculations, all we can continue to do is ask – Why?

More instrumentals, why? Because, yes. That’s why. Something Came To Me is my favourite instrumental portion of the album, and Donnie rocked it on the Trumpet in a very jazzy way. Now, not in a Count Basie or Miles Davis kind of way, but it was an enjoyable listen. I enjoyed the bounce that was provided, which made it more than just simply a toe tapper. You can groove to it and there’s nothing better than that. It’s such a mellow album that I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t find a reason to lay back and chill with it.

Rememory sees the return of Chance as he double times his way through his verse in which he puts himself in the shoes of a man who’s endured heartbreak by his wife, divorces her, takes money and the kids and in turn is remembering it all back at a rapid pace as if life is flashing before his eyes, or simply because life comes at you fast. The theme of love has been constant throughout, whether it was self love or love of others. The ups and downs that people experience were put on display time and time again, so I commend that it was consistent in approach, which may not always be a happy ending. What was the comforting ending in this song was the emergence of Erykah Badu to send off the track. Again, having no features listed, really enhanced the listening experience, especially the first time around because it really was like “where did this come from?” I wish her part had been longer, and I really rate (respect) Badu for working with the younger artists, because she really is a timeless voice that can be in business for the long haul (her feature on Tyler, The Creator’s Treehome95 came to mind).

The penultimate song of the album, Sunday Candy, was probably the first everyone heard before the album dropped, and it’s hard to argue that it’s one of the best on here. I honestly think that it could be put into the Gospel genre (never mind that ‘Sunday’ is in the title), but just the overall sound that it gives off. The church organ in the background, the choir, and the claps. I mean, it sounds like a gospel song anyways. Church is the foundation of which I was brought up for my childhood, for the most part. And like Chance honours his Grandmother in that fashion, I too have my Grandmother that instilled that Church be a part of my life until I eventually grew up and stopped going regularly, but that element of religion still holds true, which will never leave. As the song builds up towards a dramatic finish, I thought that it would have been the perfect ending to the album. That isn’t the case, but it’s not like it’s a bad thing either. Chance turned into a Black pastor towards the end with the choir kicking it up a notch. I can’t help that the Holy Spirit caught a shiver when it did. A beautiful song, hands down. PRAISE!

The mellow mannered album that this was, and full of positive vibes, Pass the Vibes is the perfect send off for this album. Short and sweet, the world can use some more positive vibes, and the fact that The Social Experiment brought the vibes to pass around and encourage others to do so, it makes you feel good, which is appreciative. There’s too much hateration & holleration in this dancery, okay? Just bring the vibes to me and the vibes shall be dispersed. I’m glad that throughout my usual music listening experience, I had a change up into something that’s more accommodating to promoting a positive atmosphere that can not only reciprocate to myself, but unto many others. That’s what music’s supposed to do, that’s what it’s always done, and that’s what it’ll continue to be. Hit the vibes one time.

Donnie Trumpet and The Social Experiment strived to make a name for themselves in a way where people wouldn’t see this as a Chance the Rapper album, and the fact that Chance is simply one of the band (who just happens to be the most famous), lets you know that he’s not big in his ego to let his brethren shine, and shine they did. Surf was one of the most anticipated albums this year, because Chance the Rapper is one of the budding young stars in Hip Hop, and that’s the reason why it’s great that he used that buzz to pass the attention towards his band, while using his resources to pull a hell of a lot of people to be featured on this album. What other album do you know would have Quavo, J.Cole, Big Sean, Erykah Badu, and up and coming Chicago artists on it? For free?! Not many (if at all), and it’s not like this is a compilation album, the focus was always on the band, and other acts simply played their parts and didn’t get in the way to take the concentration away from that. That’s what I appreciate the most. It wasn’t crowded, and it wasn’t saturated. The sounds weren’t heavy, but they didn’t walk on clouds either. It was a perfect musical blend that stretched across genres, and what I take away is that there are levels to musical inspiration and creation. You don’t have to do the same thing to fall in with others in order to stand out. That was the base of which Chance the Rapper stood, and he hasn’t deviated from that. It’s why this album is a great addition to the rest of the music that’s been contributed this year. It’s free (free), so go listen to it and appreciate the work that’s been put in. But for now, this is my opinion, this is my review,

That’s My Word & It STiXX

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