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Chance the Rapper Reconciles Heaven and Hell on “Angels”

New MusicJulian AxelrodComment

Chance the Rapper might have the least fitting moniker in hip hop. It’s not that Chicago’s Chancelor Bennett isn’t a rapper; as his new single attests, he can rap his ass off, packing complicated rhyme schemes with references and wordplay in a voice both urgent and effortless. But Chance the Rapper does so much more than his name implies, and “Angels” manages to pack it all into one song.

Chance premiered the single in an incredible The Late Show with Stephen Colbert performance that might be the best late night showing since Future Islands took Letterman by storm in 2014. It’s yet another accomplishment for Chance in a year that’s already seen him tour the country, release an album with his band Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment, and become a father. “Angels” finds Chance assessing his responsibilities in the aftermath of his success, touching on his roles as an independent rapper (“Only ever sold merch”), a father (“Clean up the streets so my daughter can have somewhere to play”), and a community figurehead. In fact, his hometown’s DNA is a crucial element of the song’s alchemy, from Chicago rapper Saba’s regional slang on the hook to Chance’s heartbreaking cry, “There’s too many young angels on the South side.”

“Angels” is the rare song that mixes joy and devastation, pride and disappointment, Steve Jobs and Chief Keef, boiling it all down into an infectious footwork banger. And Chance the Rapper is the rare artist who can pull it off.