“If it’s a miracle, to be alive and well, if we fell, we feel we’d be okay.”
Those are the opening uplifting words from the new album Surf from Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment, which is receiving great critical and popular acclaim in large part due to Chance The Rapper’s strong presence on the album.
That first line encapsulates the whole theme of the record: positivity, self-worth and discovering your potential. Chance has swooped in to remind us of the good in humanity at a time when I and many others feel the crushing hopelessness that accompanies today’s headlines. It’s an album I need in my life right now because this world is just depressing and lately it feels like nothing is going to change.
This year we’ve been blessed with a number of great albums that reflect the political, social and racial strife that seems to plague this country: Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly, Van Hunt’s The Fun Rises, The Fun Sets and D’Angelo’s Black Messiah (yes, I know that came out last year). It’s a blessing because music is an avenue through which we process complicated issues and a tool to cope with great tragedy.
The only thing that brings me hope for the political future is this Surf album. When the Ferguson ruling was handed down I turned to Run The Jewels to vent my anger, and when Tamir Rice was shot down in Cleveland I found shelter in the mixed messages of self-empowerment and anger that came from Kendrick Lamar and D’Angelo. But nothing is quite as empowering as Surf.
That’s not to diminish those other albums; they too are great in their own way and may be better in certain ways. Surf just makes me feel that anything is possible again. Musically it’s experimental and new especially in terms of the way Chance flows through verse after verse or the way Donnie Trumpet creates the sonic qualities that match the lyrics’ themes.
“Sunday Candy” reminds us of how grandparents shape our lives. “Miracle” is all about appreciating the miracle of life, to remember that we’re alive and breathing. “Just Wait” urges all of us to be good people and good things will come back to you in time.
My favorite song of the album has to be “Warm Enough.” The song is most likely more about the dichotomy of love and how couples can be cold one minute and warm and loving the next. However, I choose to look at this one more as a conversation within ones' self. The hook says it all for me: “Who are you to tell me I’m not warm enough for summertime? I know that I can decide myself/ but you don’t know me like the sun, you’ve never seen my horizon.” Maybe we haven’t reached the potential for warmth in ourselves or others like we know the horizon may hold.
Surf won’t alive all your woes. “Miracle” may be an uplifting song but on the refrain Chance sings “Snow is melting, water’s pouring/ signal’s turning, it’s a miracle/ Homies breathing … .” But we know the water isn’t pouring for everyone. We know not everyone is breathing. Still, it’s good to stop and count the blessings in our lives and Surf allows us to do that.