Review: Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment’s “Surf"

I’m not going to lie, this review took me a while. That was only because it was hard to know what exactly to feel, but I’ll get back into it later. Anyways here it goes.

Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment is a musical collective comprised of five members including trumpeter and front man Nico Segal (known as, you guessed it, Donnie Trumpet), Rapper Chancelor Bennett aka Chance the Rapper, co-producer/engineer Nate Fox, co-producer/keyboardist Peter Wilkins, and drummer Greg Landfair Jr. Often, this group of five guys considers a whole mix of people part of their name. I’m sure that most of you have heard of the Chi-town rapper Chance the Rapper, and if you haven’t, I highly recommend you do listen to his older material. While many people are under the misconception of this album being Chance’s, it really isn’t. This project is really the brain child of Donnie trumpet and the Social experiment, which Chance happens to be a part of. So no, this isn’t necessarily his long awaited follow-up to the infamous “Acid Rap” album, but it’s seriously the next best thing.

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“Surf” is the first studio album by the band that was meant as a breakout project for the group to show people their sound, in comparison to their recent singles like No better Blues and Wonderful Everyday.  Each member, in my opinion, bring their different style to the table as well as their common Chicago influence, which comes as something very apparent with the jazz element of this entire project. When listening through the album, I felt as if it doesn’t tell a full and complete story, but it rather tells many disconnected stories that fuse together loosely through trumpet sounds, a flurry of synth and beats, and a multitude of vocals. There are some sounds on this album that may be a little different from what people were expecting. When Donnie Trumpet, the front man of the band was asked by Fader Magazine about collaborating with Chance, he told them that the rapper was very open to trying new things and making changes.  Keeping that in mind, let’s break down Donnie trumpet and the Social Experiment’s long awaited “Surf”.

Miracle

This first track comes through feeling somewhat mellow, however, the lyrics have a different intention that conflicts with this relaxed feeling. The message overlying both Chance’s lyrics and the bands lyrics is that while everything happens around us, and people die every day, money shouldn’t matter to us. We should all really be happy enough to be alive and well, and that everything in our day is truly a miracle.

Slip Slide

Going along with the nice vibe theme, Slip slide is a song about staying positive. Personally, I thought Donnie’s exuberant trumpet really started popping out in comparison to Miracle. Really, I started jamming hard within the first 20 seconds of it all. Also, it was nice to see busta rhymes on this feature, and out of his element of hard, tough guy rap. B.o.b feature wasn’t really anything really surprising, but he still manages to put in a good verse.

Warm enough

Noname Gypsy, who has been featured on a couple tracks of Chance the Rapper’s before, is put on the hook and puts in a decent verse. Chances verse was also pretty good, but nothing was really too notable. What I thought was the best part of this song was J Cole’s feature. On Surf, a lot of artists were featured because the project, for the most part, seemed to be about collaborating and creating together. Jcole’s verse on this song seems to be one of the pinnacles of this entire collaboration. While JCole’s verse doesn’t necessarily surprise me, it still leaves the song at a close and wraps up everything so well.

Nothing came to me

Nothing came to me is essentially a three to four minute trumpet solo, and Donnie really goes in. He really had his moment on this track to spread his wings and show us his individual style.

Wanna Be Cool

The beginning of the song opens with an acapella track that’s set the wheels of this song in motion. That voice fades and soon as it does and the hook starts, Chance and Jeremih hook it up with all of the good feels. Another surprise on this album was Big Sean being out of his common style and on the first verse of this song. Really, my favorite verse on this track was underground rapper Kyle’s verse. He came in going pretty hard and had a couple of good lines, like “Okay, lets remember that shopping at Payless/ it just means that you pay less , it don't make you bae-less/ if you don't get retweets that don't mean you say less, okay?”. Preach.

Windows

The beginning of “Windows” starts with a sound similar to a howling wind or the ocean breeze with chimes echoing in the background. From then it suddenly cuts to Chance, most likely rapping from the inside of a house, telling someone important, like a lover or his fans or family, to step into his life (the house).  For the entirety of the song, chance, and all of the features on this song ( BJ the Chicago kid, Raury, and a handful of other artists, including Kanye) echo “ Careful” and to not look up to them or trust them, because they are only human, and make mistakes just like you and I.

Caretaker

This song featuring Hampton, Va artist D.R.A.M doesn’t have much of a message, but it does really sound good. (Hey Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah nah)

Just Wait

The song starts with this wild trumpet sequence from Donnie. A minute and thirty seconds into the song, things start to slow down and chance starts to rap-sing about a girl and being high. Throughout the rest of the song, Chance repeats things like” What a delicate heart, what a hard head” and  “Good things come to those who wait”. Allusion? Your call entirely.

Familiar

Now here we go, a topic literally EVERYONE can talk about. Basic. Bitches. They’re everywhere, they’re basic, cut out, copied and pasted, fake af. Whatever you want to call it, if you hate things being basic ( or bitches too) then this song might as well be your jam. Really, this whole song isn’t about that in general, but rather the entire concept of popular culture and trends. How basic can someone really be before they aren’t themselves? Before they become another assembly line production? Another copy of someone else or multiple people? Let’s admit it, being complacent or trying to be the same as another group of people isn’t going to really make YOU happy, so be yourself. Besides, being cool is lame.

Smthnthtlwnt

Saba, A Chicago rapper who has worked with Chance on  ”Everybody’s something” from Acid Rap, takes the reins on this song. In this song, Saba talks about a utopian society where he doesn’t have to worry about the problems in his life, most specifically his battle every day to stay alive in Chicago. He also goes on to talk about an uncle who died in his sleep while on post-jail sentence house arrest, and the struggle between his faith, and the music he makes. Deep stuff.

Go

Kind of a watered down break up song, but none the less still manages to keep a certain funk. Go features a slew of Chicago artists who piece together the stories of two break ups. One part of the song seems to show a man leaving a girl who is begging him to not leave, and the other part of the song seems to talk about a woman cheating on a man and the man’s last few words to her after they break up. Personally I found this song a little odd, with its combining styles, but it still makes for an alright component of the album.

Questions

Being on the minimalistic side of this album in terms of lyrics, this song features artists Jamila Woods, who sings about questions she’s had for quite a while. With the one question echoing in the background “Why?”

Something Came To Me

As an echoed response to Nothing Came to Me, Something Came to Me comes back into the album, almost concluding the thoughts of the album, in the same manner that the first part came into the album with.

Rememory

In this song, a little sadder than most songs, Chance talks about the dangers of a divorced family, where the kids are left with no say in what happens with their own parents. With this song, just like Go, there are two perspectives ringing between two artists, while Chance seems to talk about the struggles of the children and the tragedy of the event, Erykah Badu sings about how things could be worse and that they have all survived through this tragedy

Sunday Candy

This song is pretty much the debut of this entire album. If I’m not mistaken Sunday Candy was released a month ago, relatively around the time that Chance the Rapper announced the Surf album. People have been talking about both the music video and the song, and who’s to blame them? It’s very catchy and good-vibed, I wouldn’t even be surprised to start hearing it more often, even though it released around the end of last year, when this album was supposed to drop.

Pass the Vibes

Pass The Vibes, as opposed to Sunday Candy, was possibly the best way to wrap up the album. To end the album on such a good note to remind us that passing on the love not only lets other people know how you feel, but those very people can radiate the same love back if we give them a chance and really grow on them

picture taken at the music video set for Sunday Candy

picture taken at the music video set for Sunday Candy

Well, over all this album had a very different feeling to it. No single feeling was solidified while listening to most songs. This project was rather a collection of feelings, intertwined and captured within each other to evoke feelings in an odd way, but just because these things and feelings are odd, that doesn’t mean that they’re bad. This sort of scenario is, I feel, involved in the entirety of the people involved as well. Undoubtedly, these people and collections of artists may be odd or obscure, and their style may be odd as well, but that doesn’t mean the music will be bad, either. THAT’s why it was a little challenging for me to write this article. I felt as if I had to submerse myself in feelings presented by all of these people in order to really try and feel what they felt. To those who have been open minded to this material, bravo, because I am positive you’re feeling the vibe just as much as I am.

While this album had a different, and wonderful sound to it, it wasn’t necessarily the best sound we have ever heard. So far, Donnie Trumpet and the Social experiment has proven themselves, and this freshman album had a pretty delicious sound to it once it’s grown on you. It’s just that this album WASN’T meant to be a hit, it WASN’T meant to be perfect, and that is perfectly okay. If an album was meant to express feelings and does a good job at carrying it through via the music, especially on their debut album, that is perfect enough for me, and hopefully everyone else. Hopefully, we will be able to see more from this collective

6/10

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