One of the most anticipated releases of 2015, Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment, with Chance the Rapper, dropped Surf earlier last week, for free on iTunes. And as I continue to list him as a featured artist above the rest, it’s still surprising how much we didn’t listen to him when he told us that he was only as member of The Social Experiment on this release, and that we shouldn’t listen to Surf as a follow up to Acid Rap because that’s not what this project is. We didn’t listen to him though, and as I listened to Surf for the first time, I found myself disappointed by the end because I should have known; this is a Social Experiment album, even with Chance the Rapper residing and sometimes even leading 9 of the 16 tracks on Surf.
But once Surf is listened to as a Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment album, and not an Acid Rap follow-up, the disappointment fled and I could really see the record for what it was. The Social Experiment is a jam band. With Chance fading back into the group’s ranks, and the lack of featuring’s listed on the original tracklist, Surf isn’t about spotlighting artists or trying to follow-up Acid Rap. The ideas and lyrics residing on Surf encompass a comfortable environment and the kind of joy that comes with getting together with all your friends and loved ones and just enjoying life.
The first big artists get together, “Slip Slide,” boasts artists like Busta Rhymes, B.o.B., BJ the Chicago Kid, and even Janelle Monae, and really encompasses the feel good jam band that is The Social Experiment. On the other side is the inner comfort finding Social Experiment, which switches right after “Slip Slide,” into “Warm Enough,” with music styling’s sounding like if Andrew Bird got into Hip-Hop (not a bad idea…). And with solo interludes like “Nothing Came To Me,” “Just Wait,” and “Something Came To Me,” the varied talent of The Social Experiment seem to know when to show off their individual members. Or even artists that aren’t members, such as big names like Erykah Badu, J. Cole, Busta Rhymes, and Big Sean, whose verse on “Wanna Be Cool,” is probably one of my favorite verses from the young G.O.O.D. Music signee since his verse on “See Me Now,” the bonus track off Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
Surf does have its downs though. It can be a bit corny, like on “Wanna Be Cool,” and not everyone’s verses or contributions are the best, such as “Go,” “Pass the Vibes,” KYLE on “Wanna Be Cool”, or Quavo of Migos on “Familiar,” but the idea of everyone just coming together as “The Social Experiment” to, as the name suggests, experiment with music, kind of makes it all okay. Surf isn’t the kind of album to be socially aware, or mind-blowingly inventive, past providing the soundtrack to a great summer. Surf is a feel-good, comforting record, and an extremely enjoyable listen from beginning to end.