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Best of 2016

Ultimate Chance the Rapper Playlist: 23 Songs to Celebrate His Breakout Year

For Fuse's 2016 Breakout Week, we're spending each day commemorating one undeniable act that jetted into the mainstream this year. Today, it's time to bump these essential cuts from the label-bucking 23-year-old who has yet to sell a song for profit

1 / 23

"Summer Friends" feat. Jeremih & Francis and the Lights

The sneakily named solo act Francis and the Lights became one of the year's greatest gifts, brought to our attention through this Coloring Book soother and a Bon Iver collaboration. The stuff this maestro does with Auto-Tune his own new piece of tech called the Prismizer, coupled with one of Chance's most personal and understated and verses, makes for pure, addictive chemistry. And they can duplicate it live. –Zach Dionne

2 / 23

“14,400 Minutes”

Chance's debut mixtape's title refers to the 10 days he was suspended from school for smoking marijuana in a parking lot, and the song is a slow, meditative introduction to his spastic style. The first song on 10 Day is one hulking, onomatopoeic verse, and it’s indispensable. –Jason Lipshutz

3 / 23

"Chain Smoker"

“This is my last...my last shit,” Chance mumbles at the beginning of what could easily be Acid Rap’s best song. The statement is a lie: “Chain Smoker” isn’t the final track, and the song was only the beginning for the MC, who has euphorically performed it in enough cities that the entire world seems a little more joyful because it exists. –Jason Lipshutz

4 / 23

Kanye West's "Ultralight Beam," also feat. The-Dream, Kelly Price & Kirk Franklin

"I made 'Sunday Candy,' I'm never going to Hell / I met Kanye West, I'm never going to fail." That's the type of thing you rap when you're the then-22-year-old prodigy Yeezy's using as the first rapping voice on his crazy-hyped album. Chance was initially under the impression that "Ultralight Beam" would be the record's finale. Instead, his verse kickstarts the hourlong affair. Good thing it touches on almost every facet of the kid's excellence: breathless Chance, cute lullaby Chance, rough-edged, "no voice in hip-hop sounds remotely like this" Chance. Clever Chance ("my daughter look just like Sia, you can't see her"). All the Chances are there, and the song's one of the best of 2016. –Zach Dionne

5 / 23

Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment's "Wanna Be Cool" feat. Big Sean, Jeremih & KYLE

The ultimate feel-good jam of Surf, the free album released by Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment, is “Wanna Be Cool” in all its delightful, brassy exuberance. Chance sings along with Jeremih on the chorus, refusing to be cool and promoting YOU being YOU. His friend Kyle has some of the best lines on the track: “If you’re cool in the middle of the woods, nobody fucking cares,” and “Baby got his jeans from Good Will, better bet that ass look good still.” –Emilee Lindner

6 / 23

"Family Matters"

This started as a live Kanye cover performed a week after Chance and his girlfriend welcomed their first child; it quickly got a stirring studio version. It's hard not to get misty when you hear the new father promising, to the tune of an already emotional early-career song by Mr. West:

"You are all that matters, family's all that matters 
This is just business, see you right after 
Nothing comes before ya, nothing else matters 
All of this is for ya, you are all that matters"

And if you're watching the home movie-style music video? Forget it; you're a puddle. –Zach Dionne

7 / 23

"No Problem" feat. Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz

Oh, the great things to be said about this song. It's got the label-evading Chance rapping alongside the label-battle Lil Wayne, with his ColleGrove partner 2 Chainz here for lines like "Aye aye, Cap'n / I'm high, Cap'n." The moment the trio brought it to Ellen with a whole label-terrorizing narrative was one of the year's great performance moments. –Zach Dionne

8 / 23

"Whats Next" with Lil B

2015's Lil B collabo project Free (Based Freestyles Mixtape) is definitely meant to be consumed in one go, but, in a pinch, "Whats Next" can still kill it as a standalone banger. –Zach Dionne

9 / 23

“Brain Cells”

Fittingly, “Brain Cells” sounds like Chance wandering around the various different corners of his mind over a mournful beat, as he shouts out former classmates, Lil B (foreshadowing!), Peter Pan and Pan’s Labyrinth in a single verse. His mastery of language is dizzying, and hints at the greatness he’d achieve on Acid Rap. 
–Jason Lipshutz

10 / 23

"Lost" feat. Noname Gypsy

Starting with a liquidy guitar sample from Willie Hutch's "Brother's Gonna Work It Out," "Lost" quickly becomes a hazy love song nesting inside a mellow trap song. Unlike "Trap Queen," though, this one's got a woman's voice helping paint the picture. Noname Gypsy, who now just goes by Noname, shuts it down in the final third with thoughts like, "I wanna stop seeing my psychiatrist / She said, 'Pill pop, baby girl, 'cause I promise you, you tweaked' / The empty bottled loneliness, this happiness you seek." –Zach Dionne

11 / 23

Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment's "Familiar" also feat. King Louie & Quavo

Surf's sound-collage strengths are front and center for this Chance-heavy, midtempo deep cut that still gets stuck in our heads. –Zach Dionne

12 / 23

"Finish Line / Drown" feat. T-Pain, Noname, Kirk Franklin & Eryn Allen Kane

The two-part climax of Coloring Book is a doo-doo-doot–heavy celebration that invites T-Pain and Kirk Franklin to lead worship in the same tent, and room for heavy-lifting from two crazy-good up-and-coming Chicago talents, Noname and Eryn Allen Kane. Every time the epilogue-ish "Blessings" kicks in, we're still glowing from "Finish Line / Drown." –Zach Dionne

13 / 23

Action Bronson's "Baby Blue"

This Mr. Wonderful single is a quality compare-and-contrast between Bronson's smoked-out gravel raps and Chance's scorched-tonsil bars. Aside from the Acid Rap-established stoner chemistry, though, Chance's verse was just a 2015-definer, creatively and comedically. With burns like "I hope there's always snow in your driveway / I hope you never get off Fridays / And you work at a Friday's that's always busy on Fridays," how could it not have been? –Zach Dionne

14 / 23

"Interlude (That's Love)"

Chance is the type of artist to challenge himself to make an interlude one of your favorite songs—and he does it with ease on Acid Rap. Over a slow-build gospel stunner, he blurts bars like,

"What's better than trippin is fallin in love
What's better than
Letterman, Leno, Fallon, and all the above,
What's better than poppin bottles tryna ball in the club,
Is the first caveman pops with his son, ball and a club"

Chance's Greatest Hits–bound. Guaranteed. –Zach Dionne

15 / 23

"Angels" feat. Saba

Acid Rap cemented Chance as one of the lords of summer, and this late 2015 single celebrates Chicago's warmer months with sunshine horns and steel drums—and, in the same breath, ponders how there's "too many young angels on the South Side / Got us scared to let our grandmamas outside." –Zach Dionne

16 / 23

Taylor Bennett's "Broad Shoulders"

Chance's little brother Taylor dropped an album (a commercially available one; very un-Chance-y!) back in December. "Broad Shoulders," the poignant, retrospective title track, closes things out sibling-duet-style. It was one of Chance's first verses pondering his new life as a father. –Zach Dionne

17 / 23

"All We Got" feat. Kanye West & Chicago Children's Choir

The super-positive Coloring Book lead-off shows off ties to the past (the "and we back, and we back" from Acid Rap), the present (it's a mirror to Chance's opening Kanye's The Life of Pablo, just months before) and the future ("Music is all we got / So we might as well give it all we got")—and reminds us that Auto-Tune Yeezy may actually be today's best Yeezy. –Zach Dionne

18 / 23

Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment's "Sunday Candy" feat. Jamila Woods

Chance compares his grandmother’s love to going to church in Surf’s “Sunday Candy,” where he joins Jamila Woods. Bragging a little bit about his g-ma, Chance sings about her support and the discipline she taught him and his brother. You can take this as a love song for Jesus, your grandma or anyone you’re trying to take it slow with. –Emilee Lindner

19 / 23

"How Great" feat. Jay Electronica & My Cousin Nicole

The way Chance integrated gospel—and godliness—with 2016's version of hip-hop all comes through in this epic cut. The luxuriant, Auto-Tuned choir workout, a rare Jay Electronica verse, multiple mustard seed mentions, references to The Lion King, Harry Potter and Dreamgirls. Chance has highlighted "How Great" as his favorite Coloring Book track, and he put together an impromptu, designed-for-your-phone video for it as well. –Zach Dionne

20 / 23

“Nostalgia”

So much of Chance’s music is composed of reflection, so a song like “Nostalgia” naturally includes tons of references to his early childhood. More important than any SpongeBob memory or family anecdote is Chance’s wide-eyed innocence, fully captured and beautifully interpreted through the production. –Jason Lipshutz

21 / 23

"Cocoa Butter Kisses" feat. Vic Mensa & Twista

Hearing Twista, Vic and Chance on one song remains a delightful experience, but, once again, Chance comes out on top. How can you lose when you pack two bars with sexual innuendo and a reference to the orange VHS tapes Rugrats episodes used to get released on? –Jason Lipshutz

22 / 23

"Somewhere in Paradise" feat. R. Kelly & Jeremih

We never figured out why this wonderful single didn't make the Coloring Book cut, but we keep it in the rotation all the same. –Zach Dionne

23 / 23

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "Need to Know"

Macklemore's self-interrogation goes down nicely alongside Chance's on the This Unruly Mess I've Made cut "Need to Know." Mack doubts his own voice, wonders why nothing makes anything bad feel better, and fears addiction; Chano is worried about his baby daughter growing up to wear sexy clothes, says he wants "all her best friends to be white folks," then berates himself for saying it out loud. He ends up reminiscing on opening for Macklemore way back when; now, though, "the white girls call me n---a at my show." –Zach Dionne

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