Donnie Trumpet and The Social Experiment’s “Surf” Makes Me Really Happy » VSB

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Donnie Trumpet and The Social Experiment’s “Surf” Makes Me Really Happy

I love Chance The Rapper. I’d be willing to argue with almost anybody that his 2013 wrecking ball, Acid Rap, is easily one of the best hip-hop albums to come out in the past 10 years. In my own estimation, only Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is a better album. And I’m including Kendrick’s To Pimp A Butterfly in this mix. I think Acid Rap is better. By ANY measure its more listenable and enjoyable. There’s a reason why I haven’t listened to TPAB in over a month and I still pull up Acid Rap when I can’t decide what I want to listen to. It’s pretty much my, “I’ll just wear these then…” option (with comparable choices Midnight Marauders by A Tribe Called Quest and currently – believe it or not – Drake’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. I know. FML. I owe it a reverse review where I say how much I love it considering I lampooned it as being boring.)

Point is, I’m all in on Chance The Rapper. Anything he attaches his name to, I’m willing to give a shot. Apparently many others felt the same way because that album led him to being on tour with freakin’ Eminem and all of the major labels trying to woo young Chancellor to their 360 deals and hopes. So what does Chance do? Drops off the Eminem tour, turns down all of the labels, and instead of releasing what would be a surefire anticipated release, decides to hang with his friends, create music and let his man Donnie Trumpet (real name Nico Segal) take the lead on the next project and attempt to fade into the background. Chance teased this project for the better part of a year, dropping tentative release dates in feature articles, at shows, and on Twitter. It finally dropped at the end of May, for free, on iTunes. Out of the blue, because thats how you drop an album nowadays. Thanks, Beyoncé Obama.

surfWhat we got was Surf, a musical mashup of various styles, that features a shitton of artists on each song (Chance himself jokinly stated that each song had like 50 people on it). You’ve got Busta Rhymes, Janelle Monae, J. Cole, Quavo from Migos (!!!), King Louie, Big Sean, B.o.B., Erykah Badu, Jamila Woods from M&O (more on her later), amongst others. Hell, Chance even said a lot of the music was inspired by the freakin’ musical The Lion King.

Sidenote: I realize I keep talking about Chance The Rapper even though this is a Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment album (with the Social Experiment including Chance, Peter Cottontale, Greg Landfair, and Nate Fox). But this album doesn’t see the light of day if Chance doesn’t blow up. It just doesn’t. While I love the album, I’m not even sure I’d give it a listen if not for him. The lesson here? Drink more water.

Oh, and if you only give this album a listen because of me…

…you’re welcome.

Let’s switch gears for a minute. I’m the kind of chap that likes happy music. Despite listening to some of the most socially destructive and non-community minded music known to man at times (Straight Outta Compton in theaters August 14!), at my core, I like music that incites positivity. To this day I smile whenever I hear Donnell Jones’s “I’ll Go” from the Love & Basketball Soundtrack. It just makes me happy. Same with Maxwell’s “Ascension”, which is actually a song I listen to when I’m pissed to calm me down. True story, I used to carry this song with me literally everywhere I went in some format JUST in case I got pissed.

I listen to more gospel and inspirational music than you can shake a stick at. Songs that even sound like they’re positive or use tones that ring towards the happier end of the emotional scale will usually get me. Music tends to be my on the spot therapist (see “Ascension”) so this makes sense. So when I find music that puts me in a happy place – and that can’t really happen if niggas are rapin’ bitches and murdering hoes and bitch ass niggas all through the project – I’m all in on it. Of course, that tends to require it to be well produced.

Such is the story of Surf, a super well produced album that makes me happy. Like very, very happy. I’ve read people talk about this “soft ass hip hop” and yeah, it might be that. But its also fun. It never takes itself too seriously and sometimes, just sometimes, you need that. I know I do. For instance, the Busta Rhymes and B.o.B. assisted “Slip Slide” is one of my favorite songs on the album and its mostly about…making it. Not succumbing to the stumbles of life. At its core, its like pop gospel rap about upliftment. I mean…sure, its a bit corny, but when its executed this well you can look past Monsanto and feel compelled to give this same advice to somebody else. I told a homeless dude this morning that we fall down, but we get up. Okay, this didn’t happen. But I felt like I could and feel like I achieved something. But more than that, it sounds great. The vocal arrangement on the hook is absolutely splendid. One of my favorite parts of Kanye’s MBDTF banger “All Of The Lights” wasn’t just the beat, but how well they incorporated and mixed the 15+ vocalists on the hook so that if you listened properly on Tidal you could pin point each voice. This happens on “Slip Slide” and I love it. Again, it makes me happy.

Even the instrumental pieces are great. My personal favorite is “Something Came To Me”. Here’s a Panama fact that you may not know. The piano is my favorite instrument. But the trumpet has always made me the most emotional, for better or worse. Donnie Trumpet’s “hip hop jazz” performances all through this album are great uses of that instrument in context of the larger scope of the project. Basically, my man is getting his man and when he’s given his legs to let loose, he does so very well. Miles Davis he ain’t , but who is? And right before “Something Came To Me” is the song “Questions” with vocals by Jamila Woods of M&O fame.

Let me tell you something, I love smooth vocals. Phyllis Hyman? Check. Amel Larrieux? Check. They are great singers. Jamila Woods is one of those women whose voice puts me in a special place. Her group, M&O were in DC last year performing, and I was one of, maybe 50 people in the crowd. I went PACIFICALLY to see if she sounded as good as she does on their albums in person and I was floored. This woman? Can do no wrong in my book. Ever. Every note she sings is a gift I didn’t know I was getting. Extra? Absolutely I am. Do I mean it? Absolutely I do. Her voice? Makes me happy.

This entire album, Surf, is full of nuggets like that. I don’t even like J. Cole (or Big Sean, much, though I don’t hate him like other notable bloggers that write for this site seem to) but they both turned in good verses.

Ultimatley, this is a project that hits so many notes and so many angles with a certain, “why not?” zeal that I can see myself listening to this album for as long as I can hear. Is it perfect? Not at all. But I enjoy it…because from the beginning to the end, it makes me happy.

Life has been up and down for a lot of us lately. The criminal justice is fucking us in every conceivable way possible it seems. While listening to “Fuck The Police” is always a good way to vent, sometimes its good to have music that lets you know that the sun will come out…tomorrow. Corny? Yes.

True? Yep (unless you live in, like, Seattle).

And that makes me happy. These Chicago kids have figured it out.

Take a chance. PUN.

*This post has been sponsored by my emotions.*

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is pretty fly (and gorgeous) for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. He refuses to eat cocaine chicken. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future. You can hit him on his hitter at

  • I was shocked that I liked the bulk of what I’ve heard from this album. “Sunday Candy” led me to the rest of this album.

    • Tristan

      Sunday Candy is probably my favorite

      • I saw the video and was like “what is this theater ish?” but the song is dope.

        • kayleb

          The choreography and theatricality of it makes me giddy. Such a loving tribute to his grandmama and Black church

  • RewindingtonMaximus

    I guess I have to just take a chance on it now. Acid Rap was a risk for me before I listened to it but it was one of the best decisions of the time I made. Guess this will be the same.

    And PJ, knowing the music lover you are, I don’t know if you’ve ever listened to anything by Nujabes. But if you got some time, put him on Pandora and just listen. You’ll thank me and any fan of his later when you come back from your happy place.

    • panamajackson

      Will do.


  • Medium Meech

    I keep hearing this album is good but I’ve been neglecting listening to it or any other new music lately. I guess I’ll open up the old audiogalaxy for the fist time in a while when I get home tonight.

  • I still wish it features more Chance rapping because among his generation, I’d say he’s definitively the most well rounded. I agree on Acid Rap which still feels like Chance’s album despite having 368 guest features which is an achievement in itself.

  • nillalatte

    Chance… the rapper… again? :P Okay, okay, I will calendar some time to listen to his music and I’ll get back to you. lol

    In other news, 7h3 ch1n353 4r3 pl4y1n6 50m3 h16h-574k35 64m35. 1’m r34lly n3rv0u5 w17h wh47 7h3y c0uld d0 w17h p3r50n4l 1nf0rm4710n 4nd n07 ju57 4 50c14l 53cur17y numb3r. 1’m r35c1nd1n6 my 4ppl1c4710n 70 7h3 n0 5uch 463ncy 1mm3d1473ly. l0l

    • Lea Thrace

      Why did I take the time to read and decipher that last paragraph? Nilla got me going cross-eyed.

      (but I hear you tho)

      • nillalatte

        LOL.. l337 5p34k, ju57 h4v1n6 50m3 fun. :)

    • Boo Radley

      There is not a single gyrus in my brain willing to decipher that.

      • nillalatte

        LOL… how you doing Boo? There’s an online program that will decode it. It can also become unrecognizable with the use of special characters. I’m preping for dark web escapades. ;) lol

  • Khalil Jannah

    You’re gushing bro lol we get it,you really really really like chance the rapper but best album in the last 10 years!? That’s a bit of a stretch

    • panamajackson

      Acid Rap? Absolutely. I stand by that with ease. It’s not to say other albums aren’t good. But I’m saying, from a production, lyrical and execution standpoint…absolutely.

      • Chaveze Wright

        Did you seriously just say Acid Rap was better then TPAB? I agree it was one of the best projects put out in the last few years but to say it’s better then pretty much Kendricks whole collection of albums is a huge stretch… Like incredibly huge. Hell 10 years ago Kanye dropped Graduation & 808s and Heartbreak which pretty much inspired the change we see in hip hop today.
        Don’t get me wrong I love pretty much everything chance puts out but Acid Rap isn’t this amazingly amazing album. Its great for casual listens and chilling with friends but that’s it now that its been 3 years. It actually aged pretty well though.

  • Pell

    I love Chance as much as the next person; but you are reaching a little wittle bit. This album was decent and many of the tracks are palatable to diverse music taste (and I do give a couple extra points to any album, I can play around parents or children); Yes, Slip & Slide is excellent. But its not like this album was revolutionary. And it certainly did not eclipse Acid Rap.

    • panamajackson

      I never said it was revolutionary. I said it made me happy. I also never said it was even close to being as good as Acid Rap.

      • Pell

        My mistake, I just re-read it and I see you were saying Acid Rap was one of the best projects in the last 10 years. At first, I thought you meant Surf. My bad; I need to read thoroughly.

  • Julian Green

    I always appreciate an album that lets me nerd out and Surf let me do that by featuring a bunch of people who I was afraid had stopped making music. I’m glad Donnie managed to pull Saba and Noname Gypsy out from whatever
    rocks they’ve been hiding under and got them on the album (especially Noname; she’s so good but never seems to release anything). It was cool learning that all of the ex-members of Kids These Days (sans Vic Mensa) were featured in some way.

    Sidenote: I really like Surf, but it’s also starting to annoy me because I’m finding that it’s one of those albums that I feel like I have got to start from the beginning and listen to the whole way through. Like, it’d be wrong for me to just pick an individual song to listen to because I’d be cheapening the experience somehow. Does this make any sense?

    • panamajackson

      What a world we live in where its annoying to want to feel a need to consume an album in its entirety. lol

  • MsSula

    Currently listening at work…. and so far so (really) good. Approved for Rainy Busy Fridays. :)

  • Kim

    I like Acid Rap, I’ll check this one out…sorry to veer off topic but can we talk about the lady that catfished the entire NAACP

    • Tristan

      Some pictures I’m like okay she looks like a light-skinned woman then there’s ones like this and like…. Really yo, yall couldn’t tell

      • Kim

        Yeah some pictures I was like ehh then others I was like come on son, somebody said she’s been passing for almost 10 years and nobody tried her potato salad.

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