On the cover of Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap, the 19-year-old rapper is lost in the woods, purple sky looming, his eyes wide, mind contorted. This is what one of hip-hop’s most elite word-for-word, bar-for-bar rappers looks like in 2013: incredibly young, existentially confused, undoubtedly tripping balls, and rocking a tie-dye tank top. He’s from Chicago — the notorious South Side, to be exact — rather than the traditional spitter center of New York City, and he is, along with a number of other youthful word nerds (and long-gestating veterans), pulling “lyricism” out of the codified pit of “real hip-hop” cliché and throwing it across every nook and cranny of the rap landscape.
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