Chance the Rapper, Donnie Trumpet, Nate Fox and Peter Cottontale – known collectively as The Social Experiment – grace the cover of FADER’s 96th issue.
For the cover story, Andrew Nosnitsky spent the day with the crew in L.A., focusing on how each of the members met, how they all came together, revealing their respective personalities, and sharing how they interact.
Nate gravitates to his Macbook, which controls a flatscreen across the room, and starts playing partially finished tracks through the TV. Chance acts a lot like he raps: wide-eyed and hyperactive for the most part but also prone to abrupt moments of deep reflection. Nico, whose befuddled but deliberate tone makes him seem perpetually on the cusp of either a punchline or a revelation, talks about how he’s been reading Confucius: “He was a hella observant fellow.” The same might be said about Peter, who mostly watches quietly.
While GQ’s recent article revealed that Andre 3000, Frank Ocean and J. Cole will be featured on Chance’s forthcoming solo album, FADER’s story mainly just talks about their Surf project.
In some ways, it’s a logical extension of what Chance was doing on Acid Rap, with the most organic elements of that album teased further out of the typical rap production framework and blown out to their most grandiose extremes. Nico’s robust solos anchor most tracks, but they frequently run parallel to double-time raps. Lush neo-soul hooks crumble into blippy house.
These are the sounds of a pack of band kids who hold Miles Davis, Rich Homie Quan, and Kirk Franklin in similarly high esteem and who have been given carte blanche to touch on all of those influences and more at once. They like to define their target audience as “grandmas and babies,” and that makes some sense—the record roughly splits the difference between spirituals and lullabies. It’s also so densely packed with sounds and ideas that it’s hard to imagine either of those demographics being able to detect the nuances. Or, as Chance suggests, it might just take a little time.
“A song should have a different meaning for at least the first three times you play it,” he says. “That’s the biggest thing to it—adding onto the track, just making as many different sounds and small peculiarities and accents that make the song what it is. Like on [Michael Jackson’s] ‘P.Y.T.,’ that little wah wah-a, that one little sound that Kanye ended up sampling for ‘Good Life’ only happened once in the song. You wouldn’t know that unless you listened to the record over and over again and found that one piece that you like.” It’s almost as if Chance and his friends are aiming to reverse-engineer the act of beat-digging. Where earlier generations of hip-hop producers foregrounded small fragments of music from the past, The Social Experiment buries new ones for the future.