First thing first: there is a common misconception by many people in the general public that this is a Chance the Rapper album. However, that is not the case. It is an album by Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment, which Chance the Rapper is a part of. That being said, Chance is heavily featured throughout the tape. Now, to the music.
Surf is a very apt title, because the album is reminiscent of warm, sunny days at the beach. The instrumentation is largely upbeat, with many different layers and large sounds. Donnie Trumpet does in fact shine, as his horn playing is very prominent and the melodies are ones that will stick in your head. There are some instances though when the compositions can be uninteresting or just sonically unpleasing, such as on “Nothing Came to Me”. Also, while trumpet playing can be an amazing addition on the occasional song, a whole project with it being basically the main feature causes its novelty to wear off.
As for the vocals on the album, Chance does a mix of singing and rapping as he appears on most of the tracks. Unfortunately, besides his verses on “Sunday Candy”, none of his work particularly stands out. The people who do stand out on Surf are the features. There is a star-studded cast of artists who appear on this album and almost all of them knock it out of the park. Who would’ve thought that Quavo (of Migos) would have one of the best verses on this album? B.o.B., J. Cole, Erykah Badu, and others all delivered great performances that really helped to improve the album.
The idea to make Donnie Trumpet the focus of an entire album was something cool and original in theory, but it lacked when it was actually executed. The peaks on this album are very high, but are too sparse to hold interest for the 16 track LP. There are too many little interludes that interrupt the flow and momentum of Surf. If Surf had been cut down to a 6-8 track EP, it could’ve been one of the best projects of the year. However, it was dragged down by too many bland and unnecessary tracks. While some tracks will stay in rotation throughout the summer, the album as a whole will mostly be forgotten.
Standout tracks: Slip Slide, Familiar, Sunday Candy
Forgettable tracks: Nothing Came to Me, Caretaker, Questions
*Featured Image belongs to Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment