Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment is a Chicago hip hop collective consisting of Donnie Trumpet, Nate Fox, Peter Wilkins, Greg “Stix” Landfair jr and a load of other artists I won’t pretend to have heard of. About the only member I was familiar with beforehand was kooky emcee, Chance the Rapper, who provides bars on most of these tracks.
Together, the collective come together to create the happiest hip hop record you’re likely to hear this year. Chance the rapper scraps commonly found themes of misogyny, materialism and braggadocio, instead preaching wholly positive morals of self-love and individualism. I say ‘preach’ – his method of delivery is anything but preachy. He modestly refuses to be a role model which only adds to his appeal: ‘don’t you look up to me/ don’t trust a word I say’. He also has no interest in being cool ‘I don’t wanna be cool, I just wanna be me’, which conversely makes him all the more cool.
The backing instrumentation is meanwhile provided by the rest of the group’s members - a bouncy mix of soul and jazz with all the air of a childhood summer party. Through the groovy basslines and bright splashes of piano you can taste the birthday cake and picture visualise the balloons.
Sadly this project isn’t without its flaws – despite the bubbly atmosphere there’s no denying that the party can feel overcrowded at times. Alongside the many members of Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment are a horde of guest stars including Busta Rhymes, Big Sean, J Cole, Janelle Monae, B.o.B, Quavo, Joey Purp, Raury, BJ the Chicago Kid and Erykah Badu. Songs like ‘Go’ and ‘Slip Slide’ feel a bit messy because of all the contributors fighting to be heard.
Other songs contrastingly feel sorely underdeveloped. Songs like ‘Rememory’ never reach a climax or a hook, trailing off rather unexcitedly. The many trumpet interludes peppered throughout the album in which Donnie Trumpet shows off his horn-playing also feel redundant because they don’t really go anywhere.
That said the album does have some moments of perfection, namely the catchy and adorable tracks 'Sunday Candy' and 'Wanna Be Cool'. Here the amount of guest contributors isn't overwhelming and there's a clear sense of song structure and finesse. A whole album of these kind of hits would have made Surf feel much more cohesive.