Surf’s up, summer’s here

June 1, 2015, 11:42 p.m.

When Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment unexpectedly dropped their long-anticipated mixtape, “Surf,” on Thursday night, the seasons changed in a wave of summer jams and good vibrations. Weary spirits across the country were lifted by the gift of new music, and suddenly summer didn’t seem so far away. After the unannounced release hit iTunes as a free download, the same fans who had spent the last few months chiding the band on social media for numerous unexplained delays were now singing their praises. All was forgiven on both sides with a gesture of pure musical kindness.

The sparse album artwork for "Surf," by Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment. (Courtesy of Nate Fox)
The sparse album artwork for “Surf,” by Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment. (Courtesy of Nate Fox)

The wait for “Surf” was a long one. Since the project’s existence was first mentioned last fall (with a tentative release set for late 2014), the mysterious endeavor has been hampered by unexplained delays and unfulfilled promises. On April 28, Chance the Rapper, a member of the Social Experiment and a big reason for much of the group’s following, said the tape would be released within the week, but that didn’t end up happening. The indefinite anticipation created monumental levels of both hype and disappointment, and many fans (myself included) questioned if the tape could possibly live up to expectations once released.

In characteristic fashion, the tight-lipped Social Experiment let the music do the talking, and “Surf” answers the doubters with an enthusiastic affirmation of the group’s potential. They’ve created a fascinating tape with equal influences from the Lion King musical and the Beach Boys, a diverse set of tracks ranging from spirituals to singsong raps. It is, in their own words, an album for “grandmas and babies,” with feel good vibes best exemplified by the gospel influenced single “Sunday Candy” and the infectious ode to confidence “Wanna Be Cool.”

They’re backed by a litany of unlisted guest appearances from some of hip-hop’s best and brightest, and the joy of uncovering features during the first listen is unforgettable — nothing will beat the sudden exhilaration of hearing one of your favorite rappers drop a verse completely out of the blue. (I won’t spoil anything for those who haven’t listened yet, but hip-hop heads will rejoice the first time they hear the stand out tracks “Slip Slide” and “Warm Enough.”)

The legion of Chance fans hoping for a follow up to his 2013 solo mixtape “Acid Rap” may be disappointed to learn that the Chicago rapper is featured on fewer than half of the tape’s 16 tracks, and that even then he only takes verses on a few. When he does spit, he seems relatively restrained — but this isn’t a step down by any measure. Foregoing the electric, drug-fueled rhyming style and much of the ad-lib squawking of “Acid Rap,” the young emcee opts for a more subdued and reflective flow, flexing his lyrical muscle with lines that linger in your thoughts long after the track fades away: “Who are you to tell me I can’t love you / Like the way mothers love daughters? / The way Mary was closest to Joseph / And babies is close to The Father?”

But the real star of the show is the man with the headline. Donnie Trumpet, also known as Nico Segal, is the project’s bandleader, curator and mastermind. His is the most consistent and sometimes most prominent voice heard throughout the tape. Whether he’s playing backgrounds or taking center stage, his full band production style and experimental brass are the heart and soul of the music, providing the sonic vibrancy that sets the Social Experiment’s work apart from the rest.

So for now, my advice is to take a break from school and enjoy this little piece of summer courtesy of Donnie, Chance and friends. And when summer does come, be sure to jump in the car with friends and get “Surf” bumping through the stereo. Oh, and don’t forget to share it with your grandma.

Contact Benjamin Sorensen at bcsoren ‘at’

Benjamin Sorensen covers jazz for the Arts & Life section of the Stanford Daily. He is a junior from Stanford, California studying political science with interests in Chinese and music. He enjoys playing guitar, talking about music, and wishing he could sing. Contact him at bcsoren ‘at’

Login or create an account

Apply to The Daily’s High School Summer Program

deadline EXTENDED TO april 28!