The song “Paranoia” by Chance the Rapper was released in 2013 and was made in collaboration with LA producer Nosaj Thing. Paranoia is hidden after a 30 second pause, following the song Pusha Man and is the second song on his album “Acid Rap”. What intrigued me at first was the album as a whole. Each song was so unique that Acid Rap seemed more like a collection of songs than an album with one overarching theme. I have had the album on my playlist since it came out, but whenever I give it a listen I still manage to get something new out of it. The song that still stands out to me, is “Paranoia”.

The song Paranoia stands out the most to me because of the introduction leading up to Chance’s first verse. The nontraditional synth layered over one another feels ethereal, but is balanced with the more abrasive electronic shuffling sounds. Chance’s cadence makes the words flow into each other so seamlessly that it sounds poetic. This to me along with his wordplay is the most impressive as it almost distracts you from the heavier deeper meaning of the song itself. It offers meaningful and honest dialogue about gun violence, from different positions. Chance first offers his thoughts in an internal monologue, of him going about his business, carrying a gun to defend himself having grown paranoid of the common gun related deaths. Next, he looks at the “neighborhood” objectively as it seems nothing has changed since he left. He goes on to ask what I assume is the public, questioning them on why gun violence in Chicago is not talked about on the news despite it being a known and growing problem. Lastly, he sympathizes with those living in Chicago admitting he understands and is also scared, urging people to value those in their lives since gun violence in nondiscriminatory.

I feel like this would lead me to learn how the residents of Chicago feel about this topic, while also exploring gun laws or legislation in Illinois to understand why it is an issue. I think this could also bring up the topic of portrayal and/or representation of African Americans in the media, as well as the relationships with police within these predominantly black neighborhoods. This  could also lead to the discussion of social justice and political issues as a recent common theme within rap songs in order to start conversation or dialogue. Though totally different eras, Paranoia reminds me of “In The Mississippi River” by SNCC Freedom Singers. Both songs have unsettling imagery which they use to illustrate the inhumanity behind their issues and the darker message of “it could be you”. The songs make you think about topics that are not discussed but should be, so we could collectively work towards a solution

Overall, I think that there is still a lot of material to discuss since Chance manages to fit a lot of his feelings or positions within each verse, which tend to be around ten to fifteen lines. I think this song is important because of the widespread gun violence and mass shootings in the past years. Despite violence being so common, we seem to be unable to come up with a solution to this bipartisan issue. The most uncomfortable part of it all is people tend to have this idea that “it won’t happen to me”, but the reality is it could happen to anybody.

I value Chance as an artist and feel that listening to the song for eleven weeks will give me a deeper appreciation for his music, having learned the context of the problem while also having a more informed position on gun violence.

– Brett