There is no doubt in my heart “Sunday Candy” was the runaway hit of 2015. It’s ours. We took it. The song of the year belonged to Chicago. It’s tempting, of course, to write about a song that’s a little older, a little more rooted in the history of Chicago and Illinois and the Midwest as a whole. But that’s the wonderful part of “Sunday Candy,” the first single off Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment’s debut album, Surf. For a song that was released in the past twelve months, it’s a reflection of everything that’s come before it.
“Sunday Candy” is a love letter to Chance The Rapper’s grandmother, the matriarch of his family. Sing along if you want––Chance encourages it––but “your grandma ain’t [his] grandma.” Despite it’s anthemic nature, the song very specifically praises Chance’s upbringing on the Southside of Chicago. He continues: “Mine’s is hand made, pan fried, drug dried, Southside, and beat the devil by a landslide.” You can sing along, but this is very much a song about how proud Chance is to be black. “Sunday Candy” is so much more than a song from a grandson to his grandmother; it’s an acknowledgement of everything that’s made him thus far. He’s proud to be from this family, from this church, from this city, from this part of the country.
There is a notable difference, however, in the “Sunday Candy” on Surf and the “Sunday Candy” that Chance, Jamila, and Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment performed on Saturday Night Live this past winter. This version was quieter, slower; it drew heavily on the gospel parts of the track and let them reverberate through Studio 8H. And Chance added a third verse in which he calls out Jason Van Dyke, the Chicago police officer who shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times in 13 seconds. Chance glares at the camera as he says the name; he hasn’t forgotten the violence in Chicago. This is the Midwest––Illinois, Chicago, what have you––to me; sweet, emphatic, no doubt, and also wholeheartedly fired the hell up. Chance is mad, and rightfully so. To cite Van Dyke in a song praising his roots is Chance acknowledging that his story is bigger than himself; the violence against black people in our country––specifically on the Southside of Chicago––is as much a part of his upbringing as his grandmother’s churchgoing.
Still: he includes a “see you at church on Sunday” for those knowing he’ll always come home before Jamila Woods sings the hook of the song––“I’ve been waiting for you for the whole week / I’ve been waiting for you, you’re my Sunday candy.” Everything about it is profoundly sincere. It’s a declaration of love. And while Chance is very often light-hearted or funny in his music, he manages to do it without any sense of irony. That’s the Midwestern way: straight-forward, from the heart. There’s jazz in it too––Donnie’s there on the trumpet, channeling almost a century’s worth of Chicago jazz musicians through the song. “Sunday Candy” is a product of everything that surrounds it and yet somehow uniquely just itself.
This is one of more than 50 posts that make up our musical map of the United States, published by region—the West, Midwest, South, and Northeast—by writers who have strongly associated a song with a state.