Charlie Curtis-Beard Credit: courtesy the artist

Nebraska native Charlie Curtis-Beard attends Columbia College, where he’s built a budding rap career with a couple ambitious, heartfelt albums that are grounded in Chicago themes but exploratory in their musical and lyrical focus. On November’s Existentialism on Lake Shore Drive, Curtis-Beard broadens his amiable soul- and R&B-influenced hip-hop into new styles (quite successfully with electropulse of “Can’t See Clear”) while ruminating on what it means to be a young person of color living in the city at this moment in time (the kind of topic that can sustain late-night conversations in university dorm rooms and elsewhere). Curtis-Beard decided to build the album’s loose narrative around a series of fictional voice messages from friends enticing him to join them on a wild night on the town. Each message nudges Curtis-Beard towards a new topic, be it romantic friction (“Late Night Love”) or struggles with the newfound agency and independence of adulthood (“Who We Are”). Curtis-Beard has a little fun satirizing the Chicago college experience too, as is the case when one of his friends attempts to coax him out by saying, “I heard Chance’s cousin’s stepbrother’s twice-removed uncle is coming through.” That brief moment underscores what makes Existentialism on Lake Shore Drive so charming; Curtis-Beard has thought every detail through, and executes everything with an earnestness that could fuel a great career.   v