Despite never signing to a label, Chance the Rapper has been a household name in rap since dropping the mixtape “Acidrap” in 2013. The upbeat tape was a musical interpretation of what it meant to be young in Chicago. During the summer, it was one of the most memorable, well-written, and wholly unique mixtape's released in recent memory.
In the time since “Acidrap” Chance has gone on multiple tours, had a child, married, given back to his hometown via initiatives to give needy Chicago youth coats in the winter, and hosted open mic nights in the spring.
The strides he’s made as a human in this time are apparent in “Coloring Book,” an album stuffed full of nostalgic reflection on a childhood spent in Chicago, and an affirmation of his growth as a man through fatherhood and an ever strengthening belief in God.
The song “How Great” starts off with a minute and a half of pure gospel music with the refrain, “How great is our God” and when Chance’s verse finally starts he keeps with the theme, rapping about his religion with his signature tongue twisting clever bars.
Chace’s spiritual maturation isn’t the only theme of the album. He talks about his faith growing parallel with his personal development as a family man, it’s evident on the stand-out track “Blessings.”
“Jesus' black life ain't matter, I know I talked to his daddy/Said you the man of the house now, look out for your family/He has ordered my steps, gave me a sword with a crest/And gave Donnie a trumpet in case I get shortness of breath”
“Donnie” refers to Nico Segal, aka Donnie Trumpet, Chance’s childhood friend and trumpet virtuoso whose fingerprints are all over this album, a limber trumpet dancing in and out of Chance’s ephemeral sing-song flow.
Actually, Chance’s whole childhood is all over this album.
Songs like “Summer Friends”, “Juke Jam”, and “Same Drugs” are drenched in nostalgia, a meditation on the innocence of youth, and what it means to grow up young, black, and in Chicago. Chance is a father and husband at 23. He’s not upset at growing up, just shocked by it. In a recent interview with Complex he said, "I’m definitely more awake and understanding of the world and its functions now that I am a father."
While quiet moments pervade throughout the album, the songs that most people will remember are those with the highly charged, positive, braggadocio lyrics like “Angels", where he boasts, “I’m the blueprint for a real man.” The song itself is a victory lap around Chicago; those ever-present gospel samples meshing with Donnie Trumpet’s melodic blasts of energy, and Chance’s exuberant inflection making this the most infectious song on the album. Seriously, try listening to this without tapping your foot, bobbing your head, or just smiling.
A lack of cohesiveness between tracks keeps this project from reaching the levels of awesome that "Acidrap" did. Chance tries a lot of things; every song on is good standing alone, but put in succession they are disorienting
The production switches from 808 machines and synths to organic sounds of gospel, trumpet, and piano almost randomly. The best example of this is “All Night,” but does its summer evening electro vibe fit into the album?
Luckily this is a minor complaint. All-in-all, “Coloring Book” is the best rap release of the year, and a promise that Chance will be around for a long time to come.
At a Glance
-Watch Chance's latest video for song "No Problem" Ft. 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne. The video also has cameos by rap icons DJ Khaled and Young Thug.
-"Coloring Book" is free!!
-Listen to Chance's verse on Kanye's song "Ultralight Beam"