Following the 2017 Grammy Awards, the relevance of which is a different matter altogether, I decided to revisit, and rewrite, a review for one of my favorite albums of last year. The album was produced by none other than this year’s Best New Artist, Chance the Rapper. Although the award is thematically incorrect—Chance released his first mixtape 10 Day in early 2012—it serves as a great way to honor a man who managed to become a breakthrough success without signing to any major labels. With his third mixtape, Coloring Book, winning Best Rap Album, Chance seems only to go further and further on his past towards musical stardom. Coloring Book is an experience from start to finish, one where gospel, hip-hop, and jazz blend into a unique cocktail of sound only Chance could deliver.
The first track off the mixtape, “All We Got,” starts off with a distinctive saxophone melody that evolves as the song progresses. Combining fast-paced lyrics with church-choir-esque humming, and later twisting that mix to include Kanye West’s layered autotune, Chance created a song that is a very good introduction to the journey the listener is about to take. With lines such as “Man, my daughter could not have a better mother / If she ever find another, he better love her,” and “Man, I swear my life is perfect… If I die, I’ll prolly cry at my own service,” Chance evokes pleasant thoughts of forgiveness and the joy of being alive. In sharp contrast to other rappers who talk about flaunting money, Chance is more interested in becoming a better person, so he can have a positive effect on his surroundings.
The very next track is Coloring Book’s offering to mainstream radio, and it satisfies at all levels. “No Problem” is a smooth, ever-flowing river of euphoria. Set against a background of gospel chants and minimalistic instruments, “No Problem” features Chance, Lil Wayne, and 2 Chainz each explaining that they don’t need anyone’s help to be successful—whether that would be a label’s support, or judgmental fans critiquing their every move. With just over 124 million streams on Spotify alone, “No Problem” is a song everyone has heard, and yet, continues to be played due to its addictive nature.
Skipping down a bit, we come across “Angels.” With its signature opener, “I got my city doing frontflips,” this song immediately captivates the listeners as the lyrics pick up in speed and more instruments are added to the background. Towards the middle, trumpets and composing choir elements are added in, causing the song to be very reminiscent of Chance’s Surf days. Biblical themes galore and a sunny attitude make “Angels” a generally fun song to listen to. I could play this song on repeat for a while, constantly vibing out to the island-esque vibes.
Another song worth mentioning in this review is “All Night.” Immediately after the opening of the tune, it’s clear that this a new direction for Chance. The influence of producer KAYTRANADA is manifested in the form of a catchy hook, electronic backgrounds, and a chorus to die for. This would be an amazing song for a house party, as it’s guaranteed to get people dancing. The one downfall of this song is its length, which at just over 2 minutes, is substantially shorter than the rest of the album. However, this is only a minor setback, as I appreciate this new, albeit temporary, shift in direction from Chance.
I could go on and on describing this album, as all songs have an intimate story to them. I feel like this album really deserved Best Rap Album, and that Chance as a person deserves more recognition. Following him since his Acid Rap days has made this a long and fulfilling journey. I eagerly wait for the next installment in his musical career.