ALBUM REVIEW: Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book

I don’t make songs for free/I make em’ for freedom/Don’t believe in kings/believe in the kingdom” – “Blessings”. “It’s funny how things can come full circle in music. Chance the Rapper cites Kanye West as one of his big inspirations in rap music. Where West is a huge influence in his music, you can now see that same influence is being reciprocated. It’s almost as if West is looking at his younger self, manifested.  “Ultra Light Beam,” the powerful lead song off of Kanye Wests The Life Of Pablo put Chance the Rapper front and center as what would some call “gospel-rap”. Truth be told, there were tones of this in his previous projects as well. Take a listen to “Miracle” and “Sunday Candy” from 2015’s Surf . The religious roots along with the devotion to recognizing his West Chatham upbringing in Chicago is what makes his projects so special.

Coloring Book serves as an audible photo album that refers back to the past to humanize Chicago as a whole through the personal stories and recollections of Chance. Every time you look in a news report, you see Chicago consistency painted in a negative light. Chance serves to put a positive spin on it through all he’s been through and what he learned during his two year period where he also became a father. “Summer Friends” is almost like we are walking through West Chatham with Chance as the vocals from New York band Francis + The Lights sounds like those local, soulful groups back in the day that would harmonize on a street corner. This is a beautiful undercurrent interwoven with Chance’s lyrics and Jeremih bookends it with his own experiences. Chance fully embraces being one of the top role models of all of Chicago as spoken about in “Angels”. “I got my city doing front flips/When every father, mayor, rapper jump ship/I guess that’s why they call it where I stay.”

All in all, Chance the Rapper is still an independent artist. With that freedom comes many caveats and road blocks. The Caligrove-assisted “No Problems” is a mission statement that he will not be stopped regardless. “Cs countin’ Benjis while we meetin’/make ’em shake my other hand/Milly rockin’, scoopin’ all the blessings on my lap”. “Mixtape” also features two artists, Young Thug and Lil Yachty who have built their following off the free form of releasing music and worrying about where their place in the music industry is. This also foreshadows Chance’s current fight to get these projects recognized by The Grammy Awards.

The sequencing of this album can also be analyzed as conceptual as well. For example, the upbeat, KAYTRANDA track, “All Night” precedes the gospel-lead “How Great” which is not an accident. “All Night,” which will no doubt be in the summer rotation reveals Chance’s hesitation with partying with those who take advantage of his fame. “How Great,” almost acts like the Sunday morning revival to the Saturday night ills of the previous track. A powerful track featuring a choir’s interpretation of Chris Tomlin‘s “How Great Is Our God” also features Jay Electronica. Although the two men of are different faiths, they can come together and speak of how they are alike in their personal experiences.  “Blessings” shows up twice on the project – the first track as a thank you to all his blessings he’s received (music, piece of mind, his daughter) and the outro as a retrospective to how far he’s truly come.

Recalling back to the kid that grew up on gospel artists like Shirley Caeser and The Winans, Coloring Book was almost like a homecoming for me to listen to. The soulful samples that people were thirsting for in Kanye’s music are present here. The gift of inspiration has allowed Chance to create his own version of success on his own terms.  Musically, the whole project is abundant with more than half produced by The Social Experiment. Chance the Rapper may be the rap version’s modern day Rocky. We are familiar with the struggle and we are thankful to now join in the celebration as well.

 

 

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