It’s been three years since Chance the Rapper dropped Acid Rap, the mixtape that propelled him into the national spotlight and made him one of the most critically acclaimed rappers of his generation. When his follow up, Surf, turned out to be more of a collaboration album than a solo project, it left some fans disappointed. Surf got great reviews, including ours, and certainly introduced Chance to a wider variety of fans, but it sounded vastly different from his other work. Earlier this week pictures surfaced of “Chance 3” signaling that we would finally be getting another tape from Chance after the long wait.
My first reaction to Coloring Book, was surprise that Chance chose to follow a recent trend by artists like Drake, Rihanna and Kanye and release the album exclusive to one streaming service. In this case he chose Apple Music, which thankfully offers a three month free trial. Still I was expecting him to drop the album for free, the way that he has for each of his last three projects. In fact, on his verse on Kanye’s Ultralight Beams, he said “I heard you gotta sell it to snatch the Grammy, well let’s make it so free.” The tape was offered up on Datpiff originally but was taken down within hours.
Musically, it’s safe to say that Chance is back and has stepped up his game. The album starts out with a bang, with the Kanye West assisted All We Got, and only gets better from there. It’s become clear that his reputation among his peers is at an all time high. Big name features are sprinkled throughout the fourteen track album beginning with West and ending with a strong throwback cameo from T-Pain. Somehow Chance even managed to bring the elusive Jay Electronica into the studio for a standout verse. There are also appearances by Lil Wayne, 2 Chainz, Young Thug, Future and Justin Bieber as well as frequent Chance collaborators Jeremih and Noname Gypsy. When I first saw the track list I was surprised and a little unhappy with some of the names but the upbeat production as well as Chance’s songwriting skills are able to bring the best out in everyone.
Coloring Book also greatly showcases Chance’s growth from the drug laced, hippy-rap of Acid Rap. The album has a religious theme throughout, which was predictable given the first singles, Angels and Blessings. At times it can sound borderline preachy, especially on How Great, where we are treated to a nearly three minute intro of “how great is our God?” Luckily, the verses that follow are some of the albums best, and it doesn’t take away from the overall album.
The album has plenty of standout songs. No Problems is one of the most radio friendly songs in his catalog while Summer Friends is a poignant ode to Chance’s childhood in Chicago, where classmates often didn’t make it through the summer. On the Future assisted Smoke Break, he raps:
“Truth being told, we used to movies and bowl,
We used to Netflix and roll
Wish we were stuck in our ways
We way too young to get old,”
showing some fear in growing up from his past drug use. On Finish Line / Drown, Chance uses the same formula as Pusha Man / Paranoia from Acid Rap. Finish Line is an upbeat song about success while Drown slows it down and talks about making it through dark times.
On Coloring book Chance the Rapper continues his momentum and solidifies his status as one of the premier young stars in all of music, not just rap.
Key Songs: No Problem, Summer Friends, Angels, All Night