Album Review: Chance The Rapper – Coloring Book

“Chancellor The Rapper, please say The Rapper” is back at it again with the dope mixtapes. Chance the Rapper is a Chicago native who has seen an exponential growth in fame and talent ever since dropping his 10 Day mixtape which he recorded whilst on a 10 day suspension from high school.

Since then, he has released the critically-acclaimed Acid Rap, participated in the free album, Surf, with band Social Experiment (fronted by Donnie Trumpet) and an incredible features list, and earned 5 credits on Kanye West’s The Life Of Pablo. In the process, he provided one of the best verses this year has seen so far. Within this three year gap, however, Chance fans have been screaming for a Chance the Rapper project, and whilst Surf satisfied some fans, it was clear people wanted to see a solo project.

After a three year wait, and Chance announcing the tape’s imminent arrival on ‘Ultralight Beam’ with the line “Let’s do a good ass job with Chance 3, I heard we gotta sell it to snatch the grammy,” there was a lot of pressure on Lil’ Chano from 79th to deliver.

Coloring Book begins with ‘All We Got’, in which Kanye returns the favour with a feature along with the Chicago Children’s Choir. The track is very Chance-esque, beginning with a solo from the virtuosic Donnie Trumpet. Heavy Brass in the lower end, overshadowing the 808s, was an interesting choice, as was the use of auto-tune as well as vocoder on the same track. The second half is even more soulful, making use of gospel chord progressions and the Chicago Children’s Choir.

“It’s almost a protest song against the music industry as Chance stands on his own two feet as one of the biggest independent artists”

The second track on Coloring Book is definitely one of my favourites from the project, with the introductory lines: “If one more label try to stop me, there’s gonna be some dread-head n***as in the lobby!” Just the attitude and aggression behind those words communicates Chance’s annoyance at the music industry, and he hints further in the mixtape that various labels have had issues with their artists contributing verses on Chance’s project for free.

It’s almost a protest song against the music industry as Chance stands on his own two feet as one of the biggest independent artists. The dread-head duo that are 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne grace this track with decent features, though I find 2 Chainz’s verse is a lot better than Tunchi’s with the concluding lines “school of hard knocks, I took night classes”.

The sampling on this track is exceptional though, with high-pitched soul vocals running in the background throughout the song. A special mention also has to go to Kanye, who has definitely influenced this track.

In terms of singles, I loved ‘Angels’ when it was released earlier this year and I love it even more now. Great instrumentation, a fun chorus, beautiful ad-libs and a creative video to go with it. On the other hand, the recent single ‘Blessings’ now feels like it lacks instrumentation in the context of the LP. The texture is too thin, leaving the song sounding empty.

I feel though that this may have been done intentionally, to give the closing track ‘Blessings’ far greater impact when it comes in with the refrain “are you ready for your blessings?”  With an exceptional choir made up of Ty Dolla $ign, BJ the Chicago Kid, Raury, Chance the Rapper’s verses on both tracks are exceptional.

I feel some other tracks on this mixtape are uninspired. Whilst I’m sure Chance enjoyed creating them, they seem to be directly imitating the sound that is popping right now. I respected Chance for bringing a unique sound to the mainstream with the Acid Rap mixtape in 2013, around the same time in which drill music was such a massive movement in Chicago. However, ‘Mixtape’ and ‘Smoke Break’ definitely compromise his sound too much to accommodate for the featuring artists Young Thug and Future.

That being said, Chance’s choice of melody and flow on ‘Smoke Break’ is phenomenal, and did well in regards to his choice of rhythm, regarding which pockets to slide his words in.

“His vocal performances have never taken away anything from this project, and have even created some of my favourite moments on this mixtape”

If I had any say in the content of this mixtape I would have begged Chance to rap more. It seems that, as Chance grows more as an artist, his focus has diluted in a way, as he becomes more knowledgeable about creating musical masterpieces in order to create sonically beautiful projects.

However, because of this, you rarely hear him rapping on tracks. In fact, you can only hear him rap on the two ‘Blessings’ cuts and ‘How Great’. That being said, his vocal performances have never taken away anything from this project, and have even created some of my favourite moments on this mixtape, such as ‘Same Drugs’, and when he screams/sings “No IOU’s or debit cards, I need cash money!” on ‘All Night’.

All in all this is definitely one of the better projects of this year, and holds its own as against other artists’ albums; the fact that it is only a mixtape gives it that much more credibility. However, with a mixtape this good, there will be an immense amount of pressure on Chance to deliver an exceptional debut solo album.

But hey, he hasn’t disappointed me yet.

Joshua Ogunmokun

Josh is currently listening to ‘Feel Good’ By Deborah O.

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Co-Editor of the Music Section at University of Nottingham's IMPACT Magazine.

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