Release Date: May 13, 2016
Record label: N/A
“And we back, and we back,” Chicago’s Chance the Rapper begins on “All We Got”, the opening track on his long-awaited third full-length project, Coloring Book. It’s not only reminiscent of Acid Rap’s “Good Ass Intro”, but also just enough Kanye worship from Freshmen Adjustment Vol. 2. Looking back at everything that’s happened since the release of Acid Rap three years ago, it’s much more than typical braggadocio: It’s a testament.
On the cusp of becoming a household name, Chance The Rapper has glided towards stardom almost exclusively from an online buzz that’s just begun gaining real world traction. Going against the grain naturally, his nearly mystic rise hasn’t relied on typical career boosting crutches: Chance’s songs have generally been devoid of Auto-Tune and absent from radio rotation or nightclubs, he’s never inspired a trendy dance craze, yet he’s amassed a loyal following determined to see these differences bear fruit. Arguably the face of Chicago Hip Hop’s present momentum, his impact has given voice to a conflicted generation whose psyche is at war; adolescents and young adults influenced by Kanye West’s ingenious innovation with a bleak firsthand view of the low life expectancy Chief Keef popularized.
When Chicagoan Chance the Rapper delivered his verse on "Ultralight Beam," the opening song from Kanye West's The Life of Pablo, there was a lot going on—sly homage was being paid to West; rappers were being put on notice ("This is my part/Nobody else speak"); and, most importantly, Chance was encapsulating his past, asserting his present, and telegraphing his future. He was finally positioning himself as a rapper to be reckoned with from a mainstream podium, but he was also delving deep into Christian ideology, with allusions to Noah's Ark and Lot's wife, with his "foot on the Devil's neck 'til it drifted Pangaea. " That verse rolled out the red carpet for Kanye's long-awaited album, but it doubled as an announcement of Chance's new Coloring Book (then given the working title Chance 3), which may very well be the most eagerly-anticipated hip-hop project this year that doesn't come attached to an actual record label.
Give praise for Chance the Rapper’s refusal to conform. Whereas a bounty of other rappers lean into the continued proliferation of druggy trap or transglobal pop, Chance takes a sharp left on the new surprise mixtape Coloring Book, doubling down on his instincts, his sustaining drive, and his singular artistic vision of quirky and joyous rap that aspires to uplift its listeners as much as challenge their notions of what rap should sound like in 2016. Acid Rap, his second mixtape, made numerous year-end lists and acquired more than a million downloads since its release in 2013.
Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to join these genres, rap and gospel, in holy matrimony. Officiating over the ceremony is none other than lyrical clergyman Chance the Rapper. Indeed, while most MCs waste precious bars on lustful boasts, Chance effortlessly evokes true love in a single couplet, spitting: "Man, my daughter couldn't have a better mother / If she ever find another, he better love her," as horn players blast a forthright "Amen!" That moment serves as the emotional crux of "All We Got," the opening track of Chance's new mixtape, Coloring Book.
Aaron McGruder’s absurdist show Black Jesus frequently failed as a comedy, but as an exploration of modern black Christianity, it was unparalleled. Tucked between the smoldering stoner jokes and stale stereotypes was an insistence that the relationship between black Christians and their god is best understood on a personal level, outside of church halls and inside the humdrum of everyday existence. Coloring Book, Chance the Rapper’s third mixtape and his second project distributed via Apple, is deafeningly religious, brimming with testimonies, exaltations and blessings that are loud enough to rock a megachurch and its town-sized parking lot.
Much has been made of Chance the Rapper’s label-free rise to the upper echelons of contemporary hip-hop. Having long since left the underground within which he continues to operate, Chance has popped up on a host of high profile releases—chiefly among these being his scene stealing verse on Kanye West’s Life of Pablo—and largely found himself part of the mainstream. So much so that he even found himself the musical guest on this past year’s Saturday Night Live, playing to a national audience and making history by becoming the first unsigned artist to perform on the show.
Kanye West called The Life of Pablo a gospel album. But the new mixtape-LP from fellow Chicagoan Chance the Rapper (who had a major appearance on TLOP's "Ultralight Beam") truly lives up to that promise. Coloring Book is the richest hip hop album of 2016 so far. Gospel choirs are the backbone of the LP, rocketing skyward in the background the same way soul samples did on Kanye records, James Brown breaks did on Public Enemy records or disco interpolations did in the Sugar Hill catalog.
Chance the Rapper’s kaleidoscopic second mixtape, ‘Acid Rap’, propelled him from an emerging artist penning bars on a ten day suspension from high school (hence the aptly titled ‘#10Day’), to one of the most astute young rappers of the past five years. On paper, a twenty-something Chicago native writing an ode to getting twisted on hallucinogens hardly sounds like the most enlightened of listens. In reality, ‘Acid Rap’ saw Chance laying down narratives that weaved in and out of struggles with morality, the questioning of religious beliefs, and the five hundreds plus gun related fatalities that had taken place in Chicago that year - albeit through a smoked torn voice and a xanax-clouded lense.
"Are you ready for your blessings?" It seems like a simple enough question with an obvious enough answer but just a little introspection can confirm the conflict there; that many of us don't know how to see or accept positivity when and how it comes. On Chicago artist, Chance the Rapper's recently released jubilant third solo effort Coloring Book, the question is brought forward in a closing statement, following fourteen transcendent gospel-tinged songs, channeling the 23-year-old rap prodigy's self-affirming personal journey towards sanctified happiness. His generously free spiritual-based tutorial - brimming with critical goodwill, religious undertones and conscious-minded hope - is a cohesive sonic statement directed at a generation struggling to find peace and purpose among conflicted priority, along with redemption for the windy city he hails from.
When Chance The Rapper self-released his stunning mixtape ‘Acid Rap’ in 2013, it marked a watershed in hip-hop. Presaging Kendrick Lamar’s predilection for all things jazzy on ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ by two years, it made for a gleeful return to rap’s daisy age. It also bought a much-needed DIY edge to a genre so often in thrall to major label whims.
There was one late night in 2015 — probably about a year ago now — that I spent bumming around the internet, somewhat tipsily stumbling from link to link. That night ended with a viewing of Mr. Happy, a short film starring Chance the Rapper that was released by VICE earlier in the year. In Mr ….
“I don’t make music for free, I make music for freedom,” Chance The Rapper boasts on Coloring Book, his third mixtape (or fourth, depending on how you classify Surf, his outstanding album last year with Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment). From just about any other rapper, bragging about giving away music in 2016 would seem embarrassingly out of touch, but nobody else makes free albums quite like Chance. Like its predecessors, Coloring Book is so spirited, so affirming, and so generous it makes you seriously consider donating whatever you might have spent on it to your favorite charity.
"I don't make songs for free, I sing for freedom," Chance the Rapper raps on his latest mixtape. "Don't believe in kings, believe in the kingdom. " In a few seconds, the 23-year-old master of ceremonies transports his listeners to a South Side church, circa 1965, on the front lines of the civil rights era when African-Americans armed themselves with little more than freedom songs and unwavering conviction in the face of the overwhelming might of entrenched racism.
Every word that comes out of Chancelor Bennett’s mouth comes from a place of love—love for himself, love for his family, love for his friends, love for his city, love for God. You can hear it in his voice. With every clever rhyme he spits, you can envision the smile on his face in the recording studio. You can see it in his stage presence, the way he seems like he’s always on the edge of exploding into an unashamedly undignified dance as he raps.
The third mixtape from Chance the Rapper is the first streaming-only album to chart on the Billboard 200. It's a milestone that should be especially satisfying for the Chicago MC who, as an unsigned artist, strongly advocates for artistic independence in his lyrics and interviews. In so much music, the narrative around success and acceptance is about accomplishing what others have already accomplished and falling in line with the mainstream and replicating its ideals.
Extraordinary people take risks and Chance The Rapper lives up to his rap moniker by doing that on his latest mixtape, Coloring Book. Arriving a year after Surf, his collaborative effort with Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment, and his first solo effort since his classic 2013 tape, Acid Rap, Coloring Book illustrates the young Chicago MC’s immense faith in God and the good in humanity over the course of its 14 tracks. Spirituality and triumph are the two calling cards of Coloring Book and listeners get a heavy dose of each on the introductory track, “All We Got,” which finds Chance teaming up with Kanye West and recapturing the magic of their last meeting on “Ultralight Beam,” albeit in a more glorious manner.
For the last few years, Kanye West’s most visible disciple has been Drake, who mainlined his melody-first approach, his arriviste swagger, and most crucial, his emotional vulnerability. If Mr. West innovated by hinting at the chinks in his armor, Drake succeeded by making the chinks his armor. [ Chance the Rapper won the Grammy Awards for best new artist and best rap album — for “Coloring Book” ] But Drake has all but ignored Mr.
It’s difficult to overstate just how much has changed for Chance The Rapper since his 2013 breakthrough mixtape Acid Rap. He’s gone from a local legend to a national icon, collaborated with Kanye West, toured the world, and become a father, among plenty of other noteworthy feats. So if his third solo project, Coloring Book, is a bit less engaging than its predecessor, that’s only because Chance is truly happy and wants us all to share in his joy.