Is there any better way to describe the type of meteoric rise to stardom that Chance the Rapper has experience other than that he’s been riding an Ultralight Beam? The Chicago rapper has been growing in popularity ever since his 2013 sophomore mixtape Acid Rap, to the point that his newest release garnered almost a million tweets upon it’s release.
Throughout it all, Chance has remained the same person. He’s still the loveable goof who rejects record labels, gives his music out for free and never lets you forget where he’s from as well as what he’s fighting for. This is still the case on Chance’s newest mixtape, Coloring Book, which has the rapper greeting the largest audience he’s ever had with gospel-rap masterwork that lives up to every expectation.
God has always played a role in Chance’s work from the start, with his faith influencing his sound as well the lyrics on every release. But with Coloring Book it feels more in the forefront than ever before. If Ultralight Beam was the opening church bells, then Coloring Book is what happens when the preacher takes the podium to deliver his sermon.
And what a beautiful sermon it is. Opener ‘All We Got’ has Chance laying out the his talking points while a booming chorus of “music is all we got’ is delivered by Kanye and the Chicago Children’s choir. It’s a stunning track that features some of the best work of frequent Chance collaborator Donnie Trumpet as well as providing some of the album’s most quote-worthy lines (“I get my word from the sermon, I do not talk to the serpent. That’s the holistic discernment”). But it’s perhaps Kanye’s appearance here that best shows what makes Coloring Book work so well.
Like West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Coloring Book is full of features and collaborators that are on the top of their game. But where West’s record was mostly in service to himself, Coloring Book feels like a coming together of some of the industry’s biggest artists to celebrate the art of music itself.
Everyone from Future and T-Pain to Kaytranada and Brasstracks bring their A-game here. We even get a pretty great contribution from Lil Wayne on ‘No Problems’, which in itself feel like nothing short of a miracle. Of course, a collection of great features would be nothing without an equally great ringleader for them to rally behind and luckily Chance is up for the task.
Chance has a way to make every track feel like a mission statement, as if each word carries the weight of his entire being. While that might seem like it might make for a heavy listen, Chance doesn’t let it become too serious. He’s happy to be there and it shows, even when the topic is heavy on tracks like ‘Same Drugs’ or ‘Summer Friends’, there is a spark of hope. On the album’s best tracks ‘No Problems’, ‘Mixtape’ and both ‘Blessing’ songs, Chance finds a kind of manic energy that makes it hard to not crack a smile along with him.
In fact it’s hard to find one moment on this tape where I wasn’t smiling or feeling some kind of joy in the music. Chance’s voice so full of the life and love of the city that made him that he can’t help but return the favour – and neither can we.