Retrospective: @ChanceTheRapper – Coloring Book

In May of this year, Chance The Rapper released the critically-acclaimed Coloring Book. Meanwhile, I’ll be honest, my reception of it was that it was a good CD, but not the GAWD ALBUM GOAT PROJECT that some, more established, writers and sites were making it out to be. So, for the next six months, I found myself going back to the album and thinking about whether or not I was wrong to say it was “just pretty good.”

To sum up a long story before we get into why I was wrong, know that, well, I was wrong.

In Coloring Book, we get many facets of Chance, all of which are still grounded in his spirituality and need for communities to come together to create good. While some of his verses may not exactly fit on some songs (for instance, Yachty and Thugger feel more at home on “Mixtape” than Chance and his sing-songy moments can feel a bit forced), it’s that sense of musical camaraderie that’s sorely missing in the game today. Way back when, in an era Chance channels at all times, you’d get posse cuts with different artists and sounds that, somehow made a great track.

For instance, let’s look at the “Flava in Ya Ear” remix.

You got Busta being Busta without really changing what made him Busta. You had LL Cool J spitting the Loverman-meets-Street Love bars. You had Craig Mack and Biggie spitting that grimy shit. And it worked because, while the styles were different, they still meshed well.

Coloring Book meshes a lot of sounds, styles, and approaches to music to create a new world where the possibilities are endless, like a child scribbling in a coloring book. For every moment Chance preaches The Word through his bars, we also get Chance getting lyrical, reflective, and rightfully turnt on songs. An example of this appears in the Future-aided “Smoke Break.” The track is full of double entendres, suggesting that Chance (and Future) need some time to kick back with their girl and smoke and fuck. But, the song also has a “Hey Ya” sort of vibe to it; the narrator of the song is commenting on the chasm building between he and his lover. They want to chill and have things like they were. But, because of children, failing relationships, et cetera, this smoke break isn’t happening any time soon.

I’d like to liken this project to Big K.R.I.T.’s R4 project. Both are unapologetic in embracing their roots, but still allow for a bevy of different sounds to shine through. While Chance doesn’t exactly have a moment like “The Vent,” he doesn’t need to. Coloring Book, while it speaks on the tragedies in Chicago, is, like “Highs and Lows,” just reflective on the EQ we call life.

The album is borderline classic. And no, I’m not saying that to suck up to Chance. It does take several listens to fully capture the album’s greatness, though. You can’t just inhale everything Chance is on in one or two sittings. After you’ve gotten all of what Chance is putting down, you can still come back to tracks on the project and vibe with them like it’s your first time (hi, “No Problem”).

For me, if I can come back to a project several times after the first and second listens, you deserve all the praise you get.  Coloring Book is fun. It’s freeing and introspective. It’s a huge step up from the already-exalted Acid Rap. It’s full of feel-good moments that foster self-growth and self-improvement. Plus, it features Jay Electronica and Chance just spazzing on “How Great” and one of Wayne’s best verses in a while on “No Problem.” What more could you ask for in a project? So, take a smoke break and get ready for your blessings. 

Speed on the Beat

Whatever you need to know about me, you can find out on Dad of two, cat dad (of two), mental health advocate, Team Support Dope Music in All Its Forms.

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