Exciting. Electric. Experimental. These are all words that can describe the project Coloring Book that has been produced by Chance The Rapper. The third stand-out mixtape from the young Chicago artist had many fans waiting on pins and needles for this project. A follow-up to his project Acid Rap, the piece definitely takes its time to tell you a story. It tells the story of a young man who detests the walls that labels have thrown up around his art, accompanied by the trials and triumphs of being a friend, father, and up and comer. Sporting features from the likes of Kanye West, T-Pain, Jay Electronica (shockingly), and Ty Dolla $ign, the tape enjoys taking its time with each track, highlighting the strengths of each composition.
Don’t get me wrong…the tape does have its problems however. I’d like to get them out-of-the-way so I can continue gushing about the amazing body of work we have here. For starters, there are definitely some songs that should have been clipped. Mixtape, boasting features by both Young Thug and Lil Yachty is absolutely atrocious. For such a groundbreaking piece it truly forces Chance into an awkward space. As a fan who has been following him for so long, I was honestly shocked that he would attempt to put himself into the space of a club rapper. The track itself is extremely generic, bland, and often times not even sonic-ally pleasing. With weak verses from both Thug and Chance, it seems like Yachty is the only one who truly wanted a place on this track.
The other blaring problem with the album is one that reared its ugly head on Surf, which was an album produced by Chance’s friends, and often times collaborative partners: Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment. This problem is all too noticeable on songs like All We Got, featuring Kanye West. Often times the five or six Kanye(s) singing blasts over top the beautiful horns and vocals and comes very close to ruining the song. Often times, the horns or piano, while beautiful, end up sounding distorted, or even poorly recorded. This is a huge problem that I hope gets corrected the more The Social Experiment grows and learns as producers.
Now, with all of the unpleasantness out-of-the-way, I want to talk about all of the things this piece does oh so well. To say that this is bold is the understatement of the year. Chance had to really put himself on a limb to include so many gospel, soul, and prayer themes as he had. He would’ve had to truly immerse himself in the beauty that is surrounded by gospel vocals, and this isn’t something easily accomplished in the overwhelmingly negative world that rap can often times inspire. However, he does it triumphantly. In songs like Angels, the beautiful composition of horns, combined with a catchy hook by Saba, and great bars and rhymes by Chance will have you smiling and tapping your steering wheel.
Songs like Juke Jam and Blessings show a sweeter, more hopeful side of Chance. Possibly having his life and his fire tempered by being a father, he seems to have a much more optimistic and nostalgic view of the situations he has been through. How Great is another song that managed to catch me off guard. Chance delivers a verse with as much punch as Jay Electronica (man, can’t believe he came out of his cave) who follows him. The two flow off each other lyrically, and man oh man does it work. One particular line caught me right in the feelings. “The book don’t end with Malachi.” Wow. To those who really know their bible, it’s essentially Chance promising to accept and pass the torch once he achieves his goal, showing his appreciation for rap music and art in general.
Finally, No Problems is as catchy as they come. A song that seems to have its own identity, it has a feature from 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne that is more than likely one of the best verses I’ve heard from either artist in quite a while. Chance letting them have run of the track was risky, but definitely made for a fantastic listen. Truly this is an album that I recommend listening to all the way through. You’ll find yourself tearing up, smiling, humming along, or even dancing to what has to be the most electric and personal collection of music I’ve heard in ages.
Ultimately, if you’re a fan of Chance, this is more of the poignant, powerful, and conscious wave that he’s been riding post Donnie Trumpet collaborations. If you’re not a fan, give it a listen, run it all the way through, and see how it hits you. To me, it scratched that itch I had in my soul. It gave me music that reached down to a happier, more calm time that truly made me feel nostalgia for times gone by. Most of the risks taken paid off, and I’m so glad, because this truly was a piece that will last quite a long time in my heart.
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