A moving blend of gospel, rap, jazz, and hip hop, Chance The Rapper’s Coloring Book is easily one of the most brilliant rap albums in recent history. This masterpiece is a stunning celebration of humanity, music, and God by the 23-year-old rapper from Chicago’s South Side. The rapper affectionately referred to as Chance is bold and unapologetically embraces his blackness with lines like “Jesus black life ain't matter, I know I talked to his daddy” that contextualize race relations in modern day America. With unassuming religious themes permeating throughout, listening to this album is a spiritual experience for listeners of any religious background.
Chance’s surprising choice to release Coloring Book as a mixtape means that the artist withheld from releasing the album commercially. Still, he managed to top the Billboard 200 charts, a first for a streaming-only record. Not to mention he accomplished all of this completely independent of any music label. The success of Coloring Book under these circumstances even motivated The Recording Academy to change its rules, now allowing streaming-only records like Coloring Book to be eligible for Grammy nominations. This puts Chance in the ranks of black visionaries like Beyoncé and Kanye West who are at the forefront of revolutionizing the music industry. Amidst all of this, the rapper still manages to maintain a distinct genuineness that pervades through the mixtape. Even the cover art of Coloring Book depicts a genuineness, capturing Chance’s authentic expression of joy as he cradles his daughter below the frame of the shot.
Coloring Book begins with a powerful salutation to the universality of music in "All We Got” with a feature from none other than Kanye West, Chance’s idol and fellow Chicago native. As the album progresses, Chance maintains a flawless balance between the playful cockiness that is dominant in rap culture and a solid sense of humility. With his distinctively raspy voice Chance smugly declares that he’s “Kanye’s best prodigy” but doesn’t neglect to remind us of the gratitude he has for his family and successes. Chance is so thankful that he even names two distinct tracks on the mixtape "Blessings". The album also includes more playful upbeat hits like "No Problem" which is a lively declaration to all record labels that Chance can’t be controlled or managed. The track features verses from popular rappers Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz.
Coloring Book comes to a close with "Blessings", a star studded gospel featuring Ty Dolla Sign, Anderson .Paak, BJ the Chicago Kid, and Raury. Although the track is seemingly overloaded with artists, it’s far from overwhelming and is rather a beautifully fluid and thoughtful collaboration. It eloquently reflects on Chance’s trajectory as a musician with an optimistic attitude about the imminent stages of his career.
With a notable intimacy and frisky sense of humor, Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book certainly took the music industry by storm when it was released in May of this year. Listening to it evokes an unavoidable sense joy and an inevitable reflection on the music and sanctity that we can each find within ourselves.
-Adama Kamara, Staff Writer