Album Review: Give Coloring Book a Chance… the Rapper
by The Milton Measure on Friday, June 10th, 2016
Chance the Rapper’s newly released mixtape, Coloring Book, has received an overwhelmingly positive response, lifting Chance into the rap mainstream. Despite the fact that the album was exclusively available on Apple Music streaming until May 27, Coloring Book debuted on Billboard’s Top Album chart for the week of June 4. According to Tech Times, Coloring Book is the first streaming-only album to reach Billboard’s list. This impressive feat, coupled with the fact that Chance is only 23 years old, shows how far Chance has come since his first project, 10 Day, which he produced his senior year in high school just a few years ago.
Chancelor Bennett grew up in the South Side of Chicago where he began rapping as a teenager. He released his first project, 10 Day, after a ten-day school suspension in his senior year of high school. The success of this first mixtape led to an invitation to tour with Childish Gambino and a feature in Forbes Magazine’s “Cheap Tunes” section. In 2013, the following year, Chance dropped Acid Rap and, since then, has been cementing his place in today’s popular rap world.
Despite Chance’s huge mainstream popularity, his sound has been anything but common. In 2012, Forbes Magazine’s review of 10 Day referred to Chance as, “an artist who draws upon a pool of [various Chicago-based] musical elements and pieces them together into an accessible, fluid amalgamation.” Chance’s ability to successfully piece together varying musical selections and genre samples carries into his work on Coloring Book, which fuses soulful religious exultations with fun dance beats.
Chance has remained influenced by his Chicago-roots since his work on 10 Day. For Freddy Okito (II), who is a fellow Chicago resident, Chance’s album “brings out certain things that only Chicagoans can relate to.” Chance’s many album-long references to West Chatham, a Chicago neighborhood and Chance’s hometown, and to the Rink, a popular roller skating destination, in “Juke Jam” call forth the familiarity and hometown-connections that Chance maintains in all his work.
This new album has delighted many Chance fans in the Milton community. Semi Oloko (II), whose favorite song on the album is “Same Drugs,” says, “Chance’s mixtape is unreal. I had to reset my Apple security questions to listen to it. I can’t exactly describe it in words, but it’s this kind of spiritually awakening masterpiece. I love him so much.”
Semi, like many other listeners, has keyed into the spiritual aspect of Chance’s album that led Pitchfork, a Chicago-based, prestigious online music review magazine, to refer to Coloring Book as, “an uplifting mix of spiritual and grounded music that even an atheist can catch the Spirit to.” Many of the songs on the album, including “How Great” and “Blessings,” blend contemporary rap styles with spiritual religious influences. A main success of the album is its ability to reference religion, while still garnering the attention of a mainstream audience. Freddy Okito praises Chance’s musical versatility, saying, “Chance’s spiritual sense is the pinnacle of his artwork. With the religious aspect, he’s able to engage a different audience to his jams.”
Coloring Book isn’t all gospel, though. With songs like “Summer Friends” and “Same Drugs,” Chance shows his skill as a storyteller and his artistic growth since his earlier projects. In “Same Drugs,” he croons, “We don’t do the same drugs no more,” and this assertion, figuratively speaking, is true. Chance is no longer the same artist he was during his senior year at Jones College Prep High School in Chicago. As Adam Bramson (I) asserts, “[Chance has] tons of range. He’s shown he can produce thoughtful and fun tracks in plenty of different ways.” Bramson also points out that Chance’s many impressive, high profile features on Coloring Book, including Lil Wayne, Justin Bieber, Kanye West and others, point toward his growth in recent years.
Chance’s work on Coloring Book has set him apart from other rappers. Pitchfork praises Coloring Book and proclaims it as a “more rewarding listen than Drake’s recently released [album] Views.” Pitchfork wraps up by declaring Coloring Book to be “personal and panoramic, full of conversations with God, defying hip-hop norms while respecting them, proving that the genre can still dig deeper into its roots.”
Chance’s album, while at times a personal account of his experiences while growing up in Chicago, manages to connect to nearly every listener through its versatile range of styles and its all-encompassing themes of growing up, friendship, love, and religious experience. As Freddy Okito says, “it’s truly a piece of art, and I would say Chance is just getting started!”
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