Chance the Rapper refuses to stay inside the lines of conventional rap music in his latest release, Coloring Book. The Chicago rapper’s third mixtape that dropped May 12 guides listeners through both a playful and spiritual journey. Are you ready, Big Fella?
Opening with a brass section tune-up, the first track, “All We Got,” pairs Chance with fellow Chicago rapper Kanye West and definitively sets the tone for the rest of the mixtape.
“This ain’t no intro, this the entrée,” Chance raps.
First, this track introduces the mixtape’s overall gospel-influenced sound, including powerful harmonies from the Chicago Children’s choir as well as layered instrumental sections. Throughout the rest of the mixtape, Chance also takes on Christian themes through his innovative, modern hip-hop. He contemplates marriage and anticipates salvation, but also wants to give Satan a “swirly.”
This spiritual, soulful style bleeds into other songs on the mixtape like the first version of “Blessings” and is exemplified in the inclusion of an extended a capella choir solo that begins “How Great.”
Furthermore, West’s appearance on the introductory track is only the first small peak at the many artist features to follow on Coloring Book, including 2 Chainz, Lil Wayne, Young Thug, T-Pain, Future and even Justin Bieber.
Despite these mainstream names, Chance, who was born Chancelor Bennett, remains an independent artist. Even after the popular success of his 2013 mixtape Acid Rap, the rapper has still declined to sign to any major record label. Based on music streams alone, Coloring Book debuted at number eight on the Billboard 200.
Chance exudes a confidence and gratitude for his musical journey in tracks like “No Problem” and “Angels,” which revive his signature jovial, guttural yelps and optimistic energy.
“I just had a growth spurt / it took so long my tippy toes hurt / you can keep the nose ring / I don’t have to soul search,” he raps in “Angels.”
Along with unrestrained spirituals, the mixtape also features jazz-inspired grooves like “Smoke Break.” Justin Bieber also lends his softened, pining voice to the sultry sounding “Juke Jam.”
Complementing “Juke Jam,” the following track, “All Night,” is the most danceable on the mixtape. Synth undertones and bursts of trumpets pair with Chance’s simple, playful lyrics, which are reminiscent of Acid Rap.
“Is you is or is you ain’t got gas money?” Chance sings.
Still, in the middle of all the overwhelmingly uplifting sounds, Chance also manages to throw in tracks for balance. “Mixtape” appears as the mixtape’s darkest track, expressing the frustration existing as an independent artist. The background sound almost mimics flames, as Chance experiences the depths of doubt.
“Am I the only n**ga who cares about mixtapes?” he raps.
Also slowing down the pace with a melancholy piano accompaniment, “Same Drugs” takes on a juvenile, nostalgic tone. Chance alludes to childhood images like Neverland, as his harmonies and rounds create a feeling of longing for simpler times.
Breaking the six minute mark, “Finish Line / Down” could potentially exist as two songs. However, the union of the two sounds does manage to feel complimentary, moving from upbeat excitement to mellow contentment.
With this third mixtape release, Chance the Rapper proves that he not only plays on the same level as label-backed artists, but his signature brand of soulful hip-hop now sets the standard to which they should aspire.