It’s been a hectic couple of years for Chance The Rapper. Ever since his first mixtape release was noticed on soundcloud in 2010 the only direction has been up. This is telegraphed by the positioning of his gaze on his three mixtape covers which I suggest you look at if you hadn’t already noticed. On his first mixtape (10 Day) he can be seen looking up into the sky, on his second mixtape (Acid Rap) he is looking directly forwards and now on his third and most recent one (Coloring Book) he’s looking down on the competition. A very witty and well thought out piece of imagery which speaks volumes for the Chicago born rapper’s rise to superstardom. His hero and role model, Kanye West, also a Chicago proud rapper, presented Chance to those who hadn’t heard him before on his recent album ‘The Life Of Pablo’, on which we were blessed by perhaps the verse of the album by Chance himself on ‘Ultralight Beam’. His fast paced, upbeat flow and production has provided a refreshing change to the image of rap music and as his name grows even larger, we anticipate even more from his projects. Will ‘Coloring Book’ be child’s play? Or will it be the gospel album of a lifetime we were all promised?
All We Got (Feat. Kanye West & Chicago Children’s Choir) – 8.5/10
Beautiful horn intro twinned with gradually increased paced snare really sets the tone for the song. Chance begins in slightly hushed tones before exploding onto the track with a louder and quicker rap which brings with it the orchestra behind it creating a mirage of pleasant sound. The influence of Kanye one this song isn’t as prominent as I would have initially expected and there’s nothing in the form of a verse from him but instead an autotuned few lines in the chorus and hook. That poignant line of “music’s all we got really gives you the feeling of passion and raw emotion that not only went into this song, but Chance’s career, showing that although on the surface it may not seem it, Chicago is a city that bleeds music and celebrates gospel vibes. It can be a bit all over the place at times but it is clear as to why this has been done, mainly to show the emotion being spilled onto every note of the vocals and instrumentals. I think it’s an incredibly strong start to the album and represents everything Chance has stood for throughout his career, but it doesn’t match up to ‘Ultralight Beam.’
No Problem (Feat. Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz) – 8/10
At first glance, you would be puzzled by this collaboration but it works absolutely brilliantly. Another key thing to point out is that despite the enormity of Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz as names in the rap industry, Chance doesn’t let them take over this song and therefore lose its traditional ‘Chance sound’ and that is as important an involvement as any on this project. He’s tone and style for rapping can be questionable occasionally, particularly at the start but it seems as the song goes on he slowly fades back into normality with his voice. Catchy chorus in which the gospel choir are mixed and twisted in the background along with Chance’s trademark chant. 2 Chainz has a strong verse no doubt and controls the flow well but there are far too many times when Lil Wayne gets drowned out by the instrumental, through no fault of his own. It seems bizarre that this would be allowed after months of tweaking to make it perfect and you can barely hear one of the most iconic feature rappers on this mixtape because of the beat? It’s the only thing that lets this otherwise brilliant song down.
Summer Friends (Feat. Jeremih & Francis & The Lights) – 8.5/10
Takes a long time to get into the song but my word is it worth it. Electronic but subtle beat creates a wonderful atmosphere for the song and tees up Chance for a verse which is probably the best on the album, impeccable timing, flow, rhyme, you name it and this first verse had it. The lyrics of this song show more of an acknowledgment of his success to what we usually see from Chance as he looks back at the friends he’s kept along the way but also unfortunately those who are there just for the short term gain of being a famous rapper’s friend, which is the main purpose of this song. It’s a powerful message which is portrayed in a catchy yet meaningful matter. Jeremih’s verse is short but sweet and coincides well with the song. Great song, that’s 3/3 success rate so far, this mixtape really has started magnificently and long may it continue.
D.R.A.M. Sings Special – 7/10
A bit of a filler to set up the next song but you can see why it has its place and it links the songs well, has a spaced out feel to it with nothing but positivity in the air as the lyrics repeat “everyone is special, this I know is true” which is a lovely message to send across. It’s positivity like this which is why Chance is causing such a stir in the rap industry at the moment with these blissful lyrics which focus solely on the glory and beauty of life, as opposed to looking down on everything and feeling sad about things. It’s the perfect message to send across and he knows that. The only reason this song doesn’t get a higher rating is due to it being more of a transitional piece rather than an actual song, but it’s still great nonetheless.
Blessings – 9/10
Such a mellow song in which Chance gives thanks to everything he’s been given in life, stating that “when the praises go up, the blessings come down” which is another positive message in which it shines his love for religion in a very positive light. His love for God in this song is the main thing to take away from this song as he thanks him for everything in life and all the success he’s achieved. An amazingly chilled out song which is bound to put a smile on your face, beautiful work once again by Chance. You could listen to that over and over again it’s just so soothing to hear.
Same Drugs – 8/10
Just Chance and a piano, it’s so simple yet so effective. Speaks of a transformation from drugs to blessings and a religious dedication to his life and almost offering himself as an example that it’s never too late to escape from the evil world of drugs and seemingly be saved by the Lord like Chance has. The power the gospel choir have by simply harmonising once or twice in the chorus is unbelievable as they just make everything sung about by Chance seem so much more real and meaningful, like they’ve been pulled directly from his heart and soul. If this song stopped after 3:30 I would have been more than happy but I just feel like it dragged a bit towards the end and you were sort of willing it on and for it to be over. It didn’t play too much of a part in the rating of this song, however as its such a minor aspect of a great gospel track.
Mixtape (Feat. Young Thug & Lil Yachty) – 4.5/10
What a change, this is an absolutely filthy beat which sounds crackly and almost broken in its style. Seems like a bit of a shot at other rappers who don’t seem to “care about mixtapes” and clearly, as seen by Chance’s mixtape heavy discography, is a big part of how he raps. The chorus does sound a bit whiny and can grind on you at times, and don’t even get me started on Young Thug’s verse. Now I’ve never been Thug’s biggest fan, he’s barely tolerable at the best of times but this is just agony. Not only can you not understand a single thing he says, he also changes his tone to this excruciating squeal almost and it does seem as though he’s only doing it to sound recognisable, it’s god awful. I didn’t rate much about this song really other than the beat which is proof that Chance can go outside that gospel commercial barrier and go toe to toe with the bigger rappers. The song itself is quite poor though and easily takes the prize as the worst on the album.
Angels (Feat. Saba) – 10/10
Genius, absolute genius. Almost a year old this song and it hasn’t aged by a single second. An absolutely infectious beat and a brilliant breathless vocal performance by Chance himself, what’s there not to like? The chorus is absolutely fantastic, it sounds like something fresh off a Caribbean beach with the wonderful steel drum beat before the Chicago sound is implemented with the trumpets and Chance just carries on once again as he started. He shows the confident side of a Chance that we all love and uses all of this energy from the track to be released vocally and refer to how he has “Angels all around” him and that they keep him “surrounded” which must mean he’s top dog to attract that many angels just for him. A sublime song with a touch of Caribbean heritage, it’s absolutely joyous and above all, grand.
Juke Jam (Feat. Justin Bieber & Towkio) – 6.5/10
A song all about the love between two people and how they used to incorporate music into their relationship. The chorus of “we gon’ have a juke jam, just like we used to” is an effective lyric, especially with the feeling that these two have perhaps broke up now and are remembering all the times they shared together. On paper, the feature of Justin Bieber, perhaps the biggest name in today’s music, would have created a huge buzz and had fans excited to see what could be produced. In reality, it’s a smooth beat with smooth vocals and passionate lyrics but that’s about it. You feel a bit short changed by Bieber in that all he does is harmonise with Towkio in the chorus and then technically has one line in the whole song which he sings a couple of times. It is an okay song and very easy listening but won’t be hugely memorable in the grand scheme of things.
All Night (Feat. Knox Fortune) – 8.5/10
Short and sweet track which fits into that ilk of a ‘modern hip hop beat’ but it also has a nice funk twist in its depth. I love this beat and it’s only made better by the brilliant hook vocals by Knox Fortune who makes you want to get up and dance, it’s such an upbeat song and works fantastically with the whole mixtape. Chance’s bars are a bit cheeky and jokey but have fantastic delivery and flow in his classic tone and pitch. It’s just a short but brilliant jolly track with a funky modern beat, another track that hits dead on the money for this, so far, fantastic project.
How Great (Feat. Jay Electronica & My Cousin Nicole) – 8/10
Religious imagery again with the opening of the song having a gospel choir sing “how great is our God?” This is a real tone setter for the song but it does drag on for far too long, I can understand why he leaves it for this long of course I can as he is trying to slowly transition the gospel into his style of song but it takes about a minute and a half too long for my liking. When this Jay Electronica influenced beat kicks in there’s a real sense of devotion and dedication to his Lord in a joyous tone. It must be said that what we lose in the very long intro, Chance more than makes up for it with his verse, a nearly two minute long verse full of celebratory bars for not only his life but also his hometown of Chicago and how he will never leave his roots behind. Jay Electronica’s verse is also brilliant and fast paced to provide a fitting end to a great song full of passion and love for his religious beliefs. The lyrics Chance uses are heartfelt and also heavily involved with God, lines like “I don’t believe in science” or when he states that everyone in Chicago is his “cousin” it’s a familial bond which links everyone together. Great song which would have been even better if the intro wasn’t so long winded.
Smoke Break (Feat. Future) – 8/10
Space aged beat which you do feel has been crafted by both Chance and Future with Future’s very distinct banger style vocals in mind as these snares become frequent at the end of each line. With this comes Chance using his vocals to incorporate this beat and so he ends each line with a sharp delivery of the word to make it stand out and be clear. Slows down the beat and thus the tone of the track after his second verse with a more melodic tone before building it straight back up for Future’s glaringly obvious lyricism to come into play (that was a lie). As I’ve said before about Future, you can never have a clue what he says but you’ve just learnt to cope with it now because he has a voice which is difficult to ignore and not only that, releases consistent high quality bangers which go down a treat in the rap industry. This is another top draw song about love and sensuality in which Chance shows himself off as this wonderful lover in every possible way and how he’s lucky to have the girl of his dreams there with him.
Finish Line/Drown (Feat. T-Pain, Kirk Franklin, Eryn Allen Kane & Noname) – 8.5/10
The longest track on the whole project and with a name like ‘Finish Line’ you would have imagined it would be put at the end of the mixtape but it hasn’t been for some reason. With it being almost seven minutes long it leaves the listener hoping for quality otherwise that is an awful lot of wasted time. Luckily, he delivers on this song as he always does. A beautiful and calm song which wouldn’t go amiss as the theme song for a cheeky American family sitcom with its groovy piano and drum instrumental. He really never ceases to amaze on his vocals too as his second verse sounds like he doesn’t even breathe, it literally sounds like a minute of non stop rap with no breaks for breath, it’s unbelievable talent to be quite honest. The best is something quite different for the first part of this song (‘Finish Line’) in that it’s almost like a band behind him with all the generic band instruments rather than a computer created beat. I like it, however, I like it a lot. On the second part of this song (‘Drown’) there’s a brilliant feature by Eryn Allen Kane who raps fantastically and really holds her own well against the legendary Kirk Franklin who appears after her. Just his legendary voice is all that’s needed for this song to be graced by his magnificence and it’s a brilliant ending to this very long but very powerful song. I thoroughly enjoyed every second and love the transition from part one to two.
Blessings (Feat. Ty Dolla $ign) – 9/10
A second song called Blessings on the same album which seems odd but this time there is a feature of renowned king of the hip hop feature Ty Dolla $ign. This is slightly different to the first Blessings track as he begins with a rap of epic proportions and ability and raps about being “Kanye’s best prodigy” which is one of many stand out just fantastic lines. The chorus is melodic, harmonic, soft, beautiful, just about any word you could use to describe a calm beat would fit the criteria for this. It’s a great job done by Ty Dolla $ign who coincides well with the choir and helps belt out “are you ready for the blessings”, a confident but loving line used to create a peaceful atmosphere for all listening to it. A quite magical way to end the mixtape and it leaves me with zero complaints, magnificent.
Overall – 8.5/10
Wow, just wow. This is truly phenomenal. There is one song I really dislike on this mixtape, and a huge portion of my disliking from the song hasn’t even come from Chance himself so that says it all really. He puts an incredible modern hip hop spin on a soulful gospel vibe and creates what I would call a modern hybrid masterpiece. This album is for me, without question, the best project released this year and it will take some shifting from the top spot. Angels, Blessings, All We Got and Summer Friends were absolute classics just to name a few and comparing it to his other two mixtapes, it’s definitely better than ’10 Day’ and is on level par with ‘Acid Rap’, both of which are absolute gems. It looks like Chicago is moulding a new king of hip hop to follow in Kanye’s footsteps, look out world.