13 June 2016

REVIEW: Chance the Rapper - Coloring Book

Chance the Rapper is an interesting artist to me. He has tracks like Sunday Candy, Acid Rain and Angels (the last of which is found on this mixtape) that I feel should put him near that Kendrick/Cole tier (not THAT near, but definitely closer than a..let's say Fetty Wap). These tracks showcase his phenomenal range as a hip hop artist. Lyrically clever, and melodically graceful, Chance is able to experiment with a vast array of sounds, even though his hip hip career is only about 3 years old (his debut mixtape 10 Day dropped in 2012). But he also suffers (well, my definition of suffer as it pertains to hip hop artists) from feeling the need to mimic the popular sound of today's hip hop. So his tracks with Lil Wayne, Future, Young Thug or Future (or even Kanye) all have he same sound and cadence. A high pitched, auto tuned, strained vocal cord sounding, intangible mess. But I will say that while I can't tolerate 5 seconds of that sound from other rappers, Chance can actually hold a melody so it isn't quite as bad. So how did the 23 year old Chi town emcee do on his third mixtape?

First off, the Coloring Book mixtape can easily be mistaken for an LP. The production is top notch, most of which is shouldered by The Social Experiment, a group of musicians that include: a trumpet player, producers, a composer, a drummer and a rapper (Chance). The foundation of their sound is a neo-soulful, jazz infused, eclectic mix that could trace its roots back to ATCQ. But there are a few tracks that sonically reach another level as they take strong influences from the gospel genre. Religious themes are found throughout Coloring Book, but How Great is by far the most reflective. Chance states that this is his favorite track off of the mixtape (mine too), because of its strong connection to his grandmother. How Great was recorded a few weeks after his grandmother's passing. His cousin Nicole sang How Great Is Our God (by Chris Tomlin) at the service and Chance was understandably moved. Chance invited his cousin to sing on the track, which made it even more personal. But if that wasn't enough, Chance was able to get an elusive feature from Jay Electronica. The Muslim emcee is able to perfectly complement Chance with the overall Christian theme of the track. Songs like this, and Blessings show a maturity in how Chance is able to tackle subject matter that is incredibly complex and sometimes polarizing.

But this is also why young Chancelor is so intriguing to me. He is so gifted lyrically that when you add his musical aesthetic, there is something very special there. Since Chance's style is so malleable, he sometimes picks up the flow and cadence of those he raps with. So a song like Mixtape, featuring Young Thug and Lil Yachty (who the hell is this!?), plays a color by number type track from beginning to end. Each rapper sonically impersonates the other, and all sound like they can't hold a melody and have lost there voice the night before. But as I mentioned above, since Chance can actually hold a note without auto tune, he is the most tolerable. And here is the crux of my feelings about him. If you ask me, "do you like Chance?" I say, "Yes?" Because I feel he has the potential to move up the emcee pyramid. He doesn't need to dumb his lyrics/flow down to placate the prevalent generic hip pop (not a typo) sound. The Coloring Book has tracks that hit strong PEAKS musically, but it also has "meh" songs that are mediocre for his talent. And I am not just hating on party songs. Tracks like All We Got, All Night and Finish Line Down are more light hearted songs that are a great listen. And even after saying all that, I feel great about Chance's future. Yes, this mixtape had peaks and valleys for me, but he will find a balance as he grows into the emcee he is meant to be. Overall, if you're a Chance fan, you'll like this latest mixtape. And the same would go for those who want something new, Chance's hip hop spectrum is as vast as they come. I look forward to see what the young Chi town emcee has planned for this next project.

Peep video for Angels below. Also, fun fact, all of Chance's mixtapes (this is his third) are painted by a Chicago artist. The Coloring Book's cover was painted from a picture of Chance holding his newborn daughter.

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