Flashback: Coloring Book Album Review - Chance The Rapper

Chance The Rapper's journey to success is the most satisfying story in recent music history. After being suspended from school, he released a mixtape that earned him a lot of local recognition. However, things didn't hit the ceiling until his 'Acid Rap' project dropped. Suddenly, the Chicago native MC was one of the hottest new-school rappers. I'll be honest here: before I first played Coloring Book, I was worried. Seeing the tracklist, the amount of top-notch mainstream artists had me questioning if Chance would be watering down his style in order to increase his appeal. After multiple listens, I came to a conclusion. Chance The Rapper didn't sell out;the rap game bought in.

The first thing you need to know about Coloring Book is that it's a Gospel album, with some Jazz and Soul influences. Everything from the way it sounds, to the rhymes Chance is spitting. This is a holy experience. Still, old fans should not be worried. The 'Acid Rap' vibes are alive and well in each track. But in many ways, this feels like an improved, more mature artist.

The music in here is absolutely outstanding. Production is soulful from beginning to end (with the exception of 'Mixtape'), but it's done in such a spectacular way that allows you to create a variety of sounds while keeping the cohesion together. The beats are mostly handled by The Social Experiment (they killed it), but other producers like Kaytranada, Brasstracks, and Cam O'Bi come through with fantastic work. There is a heavenly amount of live instrumentation;from trumpets, violins,choirs, electric guitars, piano, etc. Each melody serves a very specific purpose: reach your heartstrings.

Now, this isn't much of a surprise, but Chance continues to be one of the most relatable spitters in the game. His music feels so personal and real. Even if his lines were absolute garbage, his charisma and delivery would still carry any project. Nevertheless, there is plenty of interesting content to be found here. The project is a representation of his current state of life. Everything's good. He met Kanye West. His daughter changed him in unforgettable ways. The three pillars when it comes to content are: God, family, and his city. The 'Blessings' songs alongside 'How Great' are beautiful anthems dedicated to the lord. His daughter and baby mama are constantly brought up. There is a humongous sense of love and proudness whenever he brings them up. 'Angels' and the smooth ode to south side Chicago 'Juke Jam' have Chance showing love to the city. All the more, he briefly mentions a drug addiction he suffered last year. There is a perfect amount of introspective tunes, softer ballads, and summer anthems.

When it comes to the features, I was blown away. Like I said, I didn't want Chance to modify his style as a means to obtain the big names. Surprisingly, it's the other way around. Many of these artists genuinely step out of their comfort zones. 2Chainz usually doesn't rap on beasts as soulful as 'No Problem'. I've never heard Future in something as smooth as 'Smoke Break'. For the majority of the time, Jay Electronica doesn't even rap anymore! Well, they all switched it up. Other features that truly grabbed my attention were Justin Bieber, Noname, T-Pain, Ty Dolla $ign, Saba, Jeremih, and Lil Yatchy. They all did a great job.

As far as negatives, I only have two minor gripes. The first one is the tenth track , 'All Night'. Even if the song is nothing remarkable when it comes to lyrics, I do believe it's a very solid ballad that will have your hips moving any day of the week. Nonetheless, it felt a bit out of place. Not enough for it to be a major issue or break the cohesion, but definitely noticeable. Lastly, I wish the intro to 'How Great' was a bit shorter. This is perhaps my favorite moment in the tape. Chance and Jay ElecHanukkah deliver some of the most vicious verses I've heard this year. And while I love the soulfulness cousin Nicole brings to the table, a minute and a half would have been enough. Its actual runtime is two minutes and a half. Again, nothing that ruins the song, but I probably will skip part of the singing whenever I play this gem.

Verdict: Just like a real Coloring Book, this body of work tells a narrative within each song. Every melody, line, and hook is full of positiveness, soul, and love. This is easily the strongest rap project I've heard this year. A must listen.

Favorite Tracks
- Blessings (Outro)
- Finish Line / Drown
- No Problem
- Angels
- How Great

Least Favorite Tracks
- All Night

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