As soulful horns fill the first track on Chance’s highly-anticipated 2016 entry, the MC out of Chicago’s South Side proudly sings, “and we back, and we back,” the same words he used to kick off his “Good Ass Intro” on “Acid Rap.” Chance certainly follows through with that statement, delivering a creative, eclectic and optimistic effort that marks his first solo-billed mixtape in three years.
Each and every Chance release is a collaborative, collective effort, and “Coloring Book” is no less. DJBooth.net listed all 74 people who were part of this project, which included Anderson .Paak, Justin Bieber, and T-Pain.
Chance fulfilled his dream of collaborating with fellow Chicago artist Kanye West, one of his biggest inspirations, earlier this year with his contribution to West’s “Ultra Light Beam.” Kanye returns the favor in “Coloring Book,” appearing on the opening track “All We Got.”
Chance launches into his first verses on the album, which blend his unique style of singing and rapping. He touches on his relationship with his daughter’s mother, how his life has changed since “Acid Rap” was released and his desire to live life righteously. Chance does this withseveral clever rhymes on “All We Got,” including, “I get my word from the sermon/I do not talk to the serpent/That’s the holistic discernment/Daddy said I’m so determined.”
Each song on “Coloring Book” is different from the next, from the gospel-tinged rap of “No Problem” featuring 2 Chainz and Lil’ Wayne, to the trap soundbed of “Mixtape” with surging Atlanta rappers Young Thug and Lil’ Yachty. All this makes for an eclectic mixtape that sees Chance experimenting with a variety of sounds and artists, and all the while honing his craft.
Of the many themes on Chance’s new release, the most prominent is his faith and appreciation of the blessings that have come to him since his last mixtape. Nowhere is this more apparent than the gospel-infused rap of “How Great,” which begins with the Chicago Children’s Choir and Chance’s cousin Nicole (who’s only credited by her first name) belting out a Christian gospel hymn entitled “How Great Is Our God.”
The Social Experiment, Chance’s band and the producers of the song, then flip the choir’s harmonies into a soulful sample looped over a simple half-speed beat. Chance’s free-association delivery shines through on this song, as he drops references ranging from Malachi, the final book in the Old Testament, to Hedwig in the Harry Potter series.
Chance’s rhymes on “How Great” describe how he used to “hide from God” while living in Chicago’s West Chatham neighborhood. But Chance appears to have changed. In his rhymes on this song, he says that he hopes to use his faith and position as a popular artist towards a noble, righteous purpose. Chance, who recently became a father, also speaks to his desire to maintain a good relationship with his daughter’s mother:
“Here for I will speak noble things as entrusted me/Only righteous, I just might shrug at the skullduggery/I couldn’t stand to see another rapper lose custody.”
On the triumphant track “Finish Line/Drown,” the second-to-last song on the mixtape, Chance acknowledges death for the first and only time on this optimistic release. But even then, he finds some degree of reassurance in it.
“I felt hogtied ever since my dog died/He lived to 84, damn, that’s a long ride/I know he up there, he just sit and he wait/I’ll be racing up the stairs, I’mma get to the gate, singing.”
Hopefully, that won’t be too soon, and Chance will have an opportunity to continue to reinvent himself like he has done on his stellar third mixtape, arguably the best rap release of 2016 thus far.
Tracks 2) “No Problem,” 5) “Blessings,”
11) “How Great,” and 13) “Finish Line/Drown”
“Coloring Book” is now available to stream on Apple Music with a free three-month trial.