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Peace, love and fatherhood

Chance the Rapper advances his sound and brings gospel back to the masses

Jackson Croy and Sam Heikell
June 24, 2016

Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book

Released May 12, 2016

4 Stars

Fresh off an inner-circle position on Kanye West’s latest effort, “The Life Of Pablo,” Chicago native Chance the Rapper returns to his solo work with “Coloring Book,” along with an entourage of producers and features including KAYTRANADA, Young Thug, Lil Yachty, Kanye, Kirk Franklin and others.

For his third solo mixtape, Chance the Rapper presents a heartfelt and honest mixtape in a unique blend of gospel and rap. The mixtape feels perfect for the 75-degree June morning of its release.

Chance has calmed down significantly since his last solo effort. Compared to “Acid Rap,” the Chance that shows up on “Coloring book” is more relaxed, more in tune with himself, though the hyperactive, youthful Chance isn’t gone entirely. We hear the adventurous party-goer on “Angels”, where his whiny, over-enunciated melodies still take refuge. Even still, this is specified as a shout out to the fans who miss these flows. But it’s very clear on songs like “Same Drugs” and “Juke Dreams” that he is on his way out.

Maturity and relaxation now saturates Chance’s writing. No song is a better example of this than track 14, “Blessings.” He implies with the line “I speak to God in public” that he performs his music in order to be closer to God. The rest of the album backs up this point, such as track five, also titled “Blessings,” and track 11, “How Great” which contains heavy gospel influences, even a choir.

Not only does the four-minute poem remind the listener of Chance’s feature on “Ultralight Beam,” but it elaborates on the prayer-song style in a way that Kanye could never achieve: Chance has found peace where Kanye has been searching for years.

The difference between begging for forgiveness and spreading love is one that makes this song not only a conclusion to Chance’s album, but to his search for equanimity.

Chance the Rapper is pioneering a neo-gospel movement out of chicago, of all places. The music is here. Now, the question is: are the people ready to bring this blend of jazz, hip hop and gospel to the forefront of popular music? Based on what has come out of it so far, we are.

Notable Tracks

Smoke Break (feat. Future)

Relationships are the topic of the hour on this lush electronic mix, and here Chance exhibits how little time he gets to have with his girlfriend, who is now the mother of his first child. With him always on the road and her being a hard-working mother, they don’t get the quality time together that they once had, and Chance proves with his soulfulness how much they deserve to share a smoke break.

Angels (ft. Saba)

For those expecting the eccentric, impromptu Chance, this isn’t the mixtape you’re looking for, but there are a few exceptions. One of which is Angels, the lone single on the mixtape released in April. Chance’s “Angels” are his homies, dead or alive. He addresses the excessive violence in his home town, saying the spirits of the fallen will protect him despite conflict around every corner.

Finish Line/Drown (feat. T. Pain, Kirk Franklin, Eryn Allen Kane, Noname)

The first half of this song is a gospel groove powerful enough to get even Bill Nye holy ghosting. The second half is less exciting, feeling more like a less polished draft that Chance wanted to throw in the album for fun. Without a compelling transition between the two, this track feels forced and indecisive.

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