The Coloring Book That Brightened Up Our Lives: By @WafflesShakur
On the evening of May 12th, it seemed as if the whole world had shut down.
This was really noticeable in Chicago, hometown of esteemed musical artist Chance the Rapper, who just released his long-anticipated third mixtape, titled Coloring Book.
This might have been the most anticipated project of the year (sorry, Drake).
Chance and The Social Experiment dropped “Surf” exactly 1 year ago…
….But it had been three years since Chano’s last solo project, Acid Rap.
People were aware that some new Chance was coming, since all his previous projects dropped in the months of April through May.
Chance has also been dropping hints at a new project, such as this line from Ultralight Beam on Kanye’s The Life of Pablo:
“He said let’s do a good ass job with Chance 3,
I hear you gotta sell it to snatch the Grammy,
Let’s make it so free, and the bars so hard;
That they’re ain’t one gosh-darn part you can’t tweet”
On April 30th, Chance released the “Chance 3” cover art, and started selling posters on ChanceRaps.com.
Soon after, posters of “Chance 3” were seen all over various cities in the country and even worldwide. In a way, Chance was coloring the world with his music. In Chicago, the posters were found on every corner, especially inside ad-spaces in CTA bus shelters.
Fans on Twitter even began jokingly Photoshopping chance 3 posters onto major landmarks:
The release of Coloring Book was a phenomenon in the city of Chicago. As soon as it hit 10 pm central time on May 12th, 2016, and word got out that the mixtape was available to stream on Apple Music, everyone in the city stopped what they were doing and got their headphones out.
Many people took to Twitter to voice their initial reactions. It seemed that everywhere, people were showing love to Lil Chano from 79th.
Chance the Rapper is beloved by many, because he is not an average Chicago rapper. He is going against the norm, and not utilizing the drill sub-genre, and living the life of gangs and violence – such as Chief Keef and similar artists.
Chance’s musical style is unique, to say the least – and has a lot of variety, allowing him to appeal to the general public. Overall, his music is extremely uplifting, and there are a few rap projects that have achieved that same feel-good effect.
As soon as the first song, All We Got opened up with Nico Segal’s trumpets, along with the iconic “And we back, and we back, and we back” vocals from Chano, bringing us back to those “Good Ass Intro” feels. Many listeners – myself included – were transcended into a musical high. There may have been tears of joy involved.
“All We Got” is a gospel rap song, similar to Sunday Candy and Ultralight Beam, featuring a hook by Kanye West and vocals by Chicago Children’s Choir. A few lines in this song are similar to Ultralight Beam. Chance’s line here “It was a dream, you could not mess with the Beam” is an allusion to “You cannot mess with the light, look at lil Chano from 79th” on Ultralight Beam.
“No Problem” is a warning to the “big fella”; which is a reference to record labels that want to sign Chance, who prides himself on his independent career. In other words, he ain’t havin it.
Chano has long been at war with these labels, who he sometimes personifies as the Devil (see Need to Know – by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis). Chance’s tone is aggressive, stating:
“If one more label try to stop me, it’s gon’ be some dreadhead niggas in ya lobby”,
Meaning 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne got his back. They have impressive features on this song. The amazing production by BrassTracks qualifies No Problem as a banger, and it’s tied as my favorite song on Coloring Book.
“Summer Friends” is a personal and melancholy song of Chance’s. It is reminiscent of tracks like Paranoia and Acid Rain – where he alludes to the hard-knock life, on the south-side of Chicago. Chance laments of how Chicago summers should be full of joy, but they are actually of despair, as overall violence increases in the summer. This song has vocals by Francis and the Lights and an outro sung by Jeremih, another Chicago local.
“D.R.A.M. sings Special”, which acts as an interlude – with a short, repeated, reassuring verse, by the Virginia rapper – that can be interpreted as a thematic sequel to Everybody’s Something from Acid Rap.
“Blessings” is the most religious song on Coloring Book, following a similar theme to Ultralight Beam and Sunday Candy as well. Chance reflects on his devotion to God, and the blessings he has received in return. There also are personal lyrics about Chance’s daughter, as well as the Black Lives Matter movement. The hook features Jamila Woods, who collaborated with Chance on Sunday Candy.
This song premiered on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon:
“Same Drugs” is about Chance’s coming clean from using drugs when he became a father. There are numerous references to Peter Pan about growing up:
“Mixtape” is the banger of the album. Reminiscent of “Fuck You Tahm Bout” from Chano’s debut tape, 10 Day, Chance puts on a trapper-persona, as he discusses his use of mixtapes, and how the music industry is more focused on profit rather than art. Chance the Rapper invites Atlanta artists Young Thug, and newcomer, Lil Yachty, on this song.
Neither Thug nor Yachty have released an official album yet, but rather have a number of mixtapes out. This is related to the Grammy nomination system, where the album must be released commercially in order to be considered or eligible for a nomination.
Chance is against this, as he has promoted a petition to allow free projects (mixtapes) to be nominated for a Grammy:
On this track, Mixtapes, Chance calls out the flaws of the music industry, such as commercial artists claiming to be bosses, and masters of their art, when in reality; they are limited by their bosses – the record label.
In the line “We don’t know none of your words, ayy”, he takes a jab at how mixtape rappers are known for not rapping clearly. Potential shot at his musical guests Thugger and Lil Boat?
“Angels” is a song that premiered on The Colbert Report in October of 2015, and on April 7th, 2016, a music video with amazing visuals was released:
Here, Chano reps his Chicago upbringing, and reflects on his growth as an artist. Chano even shouts out the Chicago area’s Hip-Hop/Rap radio stations: WGCI 107.5 and Power 92.3 fm. However, since Chance and fellow Chicago artist, and guest feature, Saba are independent artists, they get limited radio play.
“Juke Jam” is a ballad about the innocent relationships of Chano’s youth, and of the Juke party scene of Chicago. This song is reminiscent of the Chicago style slow jam (such as Birthday Sex by Jeremih). Towkio of SAVEMONEY performs the hook, which is an interpolation of Feelin’ On Yo Booty by Chicago’s own, R. Kelly, another famous juke song.
Musical guest Justin Bieber does an impressive job on singing the bridge, as well as the background vocals.
“All Night” is Chance’s reflection on one of the bad aspects of fame, where everybody wants to take advantage of him, instead of sharing his good vibes. Produced by KAYTRANADA, this song has an upbeat tempo, and a hook by Chicago local, Knox Fortune.
“How Great” continues the religious themes. Chance’s cousin, Nicole, samples gospel song “How Great Is Our God” in the intro. There is a guest verse by elusive Jay Electronica, who is considered one of the most lyrical rappers, despite having a very limited discography.
“Smoke Break” is exactly about what it’s titled after. Chance and musical guest Future are taking a smoke break, in the middle of their busy lives, since both of them are very accomplished artists. Chano talks about himself and his baby momma needing a break, but not when they have a baby. Future on the other hand may or may not have taken shots against Desiigner and Ciara…
“Finish Line / Drown” is another two-parter, reminiscent of Pusha Man/Paranoia. It continues the theme with God in both parts. In part 1, we follow Chance’s successes, which were helped by God; and in part 2, we follow Noname’s struggles, also helped by God. Eryn Allen Kane, Kirk Franklin and T-Pain provide vocals throughout.
The last song on the mixtape, is a reprise of “Blessings”. This song is about Chance’s rise to success, and where it has taken him.
His line “Kanye’s best prodigy, he ain’t signed me but he proud of me” reflects his relationship with the Hip-Hop icon. Kanye was first an idol to young Chance back in his 10 Day years. As Chance became more famous, Kanye trained Chance to perfect his art.
Coloring Book definitely shows Chance the Rapper’s progress; not only in musical skills, but in his growth as a person.
On 10 Day, Chance was just a Chicago kid fresh out of high school, reminiscing on his youth and looking to the future and especially to the rap game.
On Acid Rap, he is well established off of his success, and more weary of the world, due to drug addictions.
On Coloring Book, he comes clean. He is now a father, a famous musician, and he has found God.
Yet throughout, Chance remains the same kid from Chicago who dropped out of high school, reps his hometown, and hosts open mic events throughout the city. As a Chicagoan, I can relate to him very well.
That is why when Coloring Book was released, the majority of Chicagoans stopped what they were doing and just listened.
With these songs, Chano touched the souls of so many of us, not only with his genius and relate-able lyrics, but with the phenomenal production that delivers a unique soul rap feel to Chance’s work.
I absolutely loved this mixtape. Chance wasn’t kidding when he said this will be better than his previous projects, even though we did not think it would be possible. We waited, and Chance delivered a masterpiece. I believe this is the best project of the year. And we’re not even halfway through 2016.
I knew Chance 3 would be phenomenal. That is one reason I did not buy into the VIEWS hype. To me it was just not relevant to begin with, seeing as Chance 3 was looming on the horizon.
Kanye’s The Life of Pablo, Kendrick Lamar’s Untitled.Unmastered, and Anderson .Paak’s Malibu are no longer my favorite projects of the year. They’re still amazing nonetheless, but now, Coloring Book reigns supreme.
The verdict: a solid 10/10
To all the haters out there, it’s a 9.5/10 in my unbiased opinion.
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