Coloring Book: Track by Track Review
It seems like every time I think 2016 is gonna chill with the good music, here comes another project. Chance The Rapper had been teasing at “Chance 3” for a while, but I don’t think any of us expected what Coloring Book brought us. Lil Chano gave us a gospel album similar to that of The Life of Pablo, which isn’t the gospel we are used to, yet spiritually moving nonetheless. Is there a genre called “trap gospel”? If there isn’t, then I want credit for coining that. That’s what C3 was, and I loved it.
I had the chance to see Chance at his Cornell Slope Day 2015 concert. I was a bit thrown off by his selection, as Slope Day is a very energetic, hype day, and I feel like artists need to be as well in order to give a good performance. I was not exceptionally familiar with Chance prior to then, so I listened up and I liked his stuff. My preconceived notion of him being a bit too mellow for Slope Day was dispelled. I was optimistic for his show and was not disappointed come concert time. He put on a great show and made me a Chance fan that day.
“All We Got” was a great intro track. He threw Kanye on his lead track, like Kanye did for him on TLOP. Shoutout to the Chicago Children’s Choir, too. Chance brings so much energy to his music; he literally yells. Likewise, the heavy instruments coupled with his and Kanye's vocals created a truly awesome finished product. And unlike many people, I thought Kanye’s "Music is all we got" autotune was on point. From the sound of the intro, this project could very well be Chance’s version of TLOP. The Life of Chano?
“You don’t want zero problems big fella!” I really like “No Problem” - I like the flow. I like the message. Chance is from Chi Town, or Chiraq, and we probably really don’t want any problems with him. Regardless of what you think about 2 Chainz’s skill level, his pickup lines are hilarious and you have to love them: “Inside of the Maybach look like it came from Ikea/Run sh*t like diarrhea”. On the other hand, Lil Wayne has fallen off since his the “Best Rapper Alive” days, but his verse wasn’t bad. The video only made me like the song more. Chance has so much fun with his music and videos that you really can’t help but enjoy them. Check out all the fun cameos in the video below.
“Summer Friends” is so smooth. You really don’t know what’s coming from the opening, featuring Francis and The Lights. But then you get it, and it’s fire. The track is a very real narrative. Summer comes and goes, as do some of the people we spend the most time with in the summer. That meaning extends past summer and really describes all of life. He goes into a bridge and starts ad libbing, so I feel like most of us were not prepared for the Jeremih feature (unless you saw beforehand that he was on the song). Jeremih fits this song well, though. Three songs in and I’m completely satisfied with what I’ve got here.
“D.R.A.M Sings Special” is a nice, pallet-cleansing interlude.
We find the traditional gospel vibe in "Blessings", in addition to a hip-hop infused beat and Chance’s soulful vocals. The heavy instruments contribute to the overall quality of the track as Chance reflects on his life and how God has blessed him with all the good that has come his way.
My trap gospel title finds its strength and definition in "Same Drugs". There’s a strong gospel vibe here; yet Chance is discussing how he no longer does “the same drugs no more" in a traditional gospelesque manner of telling a story of triumph. He doesn’t do the drugs he used to do. Not necessarily saying he doesn’t do any drugs anymore, but he’s above the ones he used to. That’s progress, right? I appreciate whoever the lady is who adds the background vocals. All of that, plus the shifts in the beat make this song a standout on the project.
“Mixtape” is FIRE. It bumpssssss. (Also an unpopular opinion among the HMTA crew). The choice in features was phenomenal, especially since I’m a huge Young Thug fan and his signature high-pitched “Yeah!” makes songs more memorable for me. Chance didn’t yell here, and it created a somewhat dark vibe. The message is very frank, however. Chance is certainly among the best in terms of mixtapes, and Young Thug and Lil Yachty went hard on this. I’m sure this was intentional, since those two are killing the mixtape game as well.
“Angels” was one of Coloring Book's earliest singles, and I still think it's as fun and upbeat as when I first heard it.
“Juke Jam” is tied for my favorite song on the album. It sampled R. Kelly’s “Feelin On Yo Booty” to a T. I just love it. I love Justin Bieber and Towkio’s contribution, despite being very brief. “Juke Jam” is absolutely about cheating, and that’s something you’ve got to look past to fully appreciate the greatness of the song. Or you can accept that that’s what it is about, and appreciate the fact Chance was so candid.
The opening to "All Night" is everyone’s life, but no one will admit it. “You not a drinker! Sit down, big fella!” We’ve all had a bit too much, and thought we’d be able to handle the amount we drank. Nope. Nights go awry too often. Besides that, this song had a somewhat electric-pop vibe to it. Chance is proving himself among popular artists of today by displaying his versatility. He threw together so many different types of songs yet they all work cohesively.
“How Great” is a remake of the popular gospel song, with Chance’s added flavor to it. My Cousin Nicole has a beautiful voice, and she meshes well with the choir. Jay Electronica’s wordplay-heavy verse is noteworthy as well. I love the minimal amount of background instrumentals; being near acapella forces us to focus on the impressive vocals and lyrics. Over time, more background elements are added in conjunction with the choir that grows increasingly spiritual. “God is better than the world’s best thing. God is better than the best thing the world has to offer”. Chance isn’t afraid to let his faith shine through his music. He is unapologetically himself on every track.
“Smoke Break” ties for first for my favorite song with “Juke Jam.” When you think of a smoke break you might only regard it as being a few times a day for a short period of time. You know, a typical break. For some certain kinds of smokers, a smoke break may last the entire day or happen a lot more frequently than one would imagine. This strikes me as if they reward every daily action with a smoke break. Goal-setting and rewarding yourself is important, after all. Furthermore, given what Future has endowed us with lately, it was refreshing seeing him not only spit over a song like this but to thrive on it. This will decidedly be a hit from "Chance 3".
“Finish Line/Drown” would have been a solid conclusion. It had quite a few features, most notably T-Pain. The man surprised us and came out of hiding to bless this song. There were strong vocals all around that were complemented by great background instruments. “All my days, I pray and pray that I see the finish line, I’m gonna finish mine.” That’s real. The “Drown” portion of the song nearly overwhelmed me when everyone was singing at once. I wouldn’t be surprised to see choirs actually singing this in church one day.
“Blessings”, again? No, this is a calm, mellow remix of the earlier gospel jam. “I speak to God in public.” “I made it through, made it through, made it through.” Ty Dolla $ign nailed his part, too. This was a great ending to the project, along with the “Are you ready big fella?”
What did this project do? Well first, "Chance 3" made it harder for me to decide what to listen to during the day. I feel at peace when this is playing through my headphones. It gives me a distinct feeling from everything else released in 2016. This project further established Chance as a legitimate artist at this current point in time, and it’s arguably one of the best projects of 2016.
If someone asked me to pick two artists and their projects to face any other two artists and their respective projects, Chance and Kanye would be Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Obviously, Drake is Steph Curry. But putting my Drake bias aside, I consider Coloring Book an even stronger contender for best project of 2016 than TLOP. I would even entertain an argument for it being better than Views.
I think this album will be timeless. I truly do. I look forward to more videos for the tracks. Maybe even a collab between Chance, Kanye and Drake?!?