Coloring Book was a turning point for Chance the Rapper in many ways, but one aspect of it comes from the inconsistent quality of performances he has delivered as afterwards, as a featured artist and on parts of his follow-up The Big Day. He showed promise of bigger and more audacious pastures of amazing music, but his meteoric rise at this point fizzled in a quick minute, as the hype he was bringing for his follow-up didn’t have the same reaction as Coloring Book.
The idea of someone having one hell of a four year span and not continuing in peak form isn’t the most uncommon thing, but what Chance delivered after Coloring Book became a severe afterthought of rushed material without any sense of a widened direction of themes and production. So as it sneaks its way at the 5 year mark, you’re almost aghast from how much Chance has sort of changed in the overall blueprint he creates from; as well as wondering how his path went from Coloring Book to appearing on big pop features. But Coloring Book is more than just the music and its place in history, at what people thought was going to eventually be a music streaming war; it has charismatic and colorful flows and vibrant soulful-gospel hip-hop, unlike the projects he’s released before and after.
Chance has always been known for his broken down slow flows and his jubilantly cocky fun ones, but whenever he made certain – topical tracks or came on as a feature, the former flow style came across as hollow and less engaging than before. Many of these recent inconsistencies from Chance have derived from features on topical or trendy tracks made by others, like the boring and typical flex verse on “I’m the One” by DJ Khaled or the bland and mediocre flow on “Bad Idea” with Cordae.
These inconsistent performances have been a little more of a common trait of his post Coloring Book work. It’s almost as if only God or gospel related tracks breach his brain with enough inspiration to deliver good verses with better flows. Retroactively it starts to become more apparent how lackadaisical the verbiage in the verses can be. It doesn’t have that metaphoric and analogical virtuoso where it makes you want to go back and think about what you heard, as opposed to going back for the melodies – rhythmic structure – and production. And it doesn’t have as much impact.
However, some of us have known that Chance isn’t the most astounding lyricist, and most times he comes off as pedestrian. His direct approach to delivering his messages has always been masked by his colorful and vibrant flows over delicate soulful and jazz-gospel production; it makes you get lost in his music. That wasn’t the case on The Big Day, where the creativity stretched thin and he delivered these weird and janky flows and poor rhythmic patterns, though it wasn’t totally clad. This isn’t to discredit his work as a songwriter, as he has shown competency in his rhythmic structure and phrasing. Both #10Day and Acid Rap brought about something different as he dove deep into his subconscious with his own brand of drug-infused hip hop. And what he brought on Coloring Book was a complete 180 from those mixtapes, especially with the colorful flows that I will talk about below.
Similar to the opening to Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo, Coloring Book’s intro comes about with a concoction of soulful gospel performance, as a backing vocal layer and more, from Chicago’s Children Choir and Kanye West; along with exuberant verses detailing the strength deriving from the experiences throughout his life and inflecting that confident bravado flow.
Chance The Rapper came in with poise and confidence when the marketing for Coloring Book began. He knew in his mind this was going to be his big splash on the pop charts after a taste of the space in his early ascension in popularity. It may be why many, including myself, found the mixtape this beautiful cohesion of production, melodies, and flows, deriving from the growth he has had as an artist.
From the dark-like production in “Mixtape,” to a vibrant and jubilant “Angels,” and closing on a slow tempo dance track in “Juke Jam,” the way these tracks and others transition have shown a constant with ambitious flows; as well as the quality of flows from his featured artists who aren’t as “proven” like Young Thug, Lil Yatchy, and Noname, as opposed to 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne on “No Problem.” His flows on other tracks range from the rhythmically slow and emotional on “Blessings,” and the infectiously rejoicing on “Finish Line.”
There is “All Night,” which is a different take on his past cocky and poppy-fun flows that we’ve heard from past songs like “Good Ass Intro” and “Sunday Candy.” Beyond the many visceral flows, Coloring Book brought unique verses from the themes and concept behind the songs. Like on the aforementioned “Mixtape,” which has the artists breaking apart their feelings from the reaction and success deriving from mixtapes; even though they were just coming off the tail end of the heightened mixtape era (DatPiff).
Other themes range from faith and growing up southside of Chicago, amongst others. “Summer Friends,” for example, tells a metaphoric perspective about the truth he learned as a kid growing up, wherein friendships still have a chance of containing tragic ends. He attributes gang violence and drug addiction as a problem; specifically in the former, which heightens in the summer when school is out and sometimes an innocent life is gone because of it.
Chance’s flows have always been one of his two strong points, with the other being his ear for music. On Coloring Book these flows carry a lot of emotional and engaging weight, while other times it’s infectiously fun or distraught and heart broken. You listen and it hits you; track after track there is a lot of depth and sonic consistency that listening to most things on The Big Day, in a way, leaves you disheartened.
However, we remember Coloring Book as Chance The Rapper’s most profound work to date and a significant turning point in an aspect of his artistry, which has been a strong suit. It’s Chance at the peak of his apex, and we’ll be patiently waiting for him to deliver something from somewhere deeper in his heart and not from the corner of forced trendy styles and features.