-Chance the Rapper disappoints with a shoddy and messy effort.
Leading up to the release of this mixtape, Chance the Rapper appeared poised to make it his masterpiece. His debut, “10 Day,” got his name out there and set the stage for what I consider to be a classic, “Acid Rap,” which exploded and made him a household name among hip-hop fans. Next was last year’s “Surf,” with the group fronted by close collaborator Donnie Trumpet, The Social Experiment. On that album he was working with artists like J Cole, Quavo, Erykah Badu, and Big Sean, to name a few, and elsewhere he was appearing on songs with Justin Bieber, Childish Gambino, and Macklemore, and was also releasing freestyle mixtapes with Lil B. And then came Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo,” where Chance was featured heavily on the opening track, and stunned people, including myself. Chance had been riding a steady wave of hype, gaining respect and gaining recognition. But does “Coloring Book” capitalize on that? Unfortunately not.
The opening track, “All We Got” featuring Kanye West, immediately sets the stage for the shoddy effort to follow. Chance himself is fine, doing his signature sing raps about his family and his religion, but the beat is messily assembled and the mixing on the song is way off. Kanye’s autotuned hook, which at its core isn’t very good, sounds horrible because its way louder than anything else in the song. He comes in and just blocks everything out, so its a loud, slurred Kanye hook that’s overpowering an already messy beat. It’s a messy, near unlistenable song. But while things don’t get worse or that bad again, they rarely get a whole lot better.
The problem with the majority of the rest of the tape, though, is that it’s kind of boring. It’s a little average. While “All We Got” was head on collision car crash bad, songs like “No Problem,” “Mixtape,” “Juke Jam,” “All Night,” and “Smoke Break” are like backing into a trash can. You’ll get over it, but you’d rather not have that happen. I never thought I’d call a Chance the Rapper song boring or average, but those aforementioned song are to me. “Mixtape” takes Chance’s cooky personality and guts it, putting him over a shoddily mixed and generic trap beat and next to an ear grating Young Thug feature. Lil Yachty is actually the most interesting person on this song, and he saves it from being entirely throwaway. “Juke Jam,” featuring a decent sounding but ultimately boring hook from Justin Bieber, sounds like an awkward interpretation of Drake’s “305 to my City;” a lesser version of a song that was clearly the worst on its respective album. Elsewhere, “All Night” is an awkward (again) forgettable dance pop tune, and “Smoke Break” is another forgettable track, this time with Future. There’s lots of features on these songs, which piqued my interest going into them, but 4 listens in and I’ve come to the conclusion that they’re just not well made songs. Forgettable melodies, nothing lyrics, messy beat assembly, and messy mixing. Quite a shocking step down from stuff like “Acid Rap” and “Surf.”
But it’s not all bad. A few of these songs do hit on those magic Chance sensibilities, like the jubilant and absurdly catchy “Angels,” the nostalgic and bittersweet “Summer Friends” which touches upon the same paranoid themes as Chance’s masterpiece “Pusha Man,” and the absolutely gorgeous “Same Drugs,” on which Chance employs a beautiful falsetto that I didn’t know he had in him. He is also letting religion influence his work quite a bit here on songs like “Blessings” and “How Great.” A lot of people have tagged it as “gospel rap,” and I can’t disagree, with the “praise Him” chorus of “Blessings” and the stunning choirs of “How Great.” Chance’s lyrics are divinely inspired as well, featuring tons of biblical allusions and imagery, and they result in some moving and poetic verses. “Blessings” is a flawed song with some dry drums, but these vivid words go a long way. Religion isn’t everywhere on this tape, but on these two songs and at other places, it’s a common theme that’s well explored.
However, overwhelmingly “Coloring Book” is pretty disappointing. The mixing is off in a lot of places, but so is the writing as well. It’s also wildly inconsistent. Chance is stunning me on songs like “Summer Friends” boring me to death on songs like “Smoke Break,” or shocking me on “All We Got.” And the worst is that he is capable of so, so much more.
Standout Tracks: “Summer Friends” “Blessings” “Same Drugs” “Angels” “How Great”
P.S.- Can Noname Gypsy put out a mixtape or something? She’s killed every feature she’s gotten.
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