Coloring Book is Chance the Rappers third mixtape and first since putting out the groundbreaking Acid Rap in 2013. Although Chance the Rapper mentions drugs on this mixtape, the project is on a completely different spectrum than “Acid Rap”. Formally known as, Chance 3, Coloring Book features Lil Wayne, Justin Bieber, Young Thug, Kirk Franklin, Kanye West, & more but is very much a statement from Chance.
Is it too early to call Coloring Book a classic or am I falling victim to the moment? The more I listen to the project and compare it to others that came out in 2016 it’s clear it stands out from the rest. Where other rap projects lack in creativity, originality, production, and a balance between melody and bars, Chance executes! The Gospel inspired intro All We Got sets the tone for the rest of the mixtape. Chance raps, “This ain’t no intro, this the entree” starting off with high energy instead of settling for a laid-back opening. Kanye West returns the favor with a feature on Chance’s intro adding to their small catalog of Gospel sounding rap songs. Chance picks up from where he left off on Ultralight Beams. This sounds more like a gospel album than The Life of Pablo could ever imagine.
Chance does a good job of showing his imperfections, vices, contradicting and desires despite it being a Gospel-inspired mixtape. Songs like No Problem, Juke Jam, & Smoke Break are some examples of his contradictions. The Future-assisted Smoke Break is a standout track that has single potential. The Holy Spirit is not the only thing Chance is getting high off of on this track. He made all the messages relatable and it never felt like he was preaching, instead he focused on thanking God for all of his blessings. It sounded like a truly sincere love letter to God.
Summer Friends is a heartfelt song about the violence that goes on during Chicago summers. Chance reminisces about all the friends he lost to violence and hopes for change. He gives some high praise to The Lord on Blessings. which he premiered on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon (not to be confused with the outro). He raps “I don’t make songs for free I make ‘em for freedom/Don’t believe in kings, believe in the kingdom”
Chance manages to take it from the church to the trap on Mixtape. On the hook Chance asks people “Am I the only n**** still care about mixtape?” I think Chance got his answer when he saw how many of his fans downloaded his mixtape. After sonically bringing listeners to the trap Chance takes them to the club on the drinking anthem All Night, which is littered with more human contradictions. He brings them back to the church on How Great trading profound lyrics with the under-the-radar wordsmith, Jay Electronica.
Chance ends the mixtape with some of his best bars on the outro Blessings. Chance raps, “I speak of promised lands/Soil as soft as momma’s hands/Running water, standing still/Endless fields of daffodils and chamomile/Rice under black beans/Walked into Apple with cracked screens/And told prophetic stories of freedom/Found warmth in a Black queen for when I get cold/Like Nat King, I’m doing the dad thing“
Chance successfully fused Rap, R&B, and Gospel to make something special. With all of the trends and repetitive sounds, this album is a breath of fresh air.