Chance the Rapper ‘Colouring Book’ – Review

13 Jun

‘Am I the only nigga still cares about a mixtape,’ asks Chance the Rapper on the uncharacteristically brash ‘Mixtape’. If it’s true that the format has fallen out of favour then what can’t be doubted is Chance’s commitment to the mixtape. ‘I don’t make songs for free, I make them for freedom’ he says later on, on ‘Blessings’, and really he does both. ‘Colouring book’ can be downloaded for free and just became the first mixtape to chart in the top ten on streaming data alone. ‘Colouring Book’ really doesn’t sound like something to be given away and dismissed though. As its title and artwork suggests, it’s a colourful, exuberant and detailed piece of work that is a cut above both ‘Acid Rap’ and last year’s ‘Surf’, the brilliant collaboration with Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment.

Kanye features on the opening track ‘All We got’ to provide a mumbled, auto tuned melody and on the album’s final song he gets a shout out where Chance conveys his excitement at being Kanye’s latest protege. Chance has certainly inherited Ye’s melodic ease and interest in Soul music but if we are talking about a line of succession then Chance has a more convincing claim to Drake’s crown. He is a sentimental, naturally nostalgic 20-something who frequently casts his eye to the past. On ‘Same Drugs’, a kind of modern update of Beach Boys classic ‘Caroline No’, he croons over a gently lilting piano line and synthesised string arrangement about how an old love has sadly aged. On ‘Juke Jam’ he details the history of a relationship formed in childhood, with the help of Justin Bieber who delivers a memorable and brief chorus. These songs, and others, paint a picture of a more humane rapper than we’re used to seeing scale the heights of the Billboard 200. Chance is more generous and less egotistical than Drake or Kanye and therefore his songs are a lot less conflicted, and probably less interesting than those rappers at their best. He is a lot more likeable though and ‘Colouring Book’ shines with the warmth of his personality.

Like ‘Life of Pablo’, colouring book has been described as a gospel album and it certainly sounds a lot more like one than the aforementioned Kanye record. We’re used to rappers discussing the Gospel but few have ever done so with such sincerity and unguarded conviction. ‘I’m gonna praise him till I’m gone’ he sings on the devotional ‘Blessings’, while he makes his faith even more explicit on the positively evangelical ‘How great’. ‘God is better than the world’s best thing’ he preaches over a gospel choir and church organ before unknotting his beliefs for the nonbelievers with some of the most credible raps about God you will ever hear. This is Chance’s gift – to take a massive subject like religion, personalise and simplify it and the make it appealing for everybody. He does it with blissful melodies, purposeful rapping and simple beat making. Forget about anything else, his skill of communicating the benefits of spirituality for a mass audience is one that few other people on the planet possess.

8/10

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