2016 was a breakthrough year for Chance the Rapper, who dropped Coloring Book in May. Combining the choir-infused gospel hip-hop of “Stomp”-era Kirk Franklin with Kanye at his most earnest, Chance provided positivity when it was most needed.
// INDEPENDENCE AND FREEDOM
One of the overriding themes of Coloring Book is freedom. His biggest radio single to date, “No Problem” is all about remaining defiantly independent.
Featuring the poster child for why record contracts massively suck in 2016 (Lil Wayne), the cameo-filled video for “No Problem” illustrates what makes Chance an accessible rap star. He is playful and positive, yet he avoids being a cornball. Chance straddles the line between being an indie darling and a mainstream Jeopardy answer with ease. He brings balance to an era where the glorification of violence and codeine-fueled trap is commonplace.
// GOING DEEPER
There is a lot of growth on Coloring Book. Chance’s production, which he handles with long-time collaborators The Social Experiment, has live instrumentation and newfound musicality. One of the album’s many stand-out tracks, “How Great” highlights how Chance has matured as a lyricist.
// STANDING OUT
There are a lot of features on Coloring Book, many of which are from other up and comers (Anderson.Paak, Kaytranada, BJ The Chicago Kid). Frequent Chance collaborator Noname shows why she deserves to be mentioned in the conversation of top female MCs. Her skills were also on display during Chance’s recent SNL performance of “Finish Line/Drown.”
Bopping around the festive stage in red overalls and his signature “3” fitted cap, Chance had a Linus from Charlie Brown Christmas moment. He reminded what Christmas is all about at a time when – let’s face it -life seems apocalyptic AF.
Coloring Book is a fitting bookend to 2016. The album expresses the power that music has to heal and transform at a moment when we desperately need the encouragement.