I don’t understand Chance The Rapper’s ‘debut album’ The Big Day.
There is a passage in J.D. Salinger’sCatcher the Rye where Holden Caulfield is standing on the edge of the cliff trying to protect children who are running at him from going over the cliff. The passage goes, “I’m standing on the cliff of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff — I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.”
Holden wanted to prevent youth from falling over the metaphorical cliff into corrupted adulthood. Over the past few years, I’ve looked at Chance the Rapper as a Holden Caulfield type heroine. Chance was challenging the industry and system, and he was not giving in to the commercialization of the music that often corrupts the true beauty and poetry of it. But my perception, unfortunately, has changed. And our roles have changed. I now find myself being Holden Caulfield trying to stop Chance from falling off that cliff.
In a 2015 Fader cover story, “Why Chance The Rapper Is Forgoing Solo Fame To Make Jazzy Songs With Friends.” Andrew Nosnitsky notes “what makes Chance interesting — or at least what makes him especially interesting — are the moves he has chosen to make in the months since those dominos [post his critically acclaimed mixtape Acid Rap] began to fall, and the moves he has chosen not to make.” Nosnitsky went on to say, “He’s remained oddly noncommittal about his future after Avid Rap. No announcing a million-dollar, major label deal. No self-righteous, keep-it-indie counter announcement about rejecting those deals either.”
At the time Chance told Nosnitsky that every label was trying to sign him, “I’ve met with every A&R, VP of A&R, president of the labels, CEOs. I know all these people,” he says. “I’ve had a lot of advice from people [in the industry] who wouldn’t give me that same advice today. It’s not even that they have any ill will towards me because I didn’t take their advice at the time. They’re almost like, ‘Keep going. You’re in uncharted territory, and you’re helping to shed light on what [the future of the business] will look like, and we’re all curious.'”
It is hard not to believe Chance. 2012’s 10-day was not just a debut mixtape; it was a well-composed, brilliant album that that spoke to what it was like being an American high school student. He was 18 at the time. 2013’s Acid Rap grabbled with Chicago’s struggles with crime, violence, and systemic racism. Throughout Acid Rap, Chance portrayed a level of anxiety that addressed the current climate while also experimenting with new sounds and impeccable beat selection. His 2015 collaboration Surf by Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment was a departure from 10-day and Acid Rap. It that had many in the industry question Chance the Rapper; however, it was fresh, ahead of a trend of where music was going, and infectious. “Sunday Candy” alone was worth the album. 2016’s Coloring Book embraced black church tradition, explored African American history, and very skillfully embraced the importance of loving yourself for who you are.
After Coloring Book, it seemed Chance was very focused on his community of Chicago. Earlier this year Chance gave $400K to Chicago Mayoral candidate Amara Enyia. Chance said, according to the Chicago Tribune, “We need help to make a drastic change in this city, I really truly believe in my heart that Amara is the change that we need right now. I believe that she cares; I believe that she loves the people in the neighborhoods and downtown, and I believe that she wants to do everything in her power to make this city better for us.”
A year earlier, Chance the Rapper, who’s father was part of the Obama Administration tweeted that President Donald Trump “has made a career out of hatred, racism, and discrimination.” Chance was responding to President Trump, who earlier praised Chance for tweeting that African America does not need to be democrats. This appeared at first to many of Chance’s fans as an endorsement of the President. It was not.
Part of me felt that Chance’s debut album was going to address what was going on in the world around us. Chance has become the voice for many in his generation. TheBig Day isn’t a bad album. It is a good album. However, good is not what I was expecting. I was expecting something bigger, something deeper, something more raw that addresses some of the anxiety we all have felt over the past few years like he has done so brilliantly with his mixtapes. TheBig Day is about love. I am all for love. But why do we need love now? That is what I feel is missing in TheBig Day. Tell us why love is essential today. Speak to us about our inner anxieties. Call out the injustices you see, like in 10-Day and Acid Rap. Show us the history of struggle and the importance of being uplifted by love and family and tradition like in Coloring Book.
I love Chance the Rapper, and perhaps it’s because of that love that I was just so disappointed by TheBig Day. I expected so much more, which I understand is more about me than of Chance. In many ways, Chance wasn’t going to make everyone happy because his career so far at the ripe age of 26 has been seminal. But when you are as influential as Chance, the Rapper there comes a responsibility to use that influence for good, to address what problems you see in the world and help lead us to a solution.
Part of me feels like I need to stand on that cliff like Holden and prevent Chance from falling off that cliff. His voice is too big and too important to fall off and become like everyone else.