Chance The Rapper’s determined verse on Kanye West’s Ultralight Beam was the prelude to Coloring Book. While TLOP failed to sustain itself as a gospel hip-hop album, Kanye redeemed himself by passing the torch to Chance, allowing him to create an excellent project staged upon the same theme. But Chance’s down-to-earth persona is a stark contrast to the Yeezus God complex, and Coloring Book is a relatable record, especially for the youth growing up in his native Chicago, many of whom may face potential danger every time they step outside.
By campaigning for Coloring Book to be considered eligible for the Recording Academy and a Grammy nomination, Chance The Rapper has stirred a public debate about how free-to-download mixtapes play a critical role in hip-hop. The definition of what makes an artist “independent” is blurring, but nevertheless, Chance The Rapper is still controlling how he creates, distributes, and promotes his music. On the song Mixtape, an experimental, poignant-sounding track featuring Young Thug and Lil Yachty, Chance asks: “How can they call themselves bosses, when they got so many bosses?”
Aside from Chance bragging about his artistic independence, Coloring Book celebrates his personal triumphs. Loving references to his baby daughter and her mother appear on All We Got and Blessings, which are guided by gospel undertones. With songs like Juke Jam, Chance is unafraid to share the elementary innocence echoed by the project’s title as he sings, “’I found out all the shorties with cooties was cute/And realised what booties can do.” Coloring Book is a calendar of growth for Chance, who shares memories from the past that shaped the man he is now.
Sonically, this LP gathers the warmth of a Sunday choir at a Baptist church into forward-thinking hip-hop production, and feels like the gospel for the non-domination: come as you are, leave your burdens at the altar, and be thankful to witness another day. Coloring Book is an inspiration for younger generations, one that tells them to create from the heart, and to not allow rejection to become a permanent maker of where you are headed.