Kyle Martin | Staff Writer
Preston Mitchell | Staff Writer
Key to understanding this record is the inspiration behind it: Kinsley Bennett, daughter of Chance the Rapper. In his recent Reddit AMA, Chance answered major questions about his influences and this record with “You’re right. Everything is pretty much for her now.” This means that his latest mixtape is more or less a dedication to Kinsley.
With that in mind, the record makes more sense as a complete package upon repeat listens.
This record is a revamp of Chance’s style and outlook on the music industry, different from his two previous projects. Moreover, his place in Chicago culture and hipster-hop seem to be finally cemented. With features ranging from Young Thug, Jay Electronica, Jeremih and even Justin Bieber – this mixtape is diverse to say the least.
Where it hits
The intro, “All We Got,” kicks off with a fabulous first verse from Chance, who reflects on the birth of his daughter and his growing love of music. Unfortunately, Kanye West’s hook bastardizes the smoothness of the track and is oddly and abrasively double-tracked. It’s an uneven opening, but nonetheless holds value.
Luckily, Lil Chano earns back his goodwill with the requisite banger “No Problem.” Well known for his nonconformist method of providing free music, Chance transforms his indie ideologies into a braggadocious (but clever) party song.
Continuing the project’s momentum is “Summer Friends,” which details Chance’s thoughts on the Chicago’s rampant violence. Last year, the artist was awarded Chicagoan of the Year from Chicago Magazine, according to musictimes.com. He uses his music to spread crucial messages as an advocate for his city and other causes. “Acid Rain/Paranoia” from his sophomore tape was an intimate piece about inner-city violence and a cry for help for Chicago, and “Summer Friends” is a polished track that’s glossy, bright and seems to carry on with the rapper’s history of advocacy.
The next track is an interlude where the singer D.R.A.M. croons a lullaby to Chance’s daughter, a charming interlude fitting for the record. This is where the harmonization begins to hit its stride, wonderfully segueing into “Blessings,” a gospel celebration of Chance’s child.
Next is “Same Drugs,” a tender ballad and a favorite on the mixtape. It slows the project down after “Blessings” to tell an intimate story of Chance’s waning relationship with a woman he knew from childhood. It’s a brilliantly ubiquitous song that speaks to anyone with nostalgia.
Where it misses
The project begins its misses after this, starting with the Young Thug and Lil Yachty-featured “Mixtape.” Even though Chance has the potential to bring the best out of anyone, he joins in on his friends’ vocal shenanigans to create an uninspired trap song that sounds like most of today’s radio fodder.
Simply put, this is more Thug’s and Yachty’s track than Chance’s.
While “Angels” briefly brings the artistry back, “Juke Jam” continues Chance’s musical flip-flop. He appears to copy the style of his featured artists to disappointing results. And since that artist is Justin Bieber here, it’s an attempted slow jam with all sizzle and no steak.
Another dent is “All Night,” the project’s weakest song. Here, Chance goes too far out of his safety zone to tribute ‘80s house music, and his chorus is so repetitive that it causes chronic ear bleeding. This track might be heard at that next frat party, but will not make it much further than that – definitely not impressed with this one.
“How Great” hits home for those who appreciate gospel work, as this song has been played throughout churches in America by their worship bands for decades. Chance’s powerful lyricism and Jay Electronica’s feature work seamlessly together.
The mixed bag of tracks stems from Chance speaking to different audiences throughout the entire LP. “No Problem,” “Mixtape” and “Angels” are meant for turn-ups, but ballads like “How Great” and “Finish Line/Drown” are geared toward more conservative crowds. While you might soon hear “Mixtape” on a night out, there’s no doubt that his rendition of “How Great” and “Blessings” will soon find their ways into churches and praise bands throughout America.
In particular, the last two tracks shine all on their own. “Finish Line/Drown” is a 7-minute gospel epic that reunites Chance with Kirk Franklin to encourage listeners to never give up. Chance’s verses, Franklin’s ad-libs and an amazing T-Pain feature wrap up the project well before it concludes with a “Blessings” reprise. Both songs nicely end the endeavor, and Chance’s motives behind making this mixtape have clarity by this point.
Ultimately, “Coloring Book” contains too many misfires to be labeled as a classic.
Within this record lies insight into Chance’s life, his ability to use features and major developments in his songwriting. If Chance the Rapper can hone talent and not rely on trendiness, he may grant us a rap classic someday. As for now, “Coloring Book” is merely enjoyable.
Featured Image: Courtesy | Chance the Rapper