The title of Chance the Rapper’s third mixtape arguably couldn’t be more fitting. He weaves through the tracklist with the unsullied verve of an excited child, who has just discovered all the wonders of life that are waiting to be explored. The mood is openly joyous and uplifting, suggesting we are gladly moving away from the syrupy and hazy laments that have populated Hip Hop over recent years. This tone of the album is clear from the start, with the opening All We Got hook feeling like an electrical surge of choral energy fizzling through the listener.
Chance sings and raps his way through most of this piece with the quiet grace and modesty of a lamb, but there are also moments of fierce, lionlike intensity, warning all his enemies “You don’t want no problem with me”. Interestingly, Chance’s self-proclaimed foes have always been record labels, as he refuses to allow himself to be ensnared by contracts. Consequently, all of his mixtapes have been released for free, emphasising the rapper’s loyalty to music without all its commercial trappings.
However, even though it would have been easy for Chance to deliver No Problem as an angry, confrontational track, he chooses instead to present it in a playful, charming manner, and I believe the song is better off because of it. No Problem becomes a celebratory anthem, rather than a venomous assault – a distinction Drake could have done with learning during last year’s Meek Mill beef.
The huge names that have lended themselves to this album reflect the reputation Chance has built for himself, with cameos coming from established heavyweights such as Kanye West, Justin Bieber, 2 Chainz, Lil Wayne, Jeremih and Future, while the new frontier also aligns itself with Chance the Rapper’s movement, with the likes of Ty Dolla $ign, Young Thug and Francis and The Lights all making notable appearances.
While the title may betray the piece’s youthful vibrancy, Chance’s maturity is also evident on numerous songs. This is epitomised in a touching ode to his girlfriend, “Man my daughter couldn’t have a better mother/If she ever find another, he better love her.” On Same Drugs, he constructs a metaphor to lament the extent to which a relationship has changed over time, while on Summer Friends he explores the fraying of past friendships. Even though these moments are inevitably tinged with sadness, the listener senses that Chance is accepting of the changes that have occurred in his life. He seems to look back on these former times with affection, proving that reflection does not always have to be coupled with regret.
And ultimately, Chance the Rapper’s beautiful, variegated ‘Coloring Book’ shows us that while our hair may turn greyer as we get older, this doesn’t mean we have to lose that childlike appreciation and zest for the fun, vibrant spectrum of life.
Could we have chanced upon the future of Hip Hop?