The feeling of a thousand drunken butterflies swarming in your stomach is how I feel before pressing play on this Chance The Rapper album.
Highly anticipated...no, I would never describe three years of anxious waiting with such a carelessly tossed around cliché. Kanye was highly anticipated, Drake was highly anticipated, Coloring Book (which we previously assumed was titled Chance 3) is like Christmas in May after being adopted by millionaires who promise to give you everything you ever dreamed of. All I have ever asked from Chance was great music and he has always delivered. In fact, he’s delivered so well and so often that it’s hard not to expect a new echelon of greatness every time.
I enjoyed Surf, and I thought Donnie Trumpet and The Social Experiment did an excellent job in creating a creative body of work, but it wasn’t a Chance album. It wasn’t the sequel to Acid Rap, a free release worth more than three TIDAL subscriptions. I should probably be nervous that all this hype has built up into impossible expectations, but to be completely honest with you, I think he’s very aware of what this album means. Going big is the only option, this is the body of work that has the potential to solidify all those that have knighted him the future.
I’m not expecting an album better than Acid Rap, but I look forward to an album that's a worthy successor. Chance is an excellent artist, incredible rapper and a visionary who has infiltrated this game and rewrote all the old rules and the old way of thinking. The labels can’t sign him, the industry doesn’t know what to do with him and the fans are screaming for more. He is the offspring of some of our favorites, he now carries their torches. Writing this, I can feel the excitement flowing through my fingers. There’s an energy in the air that something great is about to happen. I could be wrong but my gut, it tells me that we’re in for a treat, one that you won’t get every day.
These 1 listen reviews are stressful—for a breakdown of what a 1 Listen review entails click here—but I'll only get one chance to experience the album for the first time, so I might as well document every single thought as it comes. I can’t stop, can't rewind, just live and react at the moment, but for a first listen maybe that's for the best.
Let me pour up some of the good liquor and get ready to have my mind blown.
1. “All We Got” (ft. Kanye West & The Chicago Children's Choir)
The title is Coloring Book, I love it. So we get some trumpet work to kick this off. Nice claps, Chance is saying "we back," back for the third time. Powerful, the bass is heavy. WHOOOA THIS FEELS SO BIG. Kanye on the hook sounds like he submitted his vocals from the year 3005. Ha, Chance just threatened to give Satan a swirly. Production is huge. It’s not "Ultralight Beam," more like a Special Beam Cannon that could pierce your soul. Kanye’s singing hasn’t gotten any better since the 808 days but I can’t complain. Music is all we got, the motto for the rest of summer sixteen. Doesn't hit me like Good Ass Intro but still a good start.
2. “No Problems” ft. Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz
Nathan called this the craziest house party with a lit gospel choir so I’m excited to hear it. WOOOOO SO SOULFUL. Who is the producer? The kind of music that will have you hitting the meanest dab in front of your preacher. Can I get an email? I mean an amen. Chance will have us dancing all year. Off Chance and the beat alone I see why this was a "Holy Shit" song selection. Chance's voice used to be so high (and borderline annoying) but it’s one of his greatest strengths. The energy is infectious - Friday reference. Labels usually love dread heads in their lobbies, Keef, Wayne, 2 Chainz, speaking of Titty Boy…ha, Petty Pablo, Yeezus and bounty hunter references. Can’t say Chainz doesn’t spit. The line about being so high and dapping God, it’s been a good year for Titty versus. LET'S GO WAYNE! This beat is everything. Oh yeah, this is Drought Is Over 4 Weezy baby. Chance and Tyler are two new generation artists bringing back that old feeling. I need a whole Wayne album over soulful loops for the culture. A nice jab at the label to close out a strong feature. Chance and Wayne collabs = 2 for 2.
3. “Summer Friends” ft. Jeremih & Francis & The Lights
Kind of surprised the "Paradise" joint is on here, I wasn’t very fond of it to be honest. Nice, soulful hums to kick things off. Church hums in Auto-Tune, feels like something T-Pain could’ve done in 2007. Who is this? The beat just surprisingly kicked in, weird intro but we're moving. Up-tempo, Chance reminiscing back on the days. I love his nostalgia, lightning bugs and a Blockbuster reference. So easy to forget he’s so young. “Summer friends don’t stay,” sorta like a sequel to “Paranoia" without the fear and paranoia. The singing/rap switch up is only getting stronger. The Auto-Tune crooning feels like diet James Blake, kind of strange. I love the song's tempo. Sounds like a voicemail is playing. Jeremih came in and he isn’t talking birthday sex. Also reminiscing about summer friends, he has a really nice voice, how was his album again?
4. “D.R.A.M. Sings Special”
Well, that was kinda strange. Definitely need to revisit. Is D.R.A.M. a honorary Social Experiment member? He's got vocals man, and the woman in the background sounds great. If only Drake didn’t Drake-over his hit. D.R.A.M. is telling me I’m very special and I’m feeling the love. This is like a Christmas carol they would make you sing in elementary school to make everyone feel good about themselves. I now feel good about myself. Production has a nice warmth to it. Just an interlude, not sure how often I'll come back to this track.
5. “Blessings” (ft. Jamila Woods)
Blessings! Jamila Woods' voice is like an angel coming down from heaven and giving you a church hug. Chance is so soulful, this is Sunday in route to Bible study music. “I don’t make songs for free I make them for freedom.” Need this in a hymn book right next to "Ultralight Beam" and "All We Got." The Krillin line is a win for all Dragonball Z fans. Wonder how many "Chance is a Christian rapper" articles will be written by the end of this month? He’s been going just as hard for the man upstairs as Cornrow Kenny. I love the Fallon performance but the CDQ is incredible. Good God. It flows man, this second verse. Donnie and his trumpet needs to be in museums. Wow! I wish he still had that choir, they had my soul moonwalking on the ceiling. Someone remind me to send this to my momma. Yes, Chance makes mom music.
6. “Same Drugs”
The first Chance song without a feature. Those eccentric mouth sounds, very Chance. He’s Drake-ing again but I’m here for it. The piano keys are hitting all the right feels. Funny, this feels like an update on the couple from "Lost." A couple that isn’t doing the same drugs no more. Second verse the piano is picking up, the background hums are a nice added touch. Only Chance could make a song about not doing drugs and feel so holy. Piano solo, the vocals came floating in like a hawk cutting through a gorgeous blue sky. I love music with so many layers, transitions, it’s like walking through a funhouse. You don’t know what will pop out. Who is this woman singing? There’s voices blanketing my eardrums. So much is happening…
7. “Mixtape” ft. Young Thug & Lil Yachty
Then it ends. What is THUGGER TALKING ABOUT!? Ha, hey Nathan, they made this song for you. Inside joke. I need Thugger to body bag this. This is the first beat that wouldn’t fit a gospel album. Alright, Chance doesn’t even sound like Chance. He really sounds like he was in East Atlanta with Gucci back when he was doing a verse for a The Movie edition of Gangsta Grillz. Thug comes on with a bizarre flow that slaps you in the face. Thug doesn’t care about structure, he just does whatever. Crazy there's an album with both Thug and Wayne on it in 2016. Lil rowboat. Ok…well…Ok…he’s still going...alright…there's some bars. The line about having more money than his dentist was nice. He's got a nice flow once he gets started. I don’t hate this completely.
8.“Angels” ft. Saba
I GOT MY CITY DOING FRONT FLIPS! “Mixtape” sounds like doing drugs with your friends on Saturday, “Angels” is being baptized Sunday morning. I love the trumpet riffs in the hook. Is it okay to call a beat gorgeous? Sonically good looking? American Top Model tier. Chance is great at rapping, Saba is great at rapping, the beat is great at beating, I've been playing this since it was released and will continue playing it. So far I’m pretty much enjoying this album.
9. “Juke Jam” ft. Justin Bieber & Towkio
“We used to roll at the rink,” this is already my favorite song of the album. Chance is doing a lot more singing but this is some '90s R. Kelly bump and grind at the skating rink music. Justin Beiber just appeared like a wild pop star. This is pure teenage nostalgia for anyone who spent their adolescence at the local roller rink (shout out to me). Could this be a hit? Feels like it could be a hit! This album sounds excellent. These vocals man. Great song. I need to rewind until I’m 14 again.
10. “All Night” ft. Knox Fortune
This project really does feel like flipping through a coloring book. WOOOOOOOOO. There was some talking off the top but then the beat dropped and the track turned into some nice swing, dance music. Chance is tap dancing in the pocket. He’s definitely making music for the summer. A strange tempo transition but I’m not mad. Chance's range is insane, he’s dipping in and out of genres like a chameleon. The only consistency is it all sounds good. This one was short, not completely in love but I'll be bringing it back when this review is complete.
11. “How Great” ft. Jay Electronica
We back in church. The choir is asking how great is our God? I mean he’s pretty great. Solid guy. Still hasn’t returned Kendrick’s phone calls, though. Really. This is beautiful. This is a pure gospel song. There’s a bit of an organ, some Auto-Tune singing just peeking in from stage left. This is getting spooky. About to break out my Bible application since it went from Thursday to Sunday in a single song. Okay, here we go. Got a nice, mid-tempo beat kicking in. Chance doing his best Jay Electronica flow. WHOAAAAAAAA. If Chance dropped an entire album with this flow, cadence and style he’s allowed to call it Act II. This is going to be the one with all the quotables. Bars on bars. Jay Electronia comes through with the Lion King reference. Funny, these two sound like they were born to rap together. I might be critical of Electronica (aka Jay Neverendinghiatusica) but he’s a fucking incredible rapper. This is a big rap album riddled with Biblical references and gospel influence. Church.
12. “Smoke Break” ft. Future
Oh, I’m loving this one. WHO DID THIS BEAT!? It’s like a trap beat that found out Jesus was his lord and savior. Full of animation and color. Chance rapping about a girl, there's a really interesting narrative going on here. Wonder if this is about his baby's mother. Future! Fu is doing what Fu does best. Not a traditional Future beat but he sounds excellent. He knows how to find that pocket...wait, wait, wait, is that a Ciara reference? I’m not sure. I’m not in love with the hook and I have a love-hate relationship with this beat, but this one works in the oddest possible way. I guess he's still chain smoking.
13. “Finish Line/Drown” ft. T-Pain, Kirk Franklin, Eryn Allen Kane & Noname
Six minutes, lets do it. Looks like Chance called all his friends for this one. He kicks it off, mentions a Xan addiction? I need to rewind this entire thing, I'm sinking way too much into the production. Feels like when you’re listening to Anderson .Paak, how he has this entire world unfolding in the song. T-Pain is back at it again with the strong vocals. “Labels telling me to my face they own my friends.” The labels caught some bars on this one. This is the ride out into the sunset music. Soulful. Full of rays and sunshine. Production really feels like Surf 2.0. Instruments galore. Bask in the sea of sounds. Alright, song switch. So many voices. I can’t tell who is who. NONAME. She has mastered the talking/poetic/rap flow. She has the gentleness of a summer breeze. The big chorus and the blaring horns. Kirk Franklin and a vocalist are going back and forth like rappers but not trading bars.
Another song called blessings? Yeah, this isn’t like the earlier version. Chance is rapping, “Kanye best prodigy he ain’t sign me but he’s proud of me,” LETS GO LETS GO LETS GO. This is Chance The Rapper. “Call me Mr. Mufasa I had to master stampedes.” Is that BJ The Chicago Kid? Sounds like BJ doing background vocals. Another big choir chorus. This is the best gospel album I’ve ever heard.
Final (first listen) thoughts on Coloring Book:
Chance The Rapper didn’t deliver a rap album. Not in the traditional sense. There’s rapping, singing, dancing, choirs, and sounds; warm, fuzzy sounds. I feel like a rainbow just exploded in my eardrums.
It’s not Acid Rap and it’s not Surf. There are similarities to both but Chance made sure his third album could stand alone.
He has some big features that all delivered (well, the verdict is still out on the little Yacht that could). There’s so much running through my mind I’m not even sure what to do but play the entire thing again. If I had to give a final take, I'd just say, it feels good. Real good. Like going to the family reunion and hugging that real religious Aunt that reminds you how blessed you are.
We’re blessed to have Chance The Rapper. Play Coloring Book, it will make you feel good.
What more could you want from music?
By Yoh, aka Yoh the Writer, aka @Yoh31