Chance The Rapper has arrived, and arrived, and arrived. The man born Chancelor Bennett stormed the rap game three times over with the releases of 10 Day, Acid Rap, and Coloring Book. With each of his three official projects, Chance has made some mark on hip-hop. Be it getting his foot in the door, dropping a classic tape, or making GRAMMY history; Chance is one for making a statement. The one statement Chance hasn't prepared, though, is his "debut" statement. That is, until now.
The Big Day, Chance's official debut album, feels a touch ceremonious, and a bit out of time. Most fans and critics accept Acid Rap as his formal debut; after all, it is the project that broke Chance from Chicago rap darling to hip-hop's golden boy in 2013. The label "debut album" carries with it the weight of the world—for artists and fans. You only get one chance to debut formally, and Chance The Rapper, for better or worse, is making his today.
In usual 1-Listen fashion, the rules are the same: no skipping, no fast-forwarding, no rewinding and no stopping. Each song will receive my gut reaction from start to finish.
1. "All Day Long"
Warm. Chance’s voice. The arrangement takes me back to Surf. He sounds good. His flow is swift and concise. His vocals are so clean. The beat has a nice tempo, it’s building into something worth hearing. Is that John Legend on the hook? My stream doesn’t include feature credits (and I'm told neither will yours). This sounds like a Chance song, somewhere between the Arthur theme song and Michael Jackson with rap verses. It feels uplifting. “Used to drop acid.” This second verse is really good. He’s in a zone. Much stronger than the Coloring Book intro. I like the John's hook, but I don’t love the writing. I do, however, love the production. Great solo from John. I think that’s John, it’s too early to trust my ears. [Editor's Note: Yup, it's John.] Don’t stay up late drinking Tequila and then wake up and write album reviews, kids.
2. “Do You Remember”
Now, this is interesting. Chance is keeping that same warmth, but the arrangement is ear-grabbing. Slow build-up. Singing. I know this voice, I just can’t place it. [Editor's Note: It's Benjamin Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie.] Very soft, weightless. “I remember the summer…” Nostalgic Chance. Nostalgia is his gift. Chance takes us back to yesterdays. This is a solid verse. “They walk on eggshells and landmines.” Chance has such a conventional structure to his songs. They’re created like how music was made when we were children. He's talking about his daughter. I liked the lean cup line, and I love what he said about the 27 club. Good song. Chance knows his brand.
Now we have some drums. The album was moving pretty slow for me. I like this rhythm a lot. There’s a lot of vocals in the background. Sounds like he called a choir of voices to come in and do backup. Love the Steph bar. Happy to hear the artist with rapper in his name is rapping. These verses are all good, there are bars. I’m just waiting for a game-breaker verse. Is this song about side chicks/side niggas? New fame issues. Singing. It’s very sweet. Smino! Man, am I happy to hear his voice. He sounds great. He’s sliding on this beat like a snowboarder riding down a mountain. The warm chords are a great contrast to his voice. I like this one, it has character.
4. "Hot Shower"
Oh! Hi-hats! And they're hitting. Chance came on here sounding like Eazy E’s younger cousin from Chicago. Off-kilter delivery. Chance is having fun. I hope this is a posse cut. This beat deserves to be attacked by four or five rappers. Chance is eating, though. The album needed a plot twist. Who is this? Damn, I’m not exactly sure of the voice. I like the voice. Reminds me of Playboi Carti. I don’t think it is, though. It’s too childish to be Carti. [Editor's Note: It's MadeinTYO.] Solid verse. DABABY! Let’s go! This guy has a rap voice you will never forget. The charisma! I love the McLovin bar. Whoa. DaBaby came to leave his mark. You won’t forget him anytime soon. This one is fun. Could’ve been the single.
5. “We Go High”
We fly high, no lie, you know this. One time for Jim Jones. Hearing some early gospel textures. Ah, this one is personal. Interesting. He’s being open about his relationship. “A new coat of paint don’t make the stain go away.” Love that line. His wife has a nanny. Oh! The Gotenks bar. That’s what I come to Chance for. Great bar. Either he’s been saving verses or he was inspired during the making of this album. So far, “We Go High” is the early favorite. Reminds me of 10 Day Chance with the singing. I miss how dirty his music sounded. Ha, the Lifetime movie line is a chef's kiss moment.
6. "I Got You (Always And Forever)"
Who is that? A woman’s voice. It reminds me of Janet Jackson. I don’t think so. Is it a sample? [Editor's Note: Yes, it's En Vogue.] Man, I love how the drums dropped. This is a '90s throwback cut. Dancefloors would have been trampled if this song dropped in 1994. Chance is such an old soul. His voice is so unique. Who is the woman vocalist? It’s nice to hear a rapper make a record like this. Chance is trying to solidify a contemporary lane with a nostalgic bent. It’s cool. I see the vision. Not sure if I’m coming back to this one.
7. "Photo Ops (Skit)"
Sounds like wrestling. There’s a fight. I don’t know what’s happening. Is that John Witherspoon? Whoa Whoa. Man, Chance called in some favors. This feels like a scene out of Friday After Last Friday’s Friday. I love his voice. I wish more rappers would’ve called him for skits. Man, this reminds me of DeRay impersonating Bernie Mac on College Dropout. God bless Bernie Mac.
I still don’t know what this album is about. What is The Big Day? We're building toward some big moment. A woman’s voice. A quick intro. Chance is giving me Drake vibes. Interesting. Oh yeah! This is it! The Lupita bar was great. This might be his best verse thus far. He’s golden hair with green eyes in the booth. Taylor! That was an obvious feature. They make for a good contrast. Taylor has come into his voice. This is oddly aggressive. Do they feel like the world is against them? The Bennett's are pretty well-loved. They’re like an American Family. They could be the black Kennedys with the right press. Still a great record, though. Keeper.
9. "The Big Day"
I'm enjoying how Chance is employing features. He’s built an assembly line of a stars. “The only way to survive is to go crazy,” I hear that. Love the production change up. The drums have plenty of personality. A sweet song. Man, those textures in the background are wild. I don’t know what’s happening here. The arrangement is built to captivate. I'm excited to see the production credits. The Big Day sounds like an expensive album. Switch up! He just started yelling. Whoa. I wasn’t ready. Someone is having a meltdown. It wouldn’t surprise me if that was Donald Glover. He’s the type to yell like that. [Editor's Note: It's not Donald, sorry, Yoh.] Good song. I’m keeping it, but I have no idea what any of that was about.
10. “Let’s Go On the Run”
Ten tracks in and I have no idea what will happen next. Chance is inside a mixed bag. I love his energy. He’s pumped up. How much money did he spend on these features? It’s a nice showcase of his Rolodex. Chance loves beats that are layered with color. I see kids loving this record. What happened to his voice? It dropped. The texture is heavier. I like the verse, though. Zombie The Rapper. Ha. Love the drums that are closing this one out. This is a beat!
Nice build-up. I haven’t heard many producer tags on here, but there aren’t a lot of trap beats. Well, there’s no conventional trap beats. I appreciate that Chance didn’t move in that direction. This is a fun verse. He is going for something loose, carefree. Megan! I could cry. Just her voice, it’s a pleasant surprise. Yo, she is going to steal the show. Great call to get her on this. Keeper.
12. “Big Fish”
Love the keys. Gucci! Was that a Gucci ad-lib? Chance started rapping. Oh, and he is rapping. The pen is working. “I’m a force in the field I never take damage.” “They don’t sell marriage no more.” Interesting. I wonder if this album is about giving us the look into his life that could’ve easily been a reality show. Keeping Up With The Bennett's would be a thing. Gucci is rapping and my heart is full. I love his voice. He has the OG Gucci texture. That slight nasal. Gucci is such a good rapper. The flow is sleek. East Atlanta. Gucci sounds like an executive who walked by the studio and just had to drop some bars because the beat was cold. I didn’t need that hook again. I’ll come back for their verses, though.
13. "Ballin Flossin"
We have reached the point in the album where it's starting to feel a bit long. Let’s see what Chance does with this second half. Now, this is fun. I love the keys. Yeah, this is Chance getting into the house bag. I love the sample. Is that Justin Bieber? Man, all these pop guys have similar textures. [Editor's Note: Nope, that is Shawn Mendes.] I like this. I don’t know about that Chance verse, but this is a great change of pace. The footwork videos on the Tik Tok app will be all over the internet. Chicago is going to love this. Getting Timberlake vibes from the hook. Nice.
14. “4 Quarters in The Black (Skit)”
Loving the skits. How did Chance do this? I can see this man’s face, but his name is escaping me. I’m really bad at this today. He called everyone for this album. Giving a toast. So fatherly. Someone wrote this script, well. “Got a little lucky.” I love this. Keeper.
15. “5 Year Plan”
Chance has my attention. There’s something happening on this album. I love this one already. It feels like he’s acknowledging so many things that occur as you are chasing your dreams. This feels like a major label debut album. Maybe the first debut in rap history where the artist was already renowned. Man, Chance is bigger than both Drake and Kendrick when they dropped their major label debuts. Instead of being the album he’s spent his life making, Chance made the album that represents his life since becoming a successful rapper. This is BY FAR the best song on the album. This is the Chance I love. He could end the album here.
16. “Get a Bag”
A sample. He’s singing, and he sounds great. This is a very bright canvas. Running through a field of sunflowers bright. Ha, that cigarette line. Chance has found the bounce. Yep, he’s jump-roping. Everything is working. The flow, the delivery, the beat. Who is that? He’s sliding. I didn’t need a feature here, but I’m not mad. Sounded like I could’ve been anyone from Rich The Kid to MadeinTYO. I can’t keep up with all these trap kids. [Editor's Note: It's Calboy.]
17. “Slide Around”
Nicki! This album is making me realize how much distinct voices make a difference. Some voices just have that character you never forget. Pi'erre Bourne beat. Nicki didn’t rap, but I’m pretty sure she’s a feature. Chance is in a nice pocket. “I still got hoop dreams.” I laughed. I’ll say, Chance, sounds like he wants to rap. This is definitely a Drake flow. Will Chance be the successor to Drake’s throne? Nicki sounds great. This flow works with her voice. When she finds the flow, she’s still a dangerous emcee. Was that a Remy shoutout? Not a bad offering, Ms. Minaj. A Nicki feature still has value. I did not need Durk on this, hahaha. He sounds fine. He actually sounds great. He just popped out of nowhere. This is a keeper. So good.
18. “Sun Come Down”
This album is so long. Keys! The singing is solid. Chance has such an odd voice. He would be Chance The Sinatra if this were 1965. A good verse. This is a debut from the perspective of a newly famous rapper. On Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), The Wu-Tang Clan wasn’t rapping about getting clearance to use their likeness. Rap has came a long way. The Big Day sounds important. An album that represents a change. Really love the back half. This is a good song. “Don’t look down.” Chance is talking with a language this generation will understand.
19.“Found A Good One (Single No More)”
Oh yeah, this is a groove. I’m going to throw my computer out the window if I don’t hear Noname on this album. [Editor's Note: R.I.P to Yoh's computer.] I just wrote that Chance speaks to this generation and the next song sounds like the soundtrack for Soul Train. These kids don’t know about Soul Train, Chance. This is disgustingly fun. You can just envision the choreography. People will be dancing to this. Is that Dreezy? There’s a woman's voice I can’t make out. [Editor's Note: It's an SWV sample.] I’m not sure if I needed this second Chance verse, it’s fine... Well, he just slowed things down. Chopped. Who is this woman? I can’t make it out. I’m so mad she doesn’t have a verse. I really wanted that lady to spazz. What!? The switch-up. This is a dance record. Vogue music. I can see Teyanna Taylor doing the wildest acrobatics to this breakdown.
20. “Town On The Hill”
This album is going on forever. I have no idea when I started, but it might be Saturday. I like this beat; it feels like a James Blake record. Chance is singing. He must have taken vocal lessons. His voice is not as raw as it used to be. He’s smoothened out all the wrinkles.
21. “Our House (Skit)”
What! Is that Jackée Harry? She will forever be the mom from Sister Sister. This is great. Chance made an album that feels new and nostalgic. Wait. Who is this? She sounds like Susie Carmichael. [Editor's Note: It's Colleen Mares.]
22. “Zanies and Fools”
This is too much. They were rude for sending this over without the features. I’ve enjoyed this album, though. I know this voice. I can’t place it. These are beautiful vocals. Oh! A switch up. These drums are so full. The rhythm is so infectious. He’s skating. I love when Chance finds that pocket. Man, this album was like nothing I expected. If nothing else, he made it interesting. The tour for this album is going to be... Wow. Chance is the aftermath of rap becoming a successful, billion-dollar genre. When the biggest influence of pop culture lifts up a kid from Chicago. Two Nicki verses!? What? She still had more to say. I love it. Did she just come back to shake things up? Whoa. Ha. Nicki is pregnant. Life is crazy. The headlines are going to inescapable.
Final (first listen) thoughts on Chance The Rapper's The Big Day:
Chance The Rapper stands on a stage where the whole world is vying to see him. He understands this reality. It’s more than being popular; it’s being famous. Look at the feature line-up he assembled; there’s famous pop stars (John Legend), rap stars (Gucci Mane), and even comedians on this album. Nicki Minaj, a rap superstar who has been famous for almost a decade, just announced her pregnancy to close out this project. That doesn’t happen when you’re popular; that happens when you’re famous.
Fame is funny. Status demands a certain level of self-awareness. On The Big Day, Chance showcases his self-awareness. The flows, the production, the themes—Chance curated everything perfectly. It’s more expansive than the Gospel-inspired palettes of Coloring Book. There are more dimensions to his sonics, brighter ideas without being confounded in a singular concept. The Big Day is a rap album, but there’s more to Chance than rap.
The Big Day is long—too long—but it doesn’t drag. Chance is strong throughout the record, but it takes a minute to appreciate his perspective. A flow or a feature. The Big Day is traditional in structure, but it moves to secure and maintain your attention. Chance wants you to sit down and soak up the entire project from start to finish, even though the concept isn’t linear.
The Big Day is an album that gives you something to talk about; it's a watercooler moment for millennials. Chance knew this was his event album. The album had to define him. The one that said, I’m Chance THE Rapper.
By Yoh, aka Yoh THE Writer, aka @Yoh31