To release an album on Friday the 13th, one would have to be pretty darn confident. Chancelor Bennett, better known as Chance the Rapper, released his third mixtape, Coloring Book, on May 13, and was rightfully confident despite the jinxed day. While the album has been received exceptionally well, the release was not such a success for Apple Music. Originally, Coloring Book was set to be released exclusively by Apple Music for two weeks; however, it was leaked anonymously to Datpiff where it was downloaded over 141,000 times in only 11 hours before being taken down. Since these downloads, the mixtape has been posted to YouTube and other streaming sites where it has remained untouched—which makes sense considering Chance has released all previous works on free platforms such as SoundCloud. According to current Grammy rules, an artist must release their work via commercial streaming services in order to be considered for a nomination. As Chance says on the track “Blessings (Reprise),” “I’m anti-label, pro-famous,” referencing the fact that he is not affiliated with a label. However, he gave into the exclusive streaming services in exchange for a chance at a Grammy, admitting his desire for fame while continuing to defy industry standards.
The album, which Chance calls a mixtape, is something quite unique. Gospel sampling puts it in line with Kanye’s The Life of Pablo, but Coloring Book goes several steps further with songs like “Blessings (Reprise)”—which features the Harlem Gospel For Teens Choir—“How Great,” and “Finish Line/Drown.” All three embody the gospel sound with biblical references as Chance reflects on his career and family. The album as a whole shows Chance’s maturation both lyrically and stylistically, moving away from songs about high school and a carefree life to the responsibilities fatherhood has brought into his life. The album does not turn off his fan base of relatively young listeners, rather it presents them with an evaluation of morals over partying, family over money, and staying true to oneself over appeasing society. To be cliche, it is a breath of fresh air, innovative in its putting aside of materialism in favor of religious values that are applicable even to the secular.
Chance the Rapper makes music that makes you feel good. His lyrics are not vulgar, nor are they repetitive. They are real. Whether rapping about drugs or his mother, he does not stray from the truth. Chance does not aim to appeal to the masses; he aims to make music of quality and sentiment. This album is far more laidback than Acid Rap in particular. As he abstains from catering to the mainstream, he abstains from making music for the club and ignores the common desire to not identify the negative. Instead, he faces it head-on and comes to terms with it in this soul-searching work. The lyrics and beats in Chance’s trilogy of 10 Day, Acid Rap, and Coloring Book are far from those of his contemporaries. As Chance the Rapper continues to defy industry standards, he is setting the bar for accessible and meaningful music.