Chance the Rapper’s collaboration with Kanye West on ‘Ultralight Beams’ was long over due, and the result was a 5:21 journey to a higher, heavenly plane. This moment presented both artists at their best and provided Kanye with one of the most significant tracks of his career.
It is a spiritual moment that exists beyond the constraints of music. Religious or not, both artists took you to church and reached into your soul with the help of Kelly Price, The Dream, and Kirk Franklin. It’s an amazing piece of work by two Chi-town natives that started ‘The Life Of Pablo’ album and created a thirst for Chance 3.
‘Coloring Book’ is the best way to describe Chance the Rappers third solo project. Many sounds, styles, and textures put together to create another dope body of work. Chance the Rapper’s story isn’t just about his approach to the business or how he releases music for free, its about the limitless depth of his creativity. He crafts timeless bodies of work for arts sake, nothing is made for the charts, radio, internets or other entity as Chance puts it “It’s not about how you release it, it’s about making sure that it’s dope content.”
“The people’s champ must be everything the people can’t be”
It’s a dis-service to refer to his bodies of work as mixtapes as they have greater significance and quality than the mixtape concept. At the same time it’s an equal dis-service to refer to them as albums, as the album is a concept that is struggling to retain relevance given the thirst for singles, growing popularity of playlists, and mixtapes that aren’t governed by commercial constraints. A new definition is needed to throw clarity on projects of this calibre.
Chance is a beast on the mic with his own style, but he doesn’t over sell his skill, he doesn’t brag or scream and shout about how great he is at the expense of other MCs. He is a selfless champion of great music, he is about people and his hometown. Name another rapper who would have took a back seat from the spotlight on the follow up to their break through mixtape? After ‘Acid Rap’, Chance released ‘Surf’ by Donnie Trumpets and the Social Experiment. Although Chance is a member of the Social Experiment group, I don’t know any other rapper who would put a trumpeter as the lead artist on their follow up Hip-Hop project.
‘Acid Rap’ was a radical departure from ’10 Day’. ‘Surf’ exists in a totally different creative dimension to ‘Acid Rap’, whilst ‘Coloring Book’ is the evolution of Chance the human. All of Chances projects are soulful and spiritual, much deeper than the majority of Hip-Hop albums. He channels a feeling that Kanye invoked on his earlier albums.
Although Chance isn’t in the forefront as a producer, he creatively directs artists on his projects better than most big name producers. According to Chance “Working with these other artists has been great vibes, I’m soaking in the energy….these are awesome, seasoned, eclectic artists who have a lot, who know a lot that I don’t know. So like, just working with them you get to see their process, and getting to share ideas, it’s making me a lot better.”
On ‘Surf’ and ‘Coloring Book’ the guest artists are taken out of their usual comfort zone and deliver some of their best performances. On ‘Surf’ he pushed Quavo out of his traditional trap sound on to a much instrument led track than what he has done before. On ‘Coloring Book’ he did the same with Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz on ‘No Problem’ and Future on ‘Smoke Break’. On ‘How Great’ Chance secured one of the best verses of all time by Jay Electronica just after the choir took you to church.
“Kanye’s best prodigy, he aint signed me, but he proud of me.”
Judging from their collaborative efforts on ‘TLOP’ and ‘Coloring Book’ it’s almost certain that Chance will equally inspire and creatively push Kanye, as Ye’ did to Jay post ‘Blueprint’. For what he did on ‘Ultralight Beam’ alone Chance is truly “Kanye’s best prodigy.”
He is creatively volatile in the sense that you never know what he is going to give you. All that is guaranteed is that he will touch your soul and challenge mediocrity. He is one of the few Hip-Hop acts to flawlessly transfer the sounds on your hard drive to the live experience on stage and actually better it. On a previous UK tour we discussed his approach to the live experience backstage at the Forum “When you think about it in terms of ratio, like the people that are inside one of my shows, compared to the people that are outside, and when it’s such a huge show, like 2500 people in London, it’s like my second headliner ever, it’s a lot of people,” Explained Chance “But there’s a lot of people in the streets of London that don’t get to hear the music, you know? And I think that’s what makes the experience what it is, the exclusivity of it…not being able to experience it without actually being there. Not being able to see me or meet me without being able to hear that music, and what it is is that moment that people who were here tonight get to leave with, and makes them different from everyone around.”
For Chance there is a clear distinction between recording and playing live, “It’s a very different part of music to perform it, you know? It’s not the same thing as recording it, or playing it for other people, or listening to it…it’s a form of public speaking, and I get to go out there and get a reaction from people. It’s kind of like theatre, or being an orator. It’s like I’m giving information out, and the reaction when it’s positive can be overwhelming. It’s a great feeling to get a good response, especially in a place like London, you know?”
Chance The Rapper has taken himself out of the race. He isn’t competing with anyone.
The music industry and it’s decaying markers of success cannot measure the qualitative value of what he embodies. There is only the excellence of his music. Like ‘Yesterdays Tomorrow’ by The Phony Ppl. ‘Surf’ should have won Grammys. The fact that it didn’t isn’t a reflection on the merit of his music; it’s a reflection of a flawed nomination procedure.
People debate endlessly about who holds the crown for this generation; Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and J Cole are in everyones top 5, but you cant have that conversation without mentioning Chance The Rapper. He excels at everything he does and just getting started. 4 years into his career he has toured the world, dropped a short film, dropped 4 projects, refused to sign a record deal, and hasn’t charged us a penny for his music.
He is what the game needs even though he isn’t playing by anyones rules, he provides spiritual soundtracks that help us escape the mundane daily grind. He is more than Chance the Rapper, he is Chance the singer, Chance the Director, Chance the Actor, Chance the Activist. He is Chance the Great.