Chance The Rapper is undoubtedly the biggest independent artist in the world right now. To celebrate the release of his third mixtape ‘Coloring Book‘ across all major platforms this week, we asked his top scholar on Genius, Roy Henriquez, just how good it really is.
There’s a feeling that everyone gets when they listen to their favorite album for the first time: “Where has this been all my life?,” “How can I never listened to something like this before?” This continues until you finally finish listening to it, and you can do nothing else but put it on repeat. Others will tire of it after the millionth listen, but not you. This album speaks to you in a way that no other ever has. That’s special, and it is something that will define how you interpret music, and indeed the world, forever.
‘Coloring Book’ is Chance The Rapper’s latest mixtape. As so many media outlets have pointed out, it’s filled and fueled with the kind of joy that little other than newfound fatherhood and Gospel music can offer. From Donnie Trumpet’s fanfare at the beginning of ‘All We Got’ to an uncredited-guest-star-fueled choir interpolation of Fred Hammond’s ‘Let the Praise Begin,’ the joy never stops. This differs significantly from the formula of mainstream Rap, which dictates that the track comprise an instrumental banger accompanied by struggle bars. ‘Coloring Book’ doesn’t follow this formula. It’s precisely when artists work outside these boundaries that other artists, future stars, are inspired and influenced.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a banger as much as any Rap fan does. Hip Hop will always have them, but I like to listen to something different from time to time. That’s what I got when I first listened to Chance’s ‘Acid Rap’, which became my favourite mixtape/album of all time. I consider this project a turning point in my life: it changed how I see and hear everything. Before ‘Acid Rap’, I didn’t really listen to what the artist was saying, I just liked how the voice sounded against the instrumental. Chance’s charisma and personality made me want to understand what he was saying. From that moment on I loved lyrics. This was also the tape that introduced me to Hip Hop and Genius, the site where I’m now a moderator.
I relate to Chance because Kanye West’s ‘The College Dropout’ influenced him in a very similar way. In an interview with Fake Shore Drive, he said: “I didn’t really get into rap until like the fourth grade when ‘The College Dropout’ came out and I was like, ‘Aight. I wanna be a rapper. I’m going to be a rapper because Kanye is raw as hell.’” I’m not a rapper, but I can relate to this feeling because ‘The College Dropout’ made Chance change his entire perspective on, and approach to life, just like me.
There’s every chance that ‘Coloring Book’ could have the exact same influence, and show the next unknowing visionary that there’s a brand new way to do Rap music. It goes beyond the biographical story of an artist life and their community, but gives fans a new perspective of life and that traditional standards are there to be broken. Chance has been doing the same thing outside his music too, choosing to release his music independently and turning down deals with record labels. “It’s a dead industry,” he told Rolling Stone. “There’s no reason” to sign to a label.
On his final verse on ‘Coloring Book’, Chance says: “I speak of wondrous unfamiliar lessons from childhood / Make you remember how to smile good.” That’s how I’ve always felt listening to Chance, his joy and personality is so infectious that I just feel good after listening to it. ‘Coloring Book’ is by far his most joyful project yet, and I personally can’t wait for its influence on the next generation of Rap greats to become apparent. And when it does, may they also make me remember how to smile good.
Words by Roy Henriquez.