Chance the Rapper

Coloring Book

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Chance the Rapper's third mixtape, rather perversely titled after an object, considering it was issued only on streaming platforms, is more powerful than most proper albums. Starting with "All We Got," Coloring Book continues where Chance left off on "Ultralight Beam," the uplifted and uplifting gospel-rap Life of Pablo highlight on which he was featured. Modulated Kanye West returns the favor by singing "Music is all we got," but Chance gives thanks for much more than that. He belts "Man my daughter couldn't have a better mother" and "I was baptized like real early/I might give Satan a swirlie," dedicating the track to "the kids of the king of all kings." As in all of what follows, Chance is at his sharpest and most evolved, affably coasting through a sequence of reflections, testimonies, and fond and not-so-fond reminiscences. He's granted productions that include hushed electro-soul, booming hip-hop, live-band contemporary gospel, and even some funky house. The spirited straight man and vulgar joker at once, he often sounds like he's leading a procession, yet he's always at eye level, never moralistic, not too proud to reference his imperfections. His graciousness also hits another level, like when he cedes a two-minute interlude to D.R.A.M. and stays out of the hymnal "How Great" until the three-minute mark, where he follows "my cousin Nicole" and the Chicago Children's Choir with lines like "The type of worship make Jesus come back a day early." Most illuminating is "Angels," a jouncing celebration of life tied together by a quizzical hook over horns and steel drums. When he offers "Clean up the streets so my daughter can have somewhere to play," he sounds like he couldn't be happier to have adult responsibilities. It's a joy to hear all this zeal from a rapper operating at the top of his game. The notion that his independent commercial ascent is proof of record label obsolescence sells short the artist and his support. Chance's combination of skill, charisma, and quality control is rare. Moreover, few could possibly shepherd a mass choir's worth of clout-reflecting producers, featured vocalists ranging all the way from Kirk Franklin to Lil Yachty, background singers, and an actual choir. That said, he could have pressed up some copies without ceding his rank on the music industry iconoclast leaderboard. This crucial work should change hands and not require an Internet connection to be heard.

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