One of 2016’s most anticipated releases is Coloring Book, the commercial debut from Chicago’s powerhouse emcee Chance the Rapper. Around 2011, Chance burst on the scene with his first mixtape 10Day. Gaining respect and popularity on blogs and social media, he dropped his sophomore project Acid Rap in 2013. Through world tours, playing sold out festivals, and dabbling into various side projects like 2015’s Surf with his band The Social Experiment, Chance has proven himself to be a mainstay in hip-hop.

After a somewhat lackluster appearance on SNL, I was a bit skeptical about this new album from Chance the Rapper. Although delighted to see his return to the limelight, I was a little weary of the possibility that his next project would be on that ‘take em to church’ tip, instead of the punchline heavy bangers that we’ve heard from Chance in the past. In reality, it’s a combination of the two.

Lyrically I appreciate Chance’s honesty all throughout the record. He reflects on personal issues such as newly stepping into fatherhood, along with facing addiction. Chance comes in strong on the opening track “All We Got” with Kanye West. Although this isn’t a bad song, it’s like Kanye’s only on here to provide accent to it. It’s more than likely that this was a leftover from The Life of Pablo. I really enjoyed the following track “No Problem” featuring Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz. Chance’s singing combined with the heavy hitter guest verses make the song a hit.

There are times when Coloring Book doesn’t supply you with the pack of crayolas you need. The next three tracks seem to be fillers. Although “Summer Friends” does paint another vivid picture of what it’s like to grow up in inner city Chicago. Perhaps my favorite song on the record is “Mixtape” featuring Young Thug and Lil Yachty. Yachty really hits it out of the park and makes me want to go check out Lil Boat again.

There’s one more song that particularly stood out to me. “Juke Jam” with Justin Beiber and Towkio takes the role of Coloring Book‘s slow jam.

The rest of Coloring Book didn’t really do it for me. Although I do appreciate the Gospel sound Chance goes for, I just can’t feel the same riding around to this as I did with Acid Rap or 10Day. It’s just hard to be taken to Church when you’re at the gym, at a party with your friends, in traffic, or at the gym. Never the less, “Smoke Break” with Future and “Finish Line/Drown” with T-Pain and Kirk Franklin are smooth melodies that correspond with the overall sound of the record.

Again, my argument stands that rappers are just the new action figures for kids to play with. Meaning that every year a new play set is released. Chance the Rapper’s first two projects were released while I was in college. Now that I’ve graduated and part of the working world, it’s just not the same feel.

I appreciate Chance’s efforts on Coloring Book all throughout. But is it the best commercial debut I’ve ever heard? No. Is it another summer smash like 10Day and Acid Rap? No. The fact remains that Chance has grown a lot as an artist since then and for that I salute him. 3.5/5 PALMs.

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