Brandon Breaux, the artist for all of Chance’s records, described the cover for his first mixtape, 10Day, as Chance’s “discovery” in an interview with Pigeons & Planes. “Seeing his name up in stars,” he continues, “his destiny is before him, looking up to this greatness he’s about to inherit.” His second mixtape, Acid Rap, was a “mix of anxiousness, excitement, and fear where you enter the world.” For his third project, Breaux continued with the theme of the past two tapes, saying that the cover is about “being in a place of maturity, a place where there’s a certain amount of control.”
“He’s not a newbie anymore,” Breaux says about Chance. “Having accomplished all of these things. When we took the photo, he was holding his daughter, looking down at her. And that was his concept, his idea. Chance wanted to capture the expression on his face when he looked at his daughter. It’s this picture of the future being bigger than himself. It’s not just about him, it’s about family. He’s looking down at the future in a way.”
With this cover posted up all over Chicago, and pretty much every major city, the hype for the follow-up to Acid Rap, which was believed to be called Chance3, was as high as the hype for Surf. With the future, success, and his daughter in the forefront of his verse for Kanye West’s “Ultralight Beam” off of The Life of Pablo, an album of material that sounded like that amazing verse seemed imminent to follow, and in a way, it’s what we got.
This record starts off absolutely perfect until exactly 1:54 into track 2, “No Problem,” when the scariest, most hair-raising sound I could imagine happening on a Chance record is uttered: “2Chainz.” Normally an indicator of hype, this time around it enacts pure dread upon the listener, as 2Chainz fumbles through his guest feature, really barely even rhyming at all or showing any sign of knowing what the song underneath him sounds like. Wayne’s verse wasn’t half as bad as 2Chainz, but he just sounded so unenthusiastic, further emphasized when a fully hyped Chance comes back in with the chorus. This exact problem persists throughout all of Chance3 a.k.a. Coloring Book, where lackluster and unenthused features not only bring down the track, but also cover a vast proportion of the album’s material.
I mean, what are 2Chainz and Lil Wayne even doing here to begin with? I can understand that Chance is celebrating his success and thus gets big names to appear on his album like 2Chainz & Wayne, Kanye West, Justin Beiber, Jay Electronica, Future, Young Thug, and Ty Dolla $ign, but is that really Chance’s crowd? It just seems like all the wrong people. To me, Chance sounds better when he’s surrounded by The Social Experiment and Surf‘s collaborators, or even people on his same kind of vibe: Vic Mensa, J. Cole, Big Sean, Erykah Badu, Mac Miller, BJ the Chicago Kid, Anderson .Paak, just to name a few. Most of those names, including D.R.A.M. and Noname (who are featured on Coloring Book) are what made Surf so great. Artists like Young Thug, Future and Ty Dolla $ign are more like artists that show up as trap-rap features all the time and constantly put out mixtapes that you can never remember the names of.
Therefore we have this rather un-Chance Chance album, with faux Bon Iver a.k.a. Francis & The Lights, “Mixtape” with the horrific Lil Yachty & Young Thug, “Juke Jam” sounding like a bonus cut from Purpose that didn’t make the record, “All Night” which sounds like the next Naked & Famous single featuring Chance, and “Smoke Break,” which while Future actually sounds good on the track, is a song that’s just a little too celebratory of smoking weed, almost creating a religious experience around it, especially since it’s surrounded on either side by more gospel tracks like “How Great” and “Finish Line.” And it’s the tracks like those, as well as both “Blessings”, “Same Drugs,” “Angels,” “All We Got,” and even D.R.A.M.’s moment, that seem more like the Chance I love and want to hear. I don’t want to hear him fade into something like “Mixtape” or what artists like Thug, Future, & Dolla $ign are doing.
The best moments on Coloring Book is when he focuses on the gospel element of his music, and delivers heart-felt verses like on both “Blessings” and “Same Drugs.” Chance can make a commercial record, as we have heard, but it’s something about the features seeming more like names on a page to increase the resume than actually adding to the content that ultimately brings the record down. Not to say that Chance can’t kill it anyway, as I believe that mostly all of his contributions are still amazing, especially on the single “Angels,” “Finish Line,” his part of “No Problem,” and the other tracks that I’ve mentioned above that I love. There’s also some great features like his cousin Nicole and Jay Electronica on “How Great,” D.R.A.M., Noname, T-Pain, and Kirk Frankin, but it’s extremely noticeable how different this list is sound and vibe-wise than the other features here on Coloring Book.
Compared to the other rap records of 2016, Coloring Book is still way more rewarding to listen to than Drake’s VIEWS, as relatable and dance worthy as Anderson .Paak’s Malibu, as adventurous for an artist and gospel sampling as Kanye’s Life of Pablo, and the yin to untitled unmastered.‘s yang, by Kendrick Lamar. As much as I might think that Coloring Book isn’t as cohesive or as good as it could have been, even just with the material to work with here, there’s still moments like the “Blessing’s” reprise that keep me believing that he’s capable of anything.