WVAU’s #1 Album of 2016: "Coloring Book" by Chance the Rapper

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WVAU’s #1 Album of 2016: "Coloring Book" by Chance the Rapper

Brenda Hua

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Three noises ‰ÛÒ not even words, and we already know. It‰’s Chance the Rapper, Lil Chano from the 79th, Chancellor Bennett ‰ÛÒ the voice of a generation, the star of 2016. Coloring Book was a mixtape everyone anticipated, but quickly became something we knew we wanted but never knew we needed. It‰’s uplifting, inspiring, self-celebrating, and in its complex mastery‰ÛÒ it‰’s just a fun f-cking album.

This mixtape parallels a maturity in Chance‰’s style as a rapper with his maturity as an individual. Compared to Acid Rap, his lyrics are crisper, the production more intricate, and the subject of songs more vulnerable. Smart and witty lines call out the bureaucracy of the music industry, mourn for old smoking habits, and celebrate his newly found fatherhood. From his hype songs like “All We Got (feat. Kanye West & Chicago Children‰’s Choir)‰” to his softer tracks like “Blessings (feat. Ty Dolla Sign)‰Û, the positive, glowing personality of Chance is woven through each verse, accompanied by a choir of horns and angelic support vocals. The diversity and number of features on this album speak to the identity the album takes on as a champion of the human spirit, displaying the potential hidden in community. From Francis and the Lights to Jay Electronica to Justin Bieber, Chance brings them all into this project. And listening to “No Problem (feat. Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz)‰Û, you can almost imagine trio wrecking havoc in the studio – if you don‰’t believe me, just watch their rendition of the song on Ellen.

The religious elements of this album cannot be ignored. Songs on this album feature the fullness of a church choir and religion is a constantly revisited subject. “How Great‰Û, the most front facing religious song on the album, features a three-minute intro praising the Lord, a short a sermon, and even scripture. While religion has seemed to fall more and more out of favor within popular culture, Coloring Book manages to capture the epicness of praise without taking on an imposing attitude. It‰’s not easy to discuss religion without creating a heated conversation, so Chance‰’s success in presenting a religious narrative in a way that does not ostracize is in itself worthy of high praise. Regardless of whether you believe in angels or not, I implore you to listen to “Angels‰” without wanting to burst out into dance ‰ÛÒ or at the very least crack a smile.

It is also fair to say that while the album is a work of art, you can‰’t help but love it because you can‰’t help but love Chancellor Bennett. During his American leg of the Magnificent Coloring World Tour, Chance the Rapper registered local voters outside his shows, organized walks to the polls, and championed the hashtag #StayWokeandVote. He set up a nonprofit, SocialWorks, in his Chicago hometown, and is constantly advocating for social justice. He voices concerns of the disenfranchised youth, encourages education, and stresses community rehabilitation. He cares about his fans, his community, and his reality. Regardless of the interview or the performance, he is charismatic, respectful, and aware. His confidence facilitates comfort and his presence radiates happiness. Despite his blow up, he still seems grounded and relatable ‰ÛÒ he even freaks out over BeyoncÌ© like the rest of us.


Coloring Book is more than a collection of songs, more than a simple mixtape. It is a vibrant and fantastical illustration of optimistic potential. After a tiresome year of what seemed like defeat after defeat, this album has become even more important in context. It is a celebration of what can be achieved through integrity, compassion, and excitement. Early December, Chance the Rapper was nominated for seven Grammy Awards, becoming the first stream-only artist to be nominated. His successful Grammy campaign stood for more than just recognition of his music, but recognition of a new generation of music consumption ‰ÛÒ one that is anti-establishment and anti-label. Lil Chano from the 79th is nothing short of a visionary, and Coloring Book is nothing short of gospel.

Not all of us can play to a sold out crowd of tens of thousands each night, but if we count our blessings and realize our potential, the possibilities of life are endless. Coloring Book is through and through an incredible album. And if nothing else, walk away thinking: Yes, the system is broken. But instead of being discouraged, we should work to fix it because it is our system after all.

And now, time for a “Smoke Break‰Û.