In one of Chicago's most violent times in recent years due to gun violence, Chance the Rapper's recently released mixtape, Coloring Book, gives many Chicagoans a mix of familiarity, inspiration, somberness, pride and reflection--an experience transcending boundaries, grabbing the ears of a nation.
Like an upbeat praise and worship song, "All We Got" lights a torch of hopeful melodies, beginning a journey through the complexities of Chicago pride. "No Problem", a song destined to become a popular anthem, addresses Chance the Rapper's strength in being an independent artist. He directs bombastic statements at the recording industry.
If one more label try to stop me
It's gon' be some dreadhead niggas in ya lobby
"No Problem" is a song that not only speaks to the record industry, but it also welcomes listeners with a unique cultural experience rooted in Chicago. "Summer Friends" mixes sadness with nostalgia, a feeling that is too often felt in Chicago's inner cities due to "bloody summers" filled with bullets, tragic loss of life, and fun memories spent with friends on hot Chicago days. The hook contains a plea and hope for loved ones not to fall victim during a season that can claim so many in Chicago.
Summer friends don't stay
Summer friends don't stay around
Summer friends, summer friends
Summer Friends, don't stay,
Summer friends don't stay, hey
Stay around here
Following "Summer Friends", "D.R.A.M Sings Special" uplifts the listener with a brief but heartfelt, soothing message. And if any black kid in Chicago or across the nation has sat in wooden church pews on Sundays, they grew up listening to the choir sing Jimmy Hick's "Praises Go Up". Chance the Rapper's "Blessings" easily weaves in gospel melodies with secular, expressing a culture rooted in church through familiar ancestral messages. Gospel lyrics and melodies can be heard on other tracks on the album as well: "How Great" and "Finish Line/Drown", which features boundary breaking gospel artist Kirk Franklin.
Chance the Rapper's "Juke Jam" invokes the feelings of Chicago neighborhood skating and juking and neighborhood block parties where footwork battles were birthed in inner-city black communities in Chicago.
Chance the Rapper's color pallet is diverse on the mixtape, bringing head bopping tracks like "Mixtape" and "Angels" while delivering contemplative songs like "Same Drugs". And as an independent artist, his featuring artists are impressive: Kanye West, 2 Chainz, Jeremiah, Young Thug, Jay Electronica, Future, Justin Bieber, and T-Pain are a few of the well-known artists featured on Coloring Book.
Coloring Book displays authentic Chicago experiences while not dwelling on the problems. Instead, it seems that Coloring Book is an expression of triumph, a coming to age story of a young black Chicagoan, and a celebration that tells a story of Chicago living that is all too often left out of the headlines.
1. All We Got (feat. Kanye West & Chicago Children's Choir)
2. No Problem (feat. 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne)
3. Summer Friends (feat. Jeremiah & Francis & The Lights)
4. D.R.A.M Sings Special
6. Same Drugs
7. Mixtape (feat. Young Thug & Lil Yachty)
8. Angels (feat. Saba)
9. Juke Jam (feat. Justin Bieber & Towkio)
10. All Night (feat. Knox Fortune)
11. How Great (feat. Jay Electronica & My cousin Nicole)
12. Smoke Break (feat. Future)
13. Finish Line / Drown (feat. T-Pain, Kirk Franklin, Eryn Allen Kane & Noname)
14. Blessings (Reprise)