The Sermon of Chance

When was the last time you felt chills listening to an artist? When was the last time you picked up a tape that broke through the monochromatic and monotone mumble of the modern genre in crisis? When did an album make you feel the emotional weight of every note and every scrupulously written and perfected word? In short, when was the last time you’ve had a musical experience that embodied and distilled what music was initially all about, simplifying the emotional complexity of our world and delivering in digestible, bite-sized melodies? Well, I had that the other day when I played Coloring Book (aka Chance 3) for the first time.

Chance has arrived, I mean, he’s been here since Acid Rap, but I feel like Chance has arrived to the masses. He is no longer in the weird and obscure corner of the internet you seldom risk venturing into. He is front and centre. From numerous collaborations with Childish Gambino, to single stand-outs like Angels, to a Kanye West co-sign, the hip hop equivalent of an all access pass to the front stage. He is here now. This is his part, nobody else speak.

We needed Coloring Book. We really did. We needed it in the year when everyone is still hanging on to Views (an album that was better when it was called Nothing Was The Same) or losing their collective shit over the release of Lemonade (Jay Z pulling business moves left and right and collecting money while grown women stalk someone’s Instagram account). We needed this because everything else has just ends up following the same “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” formula drawn out sometime when Ja Rule released those 5 popular songs that all sounded interchangeable and all enlisted Ashanti to help mask the fact that he was trying to do the DMX growl.

Let’s say Desiigner and Future released two songs and I had to listen to both. Let’s say I wouldn’t know who’s song was who’s and I had to guess. Metaphorical gun to my very real head I would probably have a 50/50 chance of failing. Give me Chance against any other artist and I get it every time. There is a certain joy to Chance’s music, a certain je ne sais quoi that you can’t quite put your finger on, but can’t quite stop looking for. The album is a sermon, but it’s not a religious one (although there are a lot of religious metaphors), it’s a sermon of life. It’s fun. It goes into places others are afraid to go. Chance talks about freedom, about joy of life about love and vulnerability, but at the same time he is just as comfortable telling you that there’s going to be some dreadlock n**** in the lobby if you get in the way of him making music. To be fair, I’ll probably be in your lobby too because I want another Chance album.

Chance sounds bemused through this album, as if he’s coasting through it. It seems almost effortless and pain-free as he sways between vulnerability and machismo. He sways around displaying high levels of emotional intelligence, but also a strong acumen for the streets of Chicago where he’s from. In neither case he seems to stretch himself too far. It’s like Michael Jordan staring down the opposition and knowing that he has all the tools he needs, tongue out, grin on. This is a record with range so wide it almost strains under pressure and yet sounds effortless throughout.

In the year of mumble rap and monotone pseudo-island jams Coloring Book manages to circumvent your expectations and give you something so melodic you can’t help but love it not in spite, but because it’s so unlike anything else out there. There is a history of this. When Anderson.Paak came out with his California-Funk-inspired-mellow-jam-session-that-sounds-almost-but-not-quite-like-Kendrick-yet-still-enjoyable mix of genres earlier in 2016 he set a curious pattern for 2016. Something that Kaytranada followed through not so long ago with his Montreal-psychadelic melodies of 99.9%. Something Young Thug has been doing by virtue of not having a single f**k to give about musical cadence, words or what you happen to think. And now something that Chance embodies and does better than anyone else.

Make no mistake, this is a Gospel Rap album, but it’s not a Gospel Rap album that makes you feel guilty or weird about listening to a Gospel Rap album. It trades preaching for love and and embracing of the human condition, ego, vulnerability and all as one. It’s joy, it’s pay, it’s love and it’s just a little bit of hate. Just like he plays with the genre, Chance plays with your emotions, and his own. He’s not interested in what rap is, he’s interested in what it can be. After all, he just wants to do music with his friends, not for free, for freedom. Freedom of expression.

Take care out there.

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