Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Chance The Rapper "Coloring Book" (2016)

I still can't get get my head around the difference between a mixtape and an album. Of the ones Ive listened to, a mixtape feels like an album. This one is true of that at fifty seven minutes in length with a theme and sense of continuity at start and end. With all the critical acclaim "Coloring Book" has received it seemed like a good time to check out a fresh face from the new generation of Hip Hop music. Chance is from Chicago and yet to release a debut record with this being his third mixtape, it has broken into sales charts and topped album of the year lists from various critics. Of the months Ive been listening to it I haven't shared much of the same feelings, however it does have some remarkable production moments sprinkled in.

Since "To Pimp A Butterfly" many artists have been retroflexing on the roots of black music and so we enter a sort of Hip Hop Renaissance as many mainstream artists seem jump on this wave of revival. Already having a keen ear for Soul, R&B, Gospel and Jazz, a lot of the sounds and vibes explored aren't particularly fresh to me, its a mixed bag of fruits. To new listeners its probably quite marvelous. Chance employs a production where the beats are toned down, subdued, as pianos, strings and gospel vocals step to the forefront around his raps. In the mid section of the record it steadily gives way to more traditional tracks and that's when the music starts to loose me, not to be pulled back at the end by some great church music.

Chance's flow is laid back, easy going and casual, to the point where his soft croaky voice sounds like he may just be talking if it weren't for the steady timing and occasional rhymes. Not much of it hit home beyond the story telling, biblical "praise him" tracks don't do it for me. The album also has its helping of "to be dated" trendy vocal styles and word slurring that I'm doubting will hold up over time. Songs like "Finish Line Drown" are fantastic but essentially like gospel church songs of praise, played with a full live band and spiced up with a bit of flashy production. It and a lot of the record remind me of Kanye's debut records, there is a lot of use of vocals with a helping hand from the Chicago Children's Choir it plugs into those gospel roots. "Coloring Book" has its moments but it mostly comes from borrowing rather than innovating.

Favorite Tracks: No Problem, Summer Friends, Finish Line Down.
Rating: 5/10