JUST IN CASE Chance the Rapper’s intentions weren’t already clear, “No Problem” from his latest release, Coloring Book, is the final nail in the coffin: he’ll never sign with a record label. And why should he? The independently released mixtape, which initially debuted on Apple Music in May, became the first album to chart on the Billboard 200 from streams alone. “If one more label try to stop me,” he says in “No Problem,” “there’s gon’ be some dread-headed niggas in your lobby!”
Despite Chance’s sassy sentiment, Coloring Book is overwhelmingly positive. He sings and raps over emotive piano, organ, strings, and soulful vocal harmonies while celebrating his blessings and acknowledging his struggles. The album’s title is fitting—it’s vibrant and colorful, with uplifting tracks like “Blessings” (specifically the reprise), “Angels,” and closing track “Finish Line” that can help you beam through a dark, gray day.
But “How Great” is particularly hopeful; the song begins with a gospel choir powerfully singing “how great is our God” behind lead singer Nicole Steen (Chance credits her as “My cousin Nicole”) for nearly three minutes of climactic praise, before the beat drops and Chance comes in: “Magnify, magnify, lift it on high/Spit it Spotify to qualify a spot on His side.” “How Great” cites the Bible, but also includes references to Harry Potter characters Hedwig and Peter Pettigrew, and in Jay Electronica’s verse, Lion King metaphors: “I was lost in the jungle like Simba after the death of Mufasa/No hog no meerkat/Hakuna matata by day but I spent my nighttime fighting tears back.”
But Coloring Book isn’t just an expression of Chance’s faith. It’s also got turn-up danceable tracks like “All Night,” and chilled-out stoner anthems like “Smoke Break” featuring Future—a song about not having the time to finesse, roll up a blunt, and really enjoy a smoke sesh with your boo thang. Speaking of boos, there’s also the super-sexy “Juke Jam,” featuring bridge vocals by Justin Bieber, which fantasizes about rekindling an old-school romance at the roller rink.
When Chance announced the first batch of dates for his Magnificent Coloring world tour without a Portland stop, I wasn’t surprised—it’s almost expected now for mainstream hip-hop and R&B artists to skip over our city altogether (looking at you, Drake, Rihanna, and Kanye). But the truth is that I was hurt—Chance has never performed here before. So when he added a Portland date to his website a couple months ago, I knew I was getting floor seats. If you know anything about the tour, it’s that concertgoers have been getting their money’s worth and their weaves swiftly snatched.
Surpassing all expectations, Chance’s new release is gospel-inspired and largely collaborative: He brought in the big guns with vocalists like Justin Bieber, Noname, and Jeremih; rap features like Kanye, Lil Wayne, and Young Thug; and uncredited vocals from the likes of Anderson .Paak, BJ the Chicago Kid, the Chicago Children’s Choir, and so many more. Chance pours out 14 tracks of pure spirited ballads, bangers, and holy praises—enough to give a cynical listener some faith in humanity. After all, music is “All We Got.”