Chancelor Bennett, also known as Chance the Rapper, released his newest mixtape Coloring Book on May 12. Following the success of 2013’s Acid Rap, Bennett has exploded in popularity with collaborations with artists such as James Blake, Snakehips and Bennett’s childhood hero Kanye West.
However, Bennett has decided to take a nontraditional route to success, turning down potential deals from music labels to maintain his status as an independent artist while committing to release all of his music for free. Bennett’s choices have shown him to be a man willing to take artistic risks rather than cashing on established trends. Likewise, Coloring Book shows Bennett taking a new direction with his solo career.
Coloring Book shows a very different Chance than the 20-year old who made Acid Rap. Gone is the youthful angst and doubt shown in “Cocoa Butter Kisses,” replaced with messages about the power of positivity and religion. Indeed, much of the album deals with Christianity, as shown by the single “Blessings,” which features Jamila Woods singing the chorus, “I’m gon’ praise him, praise him til’ he’s gone.” These lyrics praising God were not all present in Acid Rap.
It appears that Bennett’s outlook on life has been altered by some of the recent happenings in his life such as his rise to stardom and the birth of his daughter. The song “Same Drugs” touches on some of these changes. “We’re not into the same drugs,” Bennett sings, showing that new passions have taken the place that illicit substances once held in his life.
Although Bennett has undergone personal change over the years, he is still one of the most talented artists in the hip-hop scene, pushing the parameters of the genre. Coloring Book contains some songs that are more R&B than rap, like “Same Drugs.” In several songs, Bennett works with his jazz-fusion band The Social Experiment to make songs that are unlike any other in popular rap today. Songs like “Angels” and “Blessings” exemplify the album, featuring upbeat, buoyant songs with smooth live instrumentation in a time when the albums of other popular rappers like Kendrick Lamar engage in dark introspection.
The mixtape also features several big-name guests. The very first song “All We Got” features a guest verse from Kanye West; the song is immediately followed with “No Problem” featuring 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne. Justin Bieber and T-Pain provide vocals for the songs “Juke Jam” and “Finish Line” respectively. Future and Jay Electronica also both make appearances.
Although the majority of the mixtape can be classified as gospel rap, there a few songs that are tonally different. The song “Mixtape” featuring Young Thug and Lil Yachty seems more in line with the Atlanta rap scene than gospel, as if a song from Young Thug’s Slime Season 3 was somehow misplaced. It seems that Bennett refuses to be pinned down, valuing making a diverse album more than making a cohesive one.
Coloring Book is a great album from a creative visionary. Although the mixtape may not display the same kind of emotions that were present in Acid Rap, Bennett’s positive messages are sure to leave listeners with a sunnier outlook on life. Coloring Book is a great album that features the work of several talented artists and absolutely deserves a listen.