All good things come in threes: Michael Jordan’s 3-peat championship, 3 lucky wishes, the 3 Musketeers, the 3 Kings, and Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book. In fact, the mixtape, informally known as Chance 3, is full of them: this makes the third mixtape; it’s been three years since Chance first popped up on the radar. And despite how skeptical some may be on the merit of this principle, it all becomes crystal clear as soon as the trumpets sound off in the intro.
In simple, Coloring Book is the gospel album that Kanye thought he was giving the world with Pablo. It’s the album that takes you way back—to Sunday school, the skating rink, middle school, high school—with flashes of vintage clips of fun times, sad times, and simpler ones. C3 is the mixtape that repossesses the word, “baby mama” and builds it up with strength, love, and dignity. It’s the soundtrack that actually goes to the streets of Chicago’s Southside and speaks to the youth. It’s a massive cyph; it’s a kick back that invites the whole crew: you, Saba, D.R.A.M., Lil Wayne, 2 Chainz, Jeremih, Young Thug, Lil Yachty, Justin Bieber, Jay Electronica, and T-Pain— to zone out on the floor, surrounded by a cloud of smoke. It’s a jam session that won’t stop; it’s a good mood that you can’t shake.
With Chano, it’s always been about the music. As the horns and instrumentals lead into what the Chicago native describes as the “entree,” you forget about the flashy things or stats. The rapper selflessly hands himself over to the music. And with the help of Kanye and the Chicago Children’s Choir, he manages to orchestrate a joyful ode to music and his family on “All We Got.”
And while it might be all about the music, it’s never at the expense of authenticity and independence. “Am I the only n*gga that still cares about mixtapes?” Chance recruits Young Thug and Lil Yachty, too. He can’t fathom a world where his music is restricted with boundaries, and his creativity stifled. But since he’s still free to experiment, Chance plays with his range; one minute he’s chatting away with his kid-ish tone, the next he’s mimicking his features. “Labels told me to my face that they own my friends,” he raps on another hook, “Finish Line.” (Lil Wayne also tears down labels on “No Problem”) But it’s clear Chance has the juice, label or not.
And despite the corporate world’s cold shoulder, it’s now summertime in the Chi. The hot air is impossible to escape and the only salvation is kicking it on your grandmother’s porch until some one’s gotta go home. Or at least that’s one of the scenarios you’d imagine in “Summer Friends.” Its breezy intro makes you think of your long time companion who has since vanished, and the ones that have stuck around. And his chanting, “79th, 79th, 79th, aye,” and Jeremih’s outro, reminds the city that there’s no place like home. But while paying homage to your hometown is cool, this tape invites everyone to sit at his table. And so Chance welcomes Future and everyone else to smoke the bowl on “Smoke Break.”
And when you’re lifted… “I speak to God in public,” Chano says, as his 14-chapter sermon comes to an end. And he does. He talks to God about his ‘baby mama’ – “Man my daughter couldn’t have a better mother (“All We Got”). About his daughter: “Clean up the streets, so my daughter can have somewhere to play (“Angels”).” And he talks to God about his own blessings that have fallen in his lap. While Chance does have a lot of accomplishments to be proud of (being the first independent artist to perform on the SNL stage, reached No.1 album on iTunes in its first week, etc.), the most important message he wants to convey is that everyone should prepare for their blessings too (“When the praises go up, the blessings come down.”)
Chance would probably never consider his project a blessing. And although fans would praise him for his work, tweeting him about tour dates and what songs triggered that special memory for them, he’d humbly reject them. His modesty is charming and fitting for the kid who hasn’t sold one copy of his music for profit since his start. But if there’s any time to bask in his own blessings or triumphs, it’d probably be right now. Because Chance really did do a good ass job with Coloring Book.