Well, a breath of fresh air has been bestowed upon us, and it comes in the form of a “Coloring Book.”
Themes about positivity and chasing your dreams are embedded in many different albums by many different artists. From Logic’s “Peace, Love and Positivity” motto to Meek Mill’s “Dreamchasers” label, an inspirational message can be found on nearly every level throughout the spectrum of rap. However, not many do it the same as Chance the Rapper.
I think it’s time to take a step back and analyze how Chance has stuck to his guns and how he could change, not only the rap game, but also music forever.
First and foremost, Chance the Rapper has put out three solo projects and one collective project in conjunction with Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment. All of these projects are free and all have been released independently. So how does an independent artist who released a mixtape during a two-week high school suspension go from being an opening act on Childish Gambino’s tour to being featured on a Kanye West album to releasing one on the most highly anticipated projects of the year? Simple. Staying true to himself, working hard and promoting positivity while living it at the same time.
Chance the Rapper released his debut solo project, “10 Day,” on April 3, 2012. It consisted of 14 songs and not a lot of big-time features, but it definitely laid a solid foundation. He released his second project, “Acid Rap,” on April 30, 2013. This, on the other hand, did include some big features including Childish Gambino, Action Bronson and Ab-Soul, to name a few. “Acid Rap” is the project that truly put Chance on the map. He really started to blow up to the masses after its release. Along with the hype, Chance received some very profound accolades including a nomination for Best Mixtape at the 2013 BET Hip Hop Awards, a performance at Lollapolooza in 2013, a No. 26 ranking on Rolling Stone’s best albums of 2013 and a spot on the 2014 XXL Freshmen List. Chance the Rapper became a household name to the average hip-hop fan.
Chance’s popularity continued to grow and grow, leaving everybody craving a third solo project. That solo project didn’t come, but on May 28, 2015, Chance the Rapper played an integral part in the release of Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment’s “Surf.” The features continued getting bigger and bigger as the group was able to snag J. Cole, Big Sean, B.o.B., Busta Rhymes and Erykah Badu among many others. Chance the Rapper was starting to become one of the most popular artists in hip-hop in 2015.
But I think it’s safe to say Chance the Rapper’s biggest break came in 2016 when he was featured on Kanye West’s “Ultralight Beam,” the intro to “The Life of Pablo.” I remember when I first heard the song, I thought to myself, “Chance hasn’t put out one song for purchase and now he’s on a Kanye album. He’s really made it.” It felt that Kanye West was passing the torch to Chance the Rapper—one Chicagoan to another. And then I dug into the credits for “The Life of Pablo” a little bit further. Chance has credits on five of the 18 songs, which is a giant role for an independent artist on such a massive album. When it comes down to it, Chance really rubbed off on Kanye. Remember when Kanye tweeted out, “This album is actually a gospel album,” in the sloppiest album rollout in recent memory? Well, Chance flipped that and put out his own version of a gospel rap album with “Coloring Book.” It’s apparent on “Ultralight Beam” and throughout “Coloring Book.” Chance’s positivity and uplifting spirit has influenced the likes of the self-proclaimed rap god, Yeezus.
When I saw Chance the Rapper perform “Blessings” on Jimmy Fallon, I had a hunch this project was going to be amazing, and on May 13, 2016, it was solidified. It’s crazy to think how far a high school kid with a dream has come just by being himself and speaking what has been on his mind over the years. Chance definitely has a weirdly unique voice and he has perfected the use of it from "Acid Rap" to "Coloring Book."
How is Chance the Rapper changing the music industry? Well, he’s staying true to himself by remaining independent, he’s spreading positivity with his music, he’s strictly putting out free product and he’s petitioning for the GRAMMYs to consider free music.
Under the current rules, “Coloring Book” isn’t eligible for a GRAMMY because the awards company doesn’t recognize “stream only” releases—“Coloring Book” was technically released loosclusivley (loosely/exclusively) through Apple Music. A representative for the Recording Academy said “they’re currently reviewing language submitted to them regarding streaming only projects, and if approved, would make Chance’s “Coloring Book” eligible for this year’s GRAMMY awards,” according to Complex. He also said they should have an official update in late June. The GRAMMYs guidelines say, “Music must be commercially released in general distribution in the United States… Recording must be available for sale from any date within the eligibility period through at least the date of the current year’s voting deadline.”
On “Ultralight Beam,” Chance the Rapper says, “He said let’s do a good a** job with Chance Three. I hear you gotta sell it to snatch the GRAMMY.” This is what I’d like to call positive passive-aggressiveness at its finest. Chance is probably smirking and saying to himself, “I hear you’ve got to release albums for purchase to win a GRAMMY, huh? Well, I’m going to change that.”
“Coloring Book” is GRAMMY-worthy. The message, musical value, production and features are all top-notch. It’s truly a beautiful mix of gospel and rap. There’s even a petition going around, asking the GRAMMYs to change its policy for consideration of free music. It has over 30,000 signatures already, including one by Chance the Rapper, himself. It’s safe to say he’s aware of the matter and is attempting to make this colossal change.
Chance the Rapper and other artists are making positivity in rap the norm. He’s also setting out to make one of the biggest changes in the music industry. We’ll have to wait to see how this one plays out, but Chance is changing hip-hop for the better.