Released May 12, 2016

By Brendan Tuytel

It’s hard to believe that one of the most personable, positive rappers got his start from a high school suspension, but one look at Chancellor Bennett’s (AKA Chance the Rapper) meteoric rise reveals that he’s had a whole career of improbabilities. From his first mixtape to his most recent, Coloring Book, Chance hasn’t been peddling or putting a price on anything, instead opting to promote a personality that feels so genuine you can’t help be drawn in by its amiable magnetism. For his third release, the followup to 2013’s incredible sophomore effort, Acid Rap, Chance puts himself forward in the same manner, but with enough variety and flair to keep it fresh.

A key theme in Coloring Book is the concept of faith, but it isn’t purely a religious record. Chance taps into his multifaceted lifestyle, giving thanks for the random nature of life for giving him his success, but also admitting to his faults. On Angels, he proclaims himself to be the “blueprint to a real man” in the same verse as admitting to having a Xanax problem, approaching it with a wryly bombastic flair that makes it appear trivial in context. However, it’s Chance’s optimism that allows him to power through it, motivating the delivery such that the listener is aware it’s something he’s overcome with devotion to both God and himself. Contrasting Acid Rap, a mixtape focused on the full spectrum of drug use, from the bad trips to the positive learning experiences, Coloring Book indicates a change in mentality. Central to this shift is the birth of his daughter, something he admits was the best thing to happen to him on Blessings.

However, Chance doesn’t restrict himself to these ideas on the entirety of the album. His unique ability to make everything a passion project, regardless of scope, allows him to change, chameleon-like, between different styles, adapt to features, and branch out for the sole purpose of experimenting and enjoying himself. On tracks with the likes of Young Thug, Lil Yachty, 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne, he adapts to their personas, often matching them in both style and diction, resulting in quotable lines like “My bitch do the salsa like pico de gallo, they gotta ask if they may, Cinco de Mayo,” presented perfectly despite the tongue firmly planted in the cheek. Arguably the most dextrous performances on the mixtape come when the rapper puts his best foot forward in competition with the elusive Jay Electronica. Both perform eloquent verses rich with religious imagery while maintaining a playful, boyish charm delivering punchlines worthy of their reputations. As one of the highlights, it also reflects what holds the mixtape back. The excessive intro incorporates the gospel elements of Coloring Book in a suitable way, but it fails to grasp the listener, instead testing their patience.

There are some incredibly catchy songs to be found on Chance’s third mixtape and they thankfully outnumber some of the excessive reiterations of the theme. Most of the time, this is salvaged by his personality, a personification of positivity with friendly familiarity and disarming quirk; he lulls you in with flair before rewarding you with substance. Despite being bogged down with minor filler, there’s sufficient payoff to keep you coming back for more, if only for the feeling of being closer to Chance’s charming charisma coming through a permanently-plastered cigarette-stained smile.