After arriving earlier this decade with two stellar mixtapes and an unmistakably charismatic persona, Chance the Rapper seemed poised to be one of the most special hip-hop artists of the 2010s. He fulfilled that promise with 2016’s Coloring Book, an album that furthered his unique style of gospel-infused pop-rap and polished it enough to blow up on a commercial scale.
The past three years have seen Chance turn into a megastar. Sold out arenas, headlining festival sets and guest appearances on big radio singles all speak to his rapid ascension. To what capacity fame has affected Chance is unclear, but there’s little denying he has embraced his popularity with open arms. “I made the three more famous than Steph” – he raps on “Eternal,” the third cut from his newest album, The Big Day.
Chance’s official “debut” comes as one of the most anticipated projects of 2019, not only in rap but in all of popular music. Centered around a loose wedding day concept, The Big Day sees Chance explore themes of marriage, family and maturation with little to offer in the way of artistic innovation or compelling songs. Where his previous albums were fresh and unpredictable, The Big Day is plagued by poor beat selection and flat performances from its core voice, Chance himself.
The record’s initial impression is far from strong, but in the context of the entire record, provides some of the more worthwhile moments. The first two tracks, “All Day Long” and the Ben Gibbard-assisted “Do You Remember,” are both slightly awkward yet satisfactory rap-sung collaborations, the former seeing Chance burst out with a rapid-fire flow, though it is of little substance. Subsequently, “Eternal” delivers one of the album’s smoothest grooves and lively synth lines.
As a whole, The Big Day suffers from Chance’s lazy approach to song topics that ideally require depth and sincerity. Additionally, a bulk of the music fails to create many exciting song progressions and generally comes across as a flavorless version of sounds explored on past projects. At 22 tracks and nearly an hour and 20 minutes of run-time, there are numerous songs that have no business being on the album other than to garner streams.
“We Go High” manipulates horns and muddled gospel humming to create a pleasant moodiness, but Chance’s vocal delivery is less than convincing, in spite of his brave diatribes on celibacy. The spacey “Roo” features Chance’s brother, Taylor Bennett, who sounds like a more annoying version of Acid Rap-era Chance. Maybe the epitome of the album’s aesthetic indecisiveness, the title track is stuck between trying to be a terrible worship song, a piano ballad and whisper rap.
As Chance hinted at throughout Coloring Book and on features since, his rise to fame has coincided with a likeness for contemporary rap trends. On “Handsome” and “Big Fish,” he takes a stab at moody plug rap in the vein of Pierre Bourne, lending guest spots to Megan Thee Stallion and Gucci Mane, respectively. Furthermore, the repetitive and stale bounce on “Ballin Flossin” lacks the depth and finesse of the ‘dance hit’ the song is attempting to be.
For all the duds throughout the tracklist, there are a handful of redeeming moments that offer a slim shade of hope. “I Got You (Always and Forever)” evokes a groovy summer block party that recalls 2Pac’s “I Get Around,” with Ari Lennox’ graceful hook stealing the show. “Let’s Go On The Run” also rocks a fun, pedaling flow over an infectious piano melody and momentous drum break.
Thematically, 10 Day, Acid Rap and Coloring Book each acted as a blank canvas, slightly focused on a myriad of themes, but not to the point where it got in the way of Chance’s eccentric personality. The beats on each of those projects are loose, free-flowing, colorful and accentuate Chance’s vocal acrobatics in a charming way.
The Big Day shows flashes of the unconventional and supremely talented version of Chance that dazzled hip-hop fans for most of the decade, but ultimately, the album’s execution feels lethargic and uninspired. The song topics and sentiments explored throughout the record are touching and admirable, yet rarely approached in a manner that grabs one’s attention.