“Coloring Book” provides a soulful journey

Chance the Rapper returns to build upon his growing reputation as one of the best MCs with his third mixtape.

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Kyle Kohner, Writer

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Never has a rapper put gospel and rap hand in hand as well as the Chicago-based MC Chancelor Bennett, hitting listeners with the “woo wop da bam” in his latest release, “Coloring Book.”

Textured and Vibrant Voyage

This mixtape is exactly what the title suggests — a textured and vibrant voyage through a multitude of brassy and soulful sounds. “Coloring Book” provides a jubilation of gospel singing and unified voices making for an exuberant and cheerful sound.

Chance has matured beyond his young age of 23, a feat rappers much older than Chance, such as Drake and Lil Wayne, have yet to achieve. Not only has he matured personally, but stylistically as well.

Star-Studded Collaborations

Chance has a newfound knack for inserting recognizable and star-studded collaborations for his songs’ purpose instead of maneuvering the songs around the featured collaborators’ strengths.

Incredibly, this tape features strong collaborations with dumbed-down artists like Lil Wayne, Future and 2 Chainz and the best of rappers like Kanye West and Jay Electronica. Chance outperforms everyone as the true star on every track of this collab-heavy mixtape.

Re-listening masks “Coloring Book’s” small flaws, such as the additions of autotune to Chance’s voice on a couple tracks, unfortunate because it hides the distinct yet infectious nature of Chance’s vocals. However, Chance compensates by showing off his vocal range in “Blessings,” showcasing a more subdued tone to his usual sound.

Ornate and Soulful

Chance unites multiple generations of African American music in one project. Vintage gospel freedom chants and praises of the early 60s, along with throwbacks to the jazzy vibes of the 50s combine with Chance’s innovative bars, colorful vocoders and dancehall beats to create a sound that patches the gaps in audiences’ musical tastes. This ornate and soulful mixtape successfully attempts to lift the genre of hip-hop and rap into to the stratosphere.

Chance does for the Windy City of Chicago what Kendrick Lamar does for Compton — provide a voice for the marginalized. In a time where homicide numbers reach the hundreds and police brutality runs rampant, Chance declares sometimes “Music is all we got” in the tape’s opening track, “All we Got.” In a community that has sought a gleam of light in the darkness for years, “Coloring Book” looks to lift voices in strong will. Chance obtains a vast array of exceptional talent and voices to help make his hopeful view for the city real. “Take me to your mountain/ So someday Chicago will be free,” collaboration and gospel artist Kirk Franklin helps Chance proclaim in the song “Finish Line/Drown.

Chance’s hope for salvation and freedom is not a personal objective. One of the best tracks on the mixtape, “Angels,” desires to clean up the streets so his “daughter can have somewhere to play.”

“Coloring Book” is a masterful dreamscape of vibrant sounds — pounding and urgent percussion, howling and heart-wrenching choirs, looming piano melodies, an eerie organ, and raw brassy instrumentation highlighted by distinct horns. These components provide a soul-drenched sound that has never been achieved.

A Breath of Fresh Air

In a time where crooning, whining and glass-half-empty rappers prevail, Chance has mastered the sense of God-given bliss — a breath of fresh air to the gloomy rap industry.

With “Coloring Book,” one can hear Chance striving to mature, to better not only for himself but for a broken Windy City and a marginalized race. Chance represents something powerful beyond the simple mention of God — his music transcends what it means to be broken and then trusting in him, representing a sense of hope.

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