Chance the Rapper
The Big Day (released July 26, 2019)
Chance the Rapper just might be the most divisive rapper in the game right now.
And the way Y’ALL argue ’round here, that’s really saying something.
I’ve heard Chance heralded as one of the most important rappers of his generation, a young artist wise beyond his years with the ability to cross over while still remaining rooted in hip-hop.
I’ve also heard him described as an overrated, overhyped industry plant, whose underdog story is as fake as his Mr. Nice Guy persona.
If you ask me, the truth resides between extremes. Chance’s breakout mixtape, Acid Rap, was glorified in its day but I wasn’t moved – it mostly felt like every other druggie-themed record out at the time. But there were glimmers of substance here and there and, over time, Chance was able to build upon that potential. Concepts got stronger. Punchlines got tighter. His introspection went deeper. By the time his Coloring Book mixtape landed in 2017, he had mostly won me over.
In an era where rappers begin to coast (and then rapidly decline) once they gain mainstream credibility, Chance always seemed to fight to be better.
After nearly a decade in the industry and three Grammy wins later, we finally reach The Big Day, Chance’s official solo LP. And Chance’s desire to constantly be greater is quite evident throughout.
In fact, he works so hard to please everyone that he hurts himself in the long run.
The Big Day is a loose concept album that takes Chance from childhood to wedding day. And like an obsessive Bridezilla, Chance spends so much time cramming random people onto the guest list, having way too many needless bells and whistles, going overboard on the presentation and making the event WAY too long that he loses the whole point of his big day – Chance becomes an afterthought at his own party.
There are some definite wins though. Though the list of guests is exhaustive, Chance finds surprising chemistry with a few faces. If you told me that the standout feature on Chance’s debut would be Ben Gibbard from Death Cab from Cutie, well, I’d actually believe you. It’s right up Chance’s alley. The Big Day works best when it’s light, airy and fun and Gibbard’s vocals add to that effect.
“I Got You (Always and Forever)” opens the doors for En Vogue of all people, who ride the current 90s nostalgia wave to perfection. It also made me realize that 80% of Chance’s fanbase weren’t even embryos when the ladies were yelling on the Set It Off soundtrack. Ugh we’re old, y’all.
And the sonic surprises don’t end there. “Ballin Flossin” flips a classic Brandy track into a house record that works way better than it probably should. “Eternal” is a nod to Chance’s Chi-town roots that’ll have the party steppin’ in the name of love. There’s a little something for everyone here – and honestly, that’s a bit of a problem.
Notice how I haven’t mentioned Chance’s contributions to these songs? Well, it’s because half the time he has trouble keeping up. “Hot Shower” is strictly for rap radio but his bars are very awkward. It’ll get a love online cuz “dat beat slap” or whatever but even guests MadeinTYO and DaBaby don’t add much.
One of my biggest criticisms of Chance is his flow, and it’s a big problem here. “We Got High” and “Sun Come Down” are perfect examples – he’s great at writing punchlines but not always so good at delivering them. He rushes through his bars so fast that it’s sounds like he’s speed reading from his iPhone (cuz he probably is) and they don’t have time to make an impact with the listener.
Likewise, I REALLY wish he (and like 400 other rappers) would stay in their lane and away from the Luther Vandross crooning. Songs like “The Big Day” and “Town on the Hill” get dragged wayyyyy down when your vocals are drier than an Easter Sunday communion cracker.
It’s a shame because Chance really has something to say here. He floods “Big Fish” with double entendres that speak to his faith, his commitment to marriage and his focus on his career:
Ain’t no love in hip-hop
There ain’t no keepin’ up with the Bennetts
Ain’t no diamonds in the chain but it’s in the pendant
I only own fishbowls, but my rentals tinted
You know I’m used to movin’ units like rental tenant
Real lieutenant, God’s army
He like a doctor, he’ll never let me shot harm me
I’m a force in the field, I never take damage
I create panic ’cause n****s wanna act fake satanic
The album closer “Zanies and Fools” offer intriguing introspection too but these bright spots just drown in a sea of excess. And at nearly 80 minutes long, there is WAY too much excess here.
I know stans are gonna stan, but even the biggest Chance apologists are gonna have trouble defending this record. The bright spots are way too few and far between and Chance’s desire to constantly diversify sounds makes the album seem very disjointed.
Chance’s big day was supposed to be a joy to experience, not a chore to sit through.
Best tracks: “Do You Remember,” “I Got You (Always and Forever)”
2.5 stars out of 5