This is definitely the customary favorite album of the year post but I could find 1,000 albums this year that were impeccable. Musicality and execution are some of the many things are easy to compare. But, at the end of the day, music is subjective. So, I am not going to hide my bias. I’m going to tell you WHY Coloring Book is my favorite project of the year.
I already spent time and wrote about Surf and it’s importance in 2015, so I definitely had to follow-up with the Chance album we were waiting for. Initially, this was a shock, but if you listened carefully, you saw the change in Chance from the start.
In April of 2015, Chance released Israel (Sparring) on his SoundCloud featuring Noname (Gypsy). One this, Chance still used a slight tongue twisting rhyme scheme but a slow methodical pace. He seemed calm and more focused, using religious imagery to astounding results. He spoke on his struggles with love and reaching God. Noname floated over the beat with poetic, lyrical grace. It was at this point, I sensed Chance going in a new direction.
Chance started to talk about his soul, the devil, and staying true to his beliefs in his music. Hello by Busta Rhymes featuring Chance the Rapper had Chance gliding over the Ready or Not beat by the Fugees about giving children coats and saving the city. In October, he released Angels, a high energy single mentioning how he wants to clean up the streets for his daughter and angels on the Southside. Ultralight Beam by Kanye West became the standout lyrical performance by Chance on SNL that sent the entire world asking who he was. All this happened while Chance name dropped God more than all “award show thank you speeches” combined. I was hooked.
I turned on Coloring Book and was blown away. It was Ultralight Beam spread over an entire project. It was the gospel album that I almost thought Kanye was going to release until I heard the line about bleaching booties and getting some on his shirt. This album exemplified exactly where I am in life. I am seriously struggling with my religious path. I wanted more music that I could listen to that was somewhere between Sunday Morning and Thursday night. I’ve struggled with great Gospel rappers like Lecrae because he alright has things worked out. He is married. Has a great family, job, and lifestyle. I’m not saying that he has everything easy, far from it, but he’s got a lot more stability than me.
I was looking at my life in the transition. I want to give up drinking but in graduate school so many activities for meeting people is around liquor. I want to build with one woman but had a fallout with the woman I loved. I think about my career and how corrupt it is and can only pray that God helps me keep focused. I don’t know what I want to do with my life and I have a hard time even stopping cursing. I want a gospel album that gives me something to aspire for but also feels human.
Coloring Book hit that sweet spot. Every song wasn’t about God but had religious themes, instruments, and references. I was able to reminisce about the hardships of adulthood with songs like Smoke Break, pine over my ex with Juke Jam, and let loose with No Problem. Both Blessings, Finish Line, and How Great filled my praise and thankful moments to get me through the hard days. Angels was my alarm many days and Summer Friends finished my warm North Carolinian nights right. Coloring Book illustrated my 2016. The soundtrack to my year.
Even more, Coloring Book symbolized a turning point in popular music. This year in music 2016 marked the beginning of religion and faith in God not being something to be ashamed of. Chance experienced backlash from a small sect of fans, but his popularity and marketability exploded. He was on every show, commercial, and music talk this year and I enjoyed every second. Even more than that, it showed one thing that I never will forget.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13
Have you listened to Coloring Book? What are your thoughts? What albums have touched you most this year?