Chance the Rapper dubbed Friday to be his big day, although his recent nuptials were certainly a contender.
Four months after the ceremony, Chance has released his first for-sale album, “The Big Day,” which boasts 22 tracks and various artist features. Although the acid rapper is well-established – earning three Grammys, including Best Rap Album, in 2017 – Chance considers this collection to be his official debut. While his 2016 critically-acclaimed mixtape, “Coloring Book,” relied upon a consistent, gospel-influenced sound which discussed faith and community, “The Big Day” serves as an ode to his romantic journey through an eclectic selection of genre-merging collaborations. Chance dips his toe into an array of genre pools in this release, but the melting pot of musical sounds doesn’t mesh as neatly as it should.
The ubiquitous theme of love is to “The Big Day” as faith was to “Coloring Book.” Album opener, “All Day Long,” immediately calls back to the soulful, upbeat sounds of his last mixtape, with the lyric “And we back (Igh!)” acting as its signature calling card. John Legend lends velvety vocals to the hook and bridge that joyously celebrate Chance and his wife’s road to marriage. While the lyrics of the song clearly lay out the album’s theme, the instrumentation serves as more of a reminder of Chance’s last work than an introduction to the collection to follow.
Although the production style of the songs changes throughout the album, many of the tracks continue to contemplate the ups and downs of romantic relationships. Despite their differing sounds, both the hip-rocking dance number “Found a Good One (Single No More)” and the more sonically minimalistic, yet emotionally expressive “Sun Come Down” examine the rocky road toward love. “The Big Day” is a lover’s album rooted in honest sentimentality, but the highly varied styles of each track prevent the overt focus on romantic love from becoming tired.
Acting as a refreshing departure from the record’s heavy emphasis on romantic relationships, the dreamy, alternative song, “Roo,” touches upon love from a familial perspective by featuring Chance’s brother, Taylor Bennett. With lines such as, “But I’ma send ‘em to Jesus (this is me and my bro) / Versus all of you heathens,” and “We on some tag-team WWE shit,” both rappers express their adamant commitment to their brotherhood. Even though Chance is the more seasoned rapper, Bennett makes his mark on the track with a raspy delivery and intimately honest lyrics about troubles he’s faced as a burgeoning artist.
Chance avoids running the same musically thematic elements throughout the record as he has typically done in previous mixtapes. Carefully curated collaborations with rap, pop and alternative indie artists, skillfully present Chance’s ability to translate his cadence and trademark sound into realms outside rap. A feature from Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon alongside Death Cab for Cutie turn “Do You Remember” into a light, electronic tune that could easily be played over a summer vacation montage – effortlessly capturing the feel-good spirit behind Chance’s childhood nostalgia lyrics.
Taking the album to old school hip-hop, the overtly ’90s R&B feel of “I Got You (Always and Forever),” is created by the addition of drums that allude to Bell Biv Devoe’s “Poison,” and moments of a Kris Kross-type rapping pace. The run-filled vocals from En Vogue and Ari Lennox further embellish the track. Though the overload of ’90s references comes off a bit cheeky at times, the quick beat and textured musical composition make it one of the few songs that can be danced too.
Despite effectively infusing an impressive horde of features into the record, not every venture proves successful or memorable. Catchy, yet shallow lyrics in the trap song, “Hot Shower,” featuring verses from DaBaby and MadeinTYO, plays flat and one-dimensional against more emotionally explorative numbers. Although Chance’s talk-rap flow demonstrates his adaptability to a slower beat, this noteworthy element wasn’t enough to carry the song.
Chance continues to experiment with vocalization on the title track, featuring Francis and the Lights. He juxtaposes futuristic, James Blake-sounding instrumentation with sweet lyrics about his wedding day, while purposefully straining his voice during a repeated line of the chorus to create a sense of eeriness. The track’s abrupt break full of cursing and screaming, though meant to demonstrate the chaos and bustle of his big day, only creates a confusing dissonance in the track.
Aside from the faulty execution of a few of “The Big Day” tracks, Chance’s decision to delve into the music styles outside of his genre on his debut album signals that this is the version of the Chicagoan rapper that the music industry will be seeing more of. Chance told Beats 1 Radio that he wanted this album to feel like a big wedding, and the sheer volume of features and genre-bending tracks certainly accomplishes that. But, the overwhelming diversity of the collection at times hindered the album’s overarching message – proving that there were a few guests too many.
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