Where did Chance go wrong?
Written by Alandre Davis (@Dre__843 on Twitter)
Edited by Dithekgo Mogadime (@DithekgoM on Twitter)
Chance The Rapper dropped his debut album, The Big Day, on the 26th of July, 2019. The reception among the hip-hop community was... not very positive, to say the least. The album came after three very successful mixtapes: “10 Day” in 2012, “Acid Rap” in 2013 and “Coloring Book” in 2016. Acid Rap was his breakout moment. It’s widely considered as a classic project and it shined a much brighter light on the Chicago rapper. As he developed and Coloring Book was released, the album garnered a pretty favorable reception for its sound and content. It’s also revolutionary within realms of the music industry as it became the first mixtape to be considered for Grammy nominations. Notably, Chance went on to take home 3 Grammys during that ceremony (including Best Rap Album... for a mixtape). So in 3 years, with all of this hype attached to his name, where did Chance go wrong with The Big Day?
Let's take a step back for a second to the earlier years of this decade. Chicago rap was in a very interesting place. Kanye dropped the classic album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, in 2010 and still had a tight grip on the music world (even after the Taylor Swift situation). He later dropped Watch The Throne with Jay-Z in 2011 and followed it up with Yeezus in 2013. Kanye was still the top name in the city. The drill music movement started to take shape with artists like Chief Keef, G Herbo (Lil Herb at the time), Lil Durk and Lil Bibby leading the movement. This aggressive sound highlighted a lot of the crime and violence that took place in the city and it allowed artists to express to the world how things were going, in a particular fashion which is still being emulated today.
However, underneath all of this, was another lowkey movement starting to form. A sonic shift towards more jazz and neo-soul based style of rap. Artists like Chance, Vic Mensa, Mick Jenkins, Saba, Noname, Alex Wiley, and theMIND were at the forefront. It gave us great projects such as the aforementioned Acid Rap, INNANETAPE by Vic Mensa, The Water[s] by Mick, Bucket List Project by Saba, and Telefone by Noname (just to name a few). These artists were frequently collaborating with each other so it gave the projects a sense of familiarity, but each of their styles were distinct enough to not fully blend into each other. Regardless, there was a distinct sound that permeated through these artists projects.
Fast forward to 2018. Let’s look at artists Saba, Noname and Mick Jenkins and the albums they dropped (Care For Me, Room 25 and Pieces of a Man respectively). These projects were dropped to critical acclaim, appearing on multiple year-end best of 2018 lists from multiple publications. In fact, according to Metacritic (a site that gathers all the scores of major reviews of a project and puts them into an average score), Room 25 was the most critically acclaimed album of the entire year. These projects all contained improved and more thought out versions of that initial Chicago sound that these artists introduced us to early in the decade. The beats were still jazzy and funky yet the lyricism was still top-notch from each artist that evoked real emotion.
So that brings me back to the initial question, where did Chance go wrong with The Big Day? I think a large part of it is: the sound. The album kinda sounds all over the place. Sonically, with a trap styled song here, a 90s R&B song there and randomly, a song which could possibly belong on a Disney soundtrack. It's apparent that Chance is shooting for further stardom on this album. Everything from the length of it (22 tracks), the formulaic features (DaBaby, Meg Thee Stallion, Gucci Mane, Nicki Minaj) and the decreased emphasis on good lyricism scream, "Make this album blow up and make my name even bigger!" And I'm sure it will happen, this album should do well, he will sell out arenas and probably be nominated for Grammys again. But as a Chance fan, I was thoroughly disappointed with the seemingly decreased effort in delivering quality. I'm all for expanding your sound and diversifying yourself as an artist but The Big Day just feels like numerous attempts at radio, which is something his past music didn't have. Plus, when you look at his Chicago counterparts, you see that it is possible to improve as an artist while staying true to the sound that established your fanbase from the jump.
But again, it's just my interpretation of the situation.