Coloring Outside the Lines: Features on Chance3

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Chance The Rapper: song singer, senior bong steamer, light-up hot wheels, locked up wrong steamer. Needing very little introduction, Chance is a force in the new school of hip-hop. At the very least, most hip-hop fans have heard, if not loved, his breakout 2013 project Acid Rap.

Acid Rap’s success and overall positive reception paved the way for this latest project, Coloring Book, to be hyped to the nines. People flock to Twitter, to the streets with posters, and even to Apple Music, (save for the lucky ones who got the Datpiff download before it was pulled) to help push the project.

Hype aside, the project has been met with polarized reception. While there are a slew of reasons  for people to set-up camp on either side of that archaic 1-10 rating scale: obvious mixing errors, Kanye sounding a bit like he was in a cyborg battle with himself, 3 minutes of gospel praise not being for everyone. We’ll be focusing on the topic of features. Opinions on features for this project came in two main flavors: hate-them flavor, and they’re-alright-I-guess flavor.

Chance has features on 11 of the 14 songs, if you count D.R.A.M’s song as a feature. Acid Rap had 8 features on 13 tracks. Whether it’s been a trend for a while, or if people are suddenly looking for feature-less albums, I’ve seen a lot of backlash over the number of features on this project. And to that I say: you’re silly. Not only are the features on this new mixtape proportionate to the amount of features he had on Acid Rap, but just like in Acid Rap, not all of the features are verses from other rappers. We’re approaching a space in hip-hop where people are viewing features as deductions, as if each time there’s a (ft.) at the end of a song name, the listener is losing something. Sure, a bad feature can ruin a song. (I’m looking at you Big Sean), but more often than not, a feature helps take the song to a new creative level.

That’s exactly what we have here with Chance’s features: a display of just how versatile he is as a rapper. Chance is a man of many flows. Moving from track to track, you can hear him putting forward these passionate, more spoken word bars on the “Blessings” reprise, similar to his loosie with Noname, “Israel.” Then, of course, we’ve got the trap soaked “Mixtape,” and “Smoke Break,” as well as a hint of hyphy in “All Night.” Chance is branching out sonically, he’s growing as a person and as an artist. And, in part, we can attribute a portion of this growth to the people featuring on the tape. Anyone complaining that he’s changing up his style to match the sound of the feature, consider this: what if he’s using the feature to push himself into more creative directions? We can’t expect him to make Acid Rap 2.0. We don’t need a 2.0. As a fan, I’m not excited for the project to be a horizontal progression along this infinite plane of 2013. I’m excited to see Chance use Acid Rap as a base and progress vertically.

I’ll admit, I was surprised to see Young Thug, Lil Yatchy, and Justin Bieber on this tape. And I’ll admit, like a good portion of the public, I was almost upset to see them on there. And then I realized: I was being silly. Maybe you’re not the biggest fan of the Biebs or of trap, but if you’re a Chance fan then this diversity of features is huge. Artists from all walks of hip-hop and music life wanting to work with Chance shows off his ever-growing star power. Chance is letting everyone know that he doesn’t fear the mainstream, on the contrary, he’s ready to make some gospel-funk-jazz waves right in the center of it. The features Chance has on this tape are more than just extra bars on the song, they’re a way of sending a message that Chance’s music is for everyone. He’s a man of the people.

Is this a perfect project? No. Is this the project for Chance? No, which is a good thing. This project is a pretty big stepping stone for him as an artist. Not to mention, a stepping stone for free music to be seen as a serious medium. I wouldn’t want Chance to peak after three projects, some loose tracks, and a whole lot of smiles. Coloring Book helps set Chance up for a longstanding career in the music sphere, and him having a long career is something all listeners want.

As a Chance fan, this project was most everything I was hoping for, and at the end of the day that’s what matters.

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