BY: MARIAH ESPADA
Ever since Chance The Rapper's Grammy-winning album, "Coloring Book" dropped, the world has had a lot to say about it's gospel elements. Chance's mixtape shortly followed after Kanye's gospel-filled album, "The Life of Pablo"-- a piece that Chance also helped produce. While some may be against Chance and Kanye bringing gospel-influenced sounds to their secular audiences, I see nothing but great music and an even greater message.
Chance has taken his rap skills beyond the streets of Chicago and managed to snag the attention of mainstream America in the process-- a task that not all independent artist can say they've accomplished. Why I commend Chance's work so much is because he managed to fulfil these impossible tasks as an unsigned artist, all the while conveying a message of spirituality and connectivity.
Despite religious views, listening to "Coloring Book" is an opportunity to absorb an artistic perspective on life. The album clearly shows how he has evolved in his spiritual journey, after the birth of his daughter Kensli, while still remaining the same Chicago kid everyone loved since his "10 Day" mixtape. This artistic evolution happening right before his fans' eyes is art transformed into the form of beautiful ballets and powerful rhymes. Not all rap can do that.
A moment I will never forget is when he performed "Finish Line/Drown" on SNL for the holidays. Chance rhymed around the stage surrounded by a festive set and a full choir. Watching him perform and chant, "I love when you say his name [Jesus] on network television," gave me immediate goosebumps. In that moment, I truly realized that Chance could never be put into the mainstream box. He's created his own lane instead, promoting a spiritual perspective rather than capitalizing off of rhymes about money, yachts and sexually-objectified women. In that moment, it didn't matter what religious tides or beliefs I previously had with my Christian faith-- I was absorbing art that was so rich in creativity and power that it exceeded any prior experience I'd had. All I could think was that Kirk Franklin had been reborn wearing a â€˜3' hat and the coolest red overalls.
Some of my favorite spiritual lines off of the album, that only further prove how well faith and rap work together are:
"I used to hide from God, ducked down in the slums like shhhh"
"I'm gon' praise Him, praise Him â€˜til I'm gone."
"Music is all we got."
"Wear your halo like a hat that's like the latest fashion, I got angels all around me they keep me surrounded."
"I build the ark to gently, gently row my boat down Noah's stream, sometimes the path I took to reach my petty goals was so extreme. I was so far down in the mud couldn't even let my light shine-- But you was always there when I needed to phone a friend or use a lifeline."
"I speak to God in public, I speak to God in public. He keeps my rhymes in couplets, He think the new stuff jam, I think we mutual fans."
"Blessings keep falling in my lap."
These simple, yet powerful lines convey more than anything that Chance is human. Just like all of us, he sometimes feels discouraged or in need of help, while other days he feels extremely confident and celebratory. The overall message is about an individual journey to find something to believe in-- a notion that his audience can definitely relate to. This celebration of individuality and "the personal journey" could not be packaged into a more beautifully-colored compact CD, holding ethereal sounds of what heaven might be.
Here's to hoping Chance's next project also defies everyone's expectations, and continues to illustrate his personal growth and trials in fatherhood-- gospel-influenced or not. But preferably, still in overalls.