An ode to the Rapper of good news, by Cody Gainous.
Someone alert the end-time prophets: Jesus is coming back a day early. And it’s all thanks to one of the many stars of the 2017 Grammys, and a somewhat unlikely hero — he’s only 23 years old, and he has never sold an album. Chance the Rapper made an album so good that the Recording Academy had to change the rules just so they could give him awards. And awards they did give him — Best Rap Performance, Best Rap Album, and Best New Artist.
I’m not your typical rap fan per se, but I remember the day that Chance Bennett released his third mixtape. Soon I had decided, and I stand by my decision, that I was hearing the best album of 2016. It was about one minute into the first song that I knew I was hearing something special. My wife and I took a road trip that weekend, and we played Coloring Book nonstop. (Side note: This is why it’s awesome that the music world now releases albums on Friday. You have the whole weekend to soak it in and then it’s already familiar enough to help out with the Mondays.) Every time we heard this verse, it got better:
I get my word from the sermon
I do not talk to the serpent
That’s the holistic discernment
Daddy said I’m so determined
Told me these goofies can’t hurt me
I just might make me some earl tea
I was baptized like real early
I might give satan a swirlie
It doesn’t take a Mockingbird article to reveal the Good News in Coloring Book — his Grammy’s performance was essentially a worship service. The New York Times review said it was full of Gospel, even though it wasn’t a typical Gospel album. The New Yorker headline read “The Sound of Hope.” When the man himself, David Dark, wrote a commentary on the mixtape for MTV, I just decided to keep my mouth shut about it — everything profound and intelligent had already been said. Chance has meant a lot to me over the past year, however, and in a year filled with…well, it was the infamous 2016 for most of the past 365 days, so let’s not rehash that here, but I personally undertook a major move and multiple life transitions, and Coloring Book was a familiar friend through it all. Chance was born in April ’93, just like me. After that, we probably didn’t have much in common. Other than, of course, the things that we all have in common. And all of us know that sometimes, music is all we got.
Coloring Book somehow was a universal statement about what it meant to be becoming an adult right now, in a world that feels so ugly, while still remembering the beauty of your youth. “I speak of wondrous unfamiliar lessons from childhood/ make you remember how to smile good,” he raps on “Blessings (Reprise),” one of the highlights of the album.
It’s a beautiful innocence that runs throughout — and Chance won’t let you forget his location in it all — Chicago. Yes, the same Chicago that the cable news channels are compelled to mention every few minutes. But for Chance, Chicago isn’t a murder rate — it’s not some frightening statistic used to make a political point. Chicago is the city where he was out “catching lightning bugs when the plague hit the backyard.” He was there, and he is still there. For him, its his Magnificent Coloring World. The Chicago Chance raps about on his ode to his childhood pals, “Summer Friends,” is a place of beauty, playfulness, joy, and friendship. A taste of God’s New Creation right there in the ‘inner city.’ I know Chance helped me remember how to smile good a few times over the past year, and it was certainly good to see him win a few last night, and give us a performance for the ages.