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Album Review – ‘Coloring Book’ by Chance The Rapper

Why is the mastering so spotty on a fair amount of the songs, especially at the start ?

Why was ‘Grown Ass Kid’ not on the mixtape?

Why are there so many poor features?

Why is there so much gospel and so little rapping that caught my ears?

Why is Chance’s singing not on point?

Why did he release this mixtape behind an Apple-backed paywall?

These questions and more make me think that Coloring Book is not the album of the year, nor is it the hip-hop album of the year – I tried to give it some more time like I did with Views, which eventually did grow on me (‘U With Me?’, ‘Feel No Ways’, ‘Still There’ – very solid), but alas I haven’t bought a ticket for the hype train. If anything, this release has made me appreciate Acid Rap to a much greater extent. After ‘Ultralight Beam’ from The Life of Pablo, everyone was going crazy; most people agreed that it was one of, if not the, best verse on the album, and it got everyone excited for Chance’s next effort.

 

Let’s talk about the mix. The album starts off with ‘All We Got’, and if you love Kanye so much so that you’ll drown out the entire song leaving only slightly tolerable auto-tuned singing from the man himself, it doesn’t really set a good first impression. Chance sounds really good when he gets going in his first verse, and the flow is definitely reminiscent of his flow on ‘ULB’, but then Kanye comes in for the hook and the choir and trumpets are completely blocked from the mix; Chance returns afterwards and sounds quieter as a result. Similar things occur on the following track, with 2 Chainz appearing to be much louder than both Lil Wayne and Chance. Chance clashes with Francis & The Lights on ‘Summer Friends’ and the right-panned cellos towards the end sound a bit odd (granted that latter point is me being picky), the noise-based crescendo on ‘Blessings’ is interesting but is not quite pulled off, Chance’s verses change in volume on ‘All Night’, his hook on ‘Smoke Break’ is drowned out by the instrumental, and the list goes on and on. Of course these are only some of the tracks, and other tracks like ‘How Great’ and ‘Angels’ are mixed perfectly well, but it doesn’t make up for it. The fact that this is a mixtape is not an excuse.

How about the features? I’ve already talked about Kanye’s contribution, but that wasn’t the only questionable addition to the album, of which there are many (perhaps too many?). ‘Mixtape’, featuring verses from Young Thug and Lil Yachty, instrumentally sounds like it belongs on a Thugger mixtape, and sees Chance try and emulate the trap-style flow that the other two bring. Stylistically I understand the features, all three of them being rappers who have utilised the mixtape to great effect, but it doesn’t fit with the rest of mixtape at all, especially since it follows ‘Same Drugs’ (a song which has no listed features), a touching ballad using drug usage as metaphor explaining his fading relationship with a girl, whilst also displaying Chance’s singing chops which appear patchy in tracks like ‘Blessings’ and ‘All Night’. Justin Beiber felt like a shameless commercial throw-in, bringing a nice voice, sure, but it feeling like an antithesis to Chance’s ethos. Again, there are strong features on here as well however – Saba provides a fantastic chorus on ‘Angels’ whilst being backed by steel pans (truly a summer banger which I will be rinsing), and Future provides a nice contrast to Chance’s style on ‘Smoke Break’. Perhaps best of all is Jay Electronica, starting his verse with the Lion King references, paired with interesting flow which picks up pace towards the end definitely makes ‘How Great’ a highlight on the album.

I haven’t touched too much on the positives of this album, as there are plenty of reviews out there which have raved about them, and yes there are a fair few good moments on the record. ‘Same Drugs’ is an extra shot of emotional Chance after ‘Blessings’ as mentioned above, as well as the steel pans on ‘Angels’ which I’ve also already mentioned, paired with some cracking lines from Chance as well like “This what it sounds like when God splits an atom with me” (and his flow brings undeniable energy and comedy to boot). ‘My cousin Nicole‘s chants of “How great is God” is a really uplifting intro on the track, keeping things fresh enough to stop their part from getting stale, and the hook on ‘No Problem’ is very catchy indeed.

 

Those tracks will definitely stay in my listening rotation for sure, but I still can’t help but say I am slightly disappointed with this album. It’s not the hip-hop album of the year, and it probably won’t go down as a classic either. Yes, it’s nice to hear from Chano after such a long time, and perhaps I’m too slow to keep up with his stylistic changes, but this was an underwhelming experience to say the least. I still remember my first listen, sat in the lounge of my university accommodation with my good friend Rob, just pointing out so much that was below par with the mixtape. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad album – its far from it in fact – but it’s not a great album in my eyes. Maybe the bar was set too high with Acid Rap? Who knows.

This article was written by Mo Hafeez

 

Album Review – ‘Views’ by Drake

Track Highlights and Track Lowlights (Mo Hafeez)

HIGHLIGHT: ‘U With Me?’ – the first track where Drake outshines the production, Kanye West and 40 take away from what easily could have been one of the best musical moments from Drake we would have heard – the third verse ends in a crescendo with a half-sing and a half-shout of the very quotable line “A lot of n-ggas try to cut the cheque so they can take this flow”. The first half of the song can seem a bit slow in comparison, but it’s a price I’d pay just for that 3rd verse. Drizzy shows he’s still down with the kids with mentions of DMs, LOL, grey chunks and three dots.

HIGHLIGHT: ‘Weston Road Flows’ – Drake finally dedicates more than 2 or 3 lines at a time to his childhood and growing up in Toronto, and he pulls it off really well. He talks about his friend Renny whilst growing up, the antics they got up to even when Renny’s elder brother told them not to follow his path. Very biographical, very personal. Nostalgic and smoky production with the Mary J. Blige sample adds to this, Drake dropping hooks altogether and opting for a constant stream form instead.

HIGHLIGHT: ‘Still Here’ – maybe the hardest beat on the album, the old Drake returns to devastating effect. That classic Drake flow is here as he raps about his accomplishments, the obstacles he’s hurdled by himself, whilst still giving shout outs to his closest friends and family in Toronto.

LOWLIGHT: ‘With You’ – I didn’t enjoy the PARTYNEXTDOOR features on If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late and I didn’t really enjoy him here either. Even though he comes centre-stage this time, it’s easily one of the more forgettable tracks on the album.

LOWLIGHT: ‘Grammys’ – Future returns with mediocre chemistry and one of the worst hooks on the album. It’s repetitive, not clever, and generally just doesn’t sound good. It was probably recorded at the same time as their collaborative album which itself was below parr for the duo. Drake is okay on the track and has interesting flow switches, but that hook man, that hook. If anything it tells you why Drake didn’t win a Grammy.

LOWLIGHT: ‘Summers Over Interlude’ – this a fucking long album yes, but this interlude is just so out of place that it makes little sense. Maybe he thought people would be tired of the similar sounding style and he switched it up big time? According to OVO Sound Radio the album was meant to be moulded around Toronto’s seasons, but if so this is really grasping at straws. Lupe did it better on Tetsuo & Youth.

Closing thoughts (Tobias Berchtold)

The hype and the build up around this Drake release made me expect something that would be a landmark album for him, something to solidify his position at the very peak of hip hop. Drake is in such a strong position right now to express himself and experiment with his style and do something new. That’s why I’m so surprised at how mediocre this album is.

The thing that bothers me most is that this album is just incredibly boring – there’s nothing new or interesting to get your head around at all. It’s the same old Drake sound, and while for some that’s ideal, for me it shows a lack of progress. Of the 20 songs on the album there are maybe a handful that I honestly enjoyed – ‘U With Me’, ‘Hype’, ‘Weston Road Flows’, and ‘Still Here’ in particular stand out. I think the common theme with these songs is that they all could have fit in easily on If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late – whereas the rest of the album feels more like they’re from Nothing Was The Same.

I wish more of the album was like ‘Weston Road Flows’, which is an incredibly biographical account of Drake’s time in Toronto before coming up in the rap game. With the original album title being Views from the 6 and the cover of Drake sitting on Toronto’s radio tower, this is what I was expecting this album to be. Alas.

But on a ridiculously long (20 song) album these moments are few and far between – so much so that when I got half way through I was actually dreading the fact that there was about 40 minutes of runtime left. There are easily six or seven songs that could be cut from this album and nothing much of substance would be lost in my eyes.

Drake is no stranger to slightly cringey lyrics but this record contains some of his worst offerings yet (see below). I found some of the song really painful to listen to because of the downright awful subject matter and lyrics. ‘Child’s Play’ is really the icing on the cake – the songs chronicles an argument Drake had with his girl at the Cheesecake Factory, which then leads to Drake hiding his car keys so she can’t go out to buy tampons. Come on man, really?


Bring back the ghostwriters

“Always saw you for what you could’ve been ever since you met me / Like when Chrysler made that one car that looked just like the Bentley.”

“And I turn the six upside down, it’s a nine now”

“You toying with it like Happy Meal”

“Your best day is my worst day, I get green like Earth Day”

“Why you gotta fight with me at Cheesecake? You know I love to go there”

“Got so many chains call me Chaining Tatum”

“I pull up in yachts so big that they try to hit me with boat fines”

“Tipping scales, bars heavy like triple XL”


The established Drake style obviously works for him – this album sold like crazy so he’s not going to change his approach any time soon, but personally I think Drake has the range and ability to step out of his comfort zone and make something more interesting. For me the scales have tipped on Drake – his emotionally open songs about relationships have broken the border into becoming incredibly annoying and whiny. Views feels like a massive step back from If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late which is easily my favourite project Drake has released – this latest feels more like a sequel to Nothing Was the Same, which I really did not enjoy at all.

5/10 – turn the five upside down, and unfortunately it’s still a five.

This article was written by Tobias Berchtold and Mo Hafeez