On Chance the Rapper’s third mixtape, Coloring Book, the Grammy-winner demonstrates a supreme level of honesty by exploring a wide range of emotions, while leaving nothing to the imagination. Like most artists, Chance isn’t afraid to speak his mind or express his beliefs, but he does so in an especially unique way.
The self-produced star broke the mold when Coloring Book became the first streaming-only album to win a Grammy. This is important for one massive reason — it gives independent artists real hope that they, too, can make it in an oversaturated industry dominated by high-profile stars.
Chance doesn’t hold back for a reason, and that reason is his faith. Not only has he broken boundaries by being the first artist to win a Grammy without being under a label, but he also became the first to win a Grammy for a streaming-only album. What makes him different from other musicians? Chance invites the faithless and the faith-filled into the journey God has taken him on during his rise to prominence. He wants everyone to be a part of God — he brings his fans along with him on his magnificent path to finding faith.
If you ask Chance, it was God who brought him on stage, it was God who blessed him with the ability to create, and it was God who elevated his music to the highest of standards and allowed him to win a Grammy. With the most elite of music’s champions in one room and egos abound, Chance dedicated both of his acceptance speeches to God. It’s the same kind of shout-out that got people rolling their eyes at Tim Tebow, and its drawing some of the same criticisms.
Fans have mixed feelings about the approach Chance is taking. His giving of thanks is so widely publicized that it’s leading some to feel uncomfortable, and even turned off by it. “I speak to God in public” is a line Chance will repeatedly say, but plenty will argue that his reverence for God must be false, because how could a spiritual man praise God with vulgar such lyrics? On the flip side, one could say that his methodology is ushering in a new era of religious expression.
So, is it possible that Chance the Rapper’s music should be considered Christian Rap? Some of his lyrics, especially those in the track “Somewhere In Paradise,” suggest that maybe he should be.
Truth be told, religion has frequently been at the forefront of rap and hip-hop, and a plethora of artists frequently mention God in their music. What’s more, Chance’s fellow Chicagoan rapper Kanye West does so quite often, most notably on his song “Jesus Walks.” He’s not the first rapper to give his glory to God, and he won’t be the last, but he could just be the most popular. I mean, let’s be honest — Tripp Lee, Lecrae and other Christian hip-hop artists never reached the heights of Chance, and achieving the success he did with his faith so boldly in the conversation isn’t easy in this industry. But here he is, collaborating with Childish Gambino and getting praise from heavy hitters in the game all because he stays true to himself and his faith.
Chance explains, “I know for a fact we’re not pushed or promoted to speak about God with fervor. I don’t think there’s anything that really allows us to do it as so. But I think the new generation and the forward is all about freedom and all about the ability to do what we want. We’re not free unless we can talk about God.”
Not only is Chance setting the bar for independent artists, he’s also setting a standard of faith and praise which drives himself as a brand. Yes, you can win a Grammy without being under a label and yes; you can freely express your faith. Coloring Book is indicated as a “new wave” of the gospel genre and has been getting significant praise from everywhere, so before you judge, just listen to the music.
[Featured Image: Saint Heron]