Since the days of his impressively colorful and youthful mixtapes, Chance The Rapper has proven himself to be an innovator and poet in hip hop. His eclectic range of influences, stretching from Kirk Franklin to Kanye West to traditional Chicago house, inform his unique artistry and have come to shape his projects into lyrical snapshots of his own personal growth and relationships with friends, family, drugs, and religion. Chance’s mixtapes leading up to his debut album have all dealt with complex emotions regarding these topics, drawing his fanbase in to partake in reflecting upon memories laden with nostalgia, anxiety, anger, grief, and jubilance. With The Big Day, Chance neglects to take his listeners on this dynamic journey through his thoughts.
The Big Day is an ode to Chance’s wife and their wedding day. While Chance may be content with the record he’s released, it is a project that is of more service to his marriage and God than to his fans. Since his 2016 release Coloring Book, an acclaimed gospel-rap album that propelled him into the national spotlight, Chance has released a handful of singles and features that have shown promise and suggested that his personal growth has not sacrificed his artistic growth, but The Big Day has failed to live up to the expectations he established for himself. This record shows that, while they’re somewhat stale, Chance has the lyrical skills to release a successful commercial album, but his questionable compositional and thematic decisions are overshadowing. The one-dimensional emotions and subject matter on this record, stretched over 22 songs, grow old quickly, and combine to make a boring album that displays Chance’s corny side more than his clever, imaginative side.
This record is less than gripping or engaging, but there are certainly moments where Chance and his team shine. “Hot Shower” is the “bop” of the album, and with crisp drums and a simple bassline it sounds like it was made for Chicago teenagers having fun in viral dance videos. Chance spits a (almost excessively) goofy verse and chorus ripping a blatant Valee flow, followed by an average verse by MadeinTYO and then a devastatingly fly feature by DaBaby, who fits perfectly on the beat. “Eternal,” a collaboration with Smino and my personal favorite on the album, is a soulful ballad about the perks of being in a healthy relationship free of sidepieces, fit with funky basslines and synths, silky-smooth vocal harmonies, and a simple yet intricate drum pattern. The Big Day flaunts three skits, evoking imagery of family gatherings (with hilarious voice acting by John Witherspoon). One of the only moments of conflict resolution on the album is when “4 Quarters in the Black (Skit),” a dialogue playing out young-and-successful Chance’s anxieties about heeding familial advice, leading into “5 Year Plan,” an underwhelming track centered around changing times and balancing future planning with self-confidence and spontaneous dream-chasing. “The Big Day” is performed over an ethereal instrumental and uncharacteristically graceful singing by Chance, but a poorly placed acoustic guitar progression suppresses any edge this cut might have had. On “Handsome,” Chance displays the record’s only attempt at sensuality, a nice change of pace from the played out “I love my wife” motif, and Megan Thee Stallion certainly brings the sexy energy to complete the track. The record’s closer, “Zanies and Fools,” features one of the album’s most hectic, high-energy instrumentals and draws on francophonic African textures, over which Chance and Nicki Minaj paint vignettes (which would be better placed far earlier in the album) depicting snapshots of the young lives of the two rappers.
Now onto The Big Day’s big downfalls…
While the second track, “Do You Remember,” features some solid nostalgic bars from Chance, one of his strong suits, the song is a very boring composition, with a drudgingly slow drumline under a boring harmonic progression and overly-cliche hook sung by Benjamin Gibbard. “We Go High” has some hilariously cool sampled texturing using The Legend of Zelda’s Navi and Mike Servin, the pop-locking prayer-leader, but unfortunately also exemplifies exactly how Chance’s singing can make a mediocre song–thanks to an overall stagnant piano and drum line–much worse. “I Got You (Always and Forever)” suffers in a similar vein, and fails to demonstrate anything else besides Chance’s ability to compose a poor man’s Mary J. Blige song, and deliver a message nearly identical to that of “Eternal,” which appeared only three tracks prior. On “5 Year Plan,” Chance inexplicably replaces the opening bubbly, watery synth/keyboard with a bland and stagnant piano line, and introduces a distasteful Randy Newman feature, where the veteran vocalist is taken entirely out of his element in delivering a rather childish bridge. “Found a Good One (Single No More)” is a song with a great hook sung by SWV over a great guest production from Murda Beatz, but is thematically stale by track 19, and teases the listener with a footwork breakdown that should have been expounded upon for much longer (or much earlier), and exhibits–you guessed it–more subpar singing from Chance. My least favorite track from The Big Day, “Roo,” delivers the most downright cringeworthy moment on the album with CocoRosie’s horribly bratty and unbearably nasally hook. On “Town on the Hill,” we get a generally dull RnB cut with dose of mediocre singing from Chance, forgettable lyrics and a tedious drum pattern. Another low point of this record comes on “Let’s Go on the Run,” when Chance sings a pre-chorus straight outta PBS Kids (“Hey there lovely sista, won’t you come home to your mista?…”), followed by his half-assed screeching falsetto on the hook, but some somewhat redeems himself with some good energy during his verses over Knox Fortune’s animated accompaniment. “Ballin Flossin” features an unexceptional Childish Gambino impersonation from Shawn Mendes, an underwhelming house instrumental, and some bad “peanut butter jelly and a baseball bat” struggle bars (to be fair, they are followed by a pretty fun Chicago roll call). “Sun Come Down” seems to be Chance’s somewhat annoying take on radio pop, and is a disappointing exposition on just how much better Chance is at rapping than singing, as this track showcases the two deliveries side by side.
The biggest disappointment of The Big Day is Chance’s wasted potential. The highlights of this record are pretty high: Chance clearly has the ability to produce exciting and soulful instrumentals, deliver solid contemplative bars alongside tongue-in-cheek punchlines, and conceptualize variations that tie into a greater theme. These moments are rare on The Big Day, and extremely watered down over 78 minutes. When song after song on the record, especially 15 tracks deep in, is preaching the same sentiments as a majority of what has come before, creating a stale and played out final product is inevitable.
An album this long also sets Chance up (unless he truly outdoes himself in his raps) to deliver a huge portion of punchlines that shoot for tongue-in-cheek humor, but swing and miss and come off distasteful and corny. While the inspiration for this record is interesting and not a mood often expanded upon in hip-hop, the translation from concept to album was rough and not as refined as one would expect from someone with as much talent and curiosity as Chance. And while he did create an album that very clearly communicates how deep his love is for his wife, he did not communicate much else, nor did he present these feelings in a new, mind-bending, or boundary pushing way, making for a static and stale commercial debut.
Favorite tracks: Eternal (feat. Smino), Hot Shower (feat. MadeinTYO & DaBaby), Handsome (feat. Megan Thee Stallion)