Chance The Rapper – THE BIG DAY
Genre: Pop Rap
Favorite Tracks: “Do You Remember,” “Found A Good One (Single No More),” “Ballin Flossin’,” “Roo”
Chance The Rapper’s evolution from agreeable bad boy to vapid pop festival staple was predictable, if not disappointing. When Chancelor Johnathan Bennett debuted in 2012 with 10 DAY he was a mild-mannered juvenile delinquent, walking a big walk but keeping things good natured and humble in the process. The music on his independent debut and on his sophomore tape ACID RAP soundtracked the aimless summers of countless mischief making would-be-cool suburban teens. Emerging at the same time as a handful of rappers who forged long-lasting careers while retaining their statuses as talented and ingenuitive savants, his peers like Vince Staples and Isaiah Rashad managed to sustain relevance without sacrificing the unfiltered integrity that attracted them attention to begin with.
Chance was the unabashed social climber of his class, taking every opportunity he could to sell out, and here he is seven years after his ascent to stardom, a feeble shell of the effortless creator he once was, a generic festival bid as well as one of Donald Trump’s favorite rappers. After 2015’s perplexing tear-jerker of an acid beach jam SURF, Chance swan-dived into mediocrity with the release of frat party soul letdown COLORING BOOK. While the record was inoffensive, it left me worried that Chance would drop an Applebees-core minivan staple like the one he torpidly lobbed us on THE BIG DAY.
Before its release, THE BIG DAY had a lot of potential for Chance to poetically examine his personal growth. In the years since his rise to stardom, Bennett has kicked a self-destructive drug problem, evolved from bachelor to married father, and has, like a young Kanye West before him, publically pondered the divide between faith and vice in pop culture. However, I knew THE BIG DAY was going to be a flop when Chance announced that, as his major label debut, he also wanted the hour-and-17-minute behemoth of a record to be viewed as his first official release. I don’t know much about Chance’s management team, but I can deduce that their concept of effectively employed controversy during a press tour is wildly skewed. THE BIG DAY is one hell of a girthy record, giving classics like STANKONIA and MOST KNOWN UNKNOWN a run for their money—it’s essentially what would happen if Clive Cussler released a watered down book as long as Infinite Jest through a new publisher and begged to be exalted as a reborn author for no apparent reason.
THE BIG DAY is nothing if not perplexing. The strangest moment comes two tracks in with “Do You Remember,” where Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard makes a shocking and weirdly satisfactory appearance. I didn’t know that the Death Cab frontman was a closeted pop rap fan, but his hook on THE BIG DAY is actually sort of pleasant, not nearly as godawful as it looked like it would be on the track listing. Chance also has some nice Chicago house instrumentals on the tracks “Found A Good One (Single No More)” and “Ballin Flossin.” Though the dance beats are nowhere near what they could amount to if Chance hired producers competent enough to pay homage to midwestern dance heroes like Larry Heard and Theo Parrish, it is nice to hear Chance pay respect to his hometown’s roots. There are also a number of unremarkable yet straightforward trap tracks, such as “Roo,” featuring his brother Taylor Bennett, that show that, even though he’s a monogamous sober family man, Chance the Rapper is indeed still making rap music.
However, like the Titanic, even though THE BIG DAY is massive and has a few salvageable parts, the majority of Chance’s “debut” is completely irremediable. It is hard to imagine a label putting the record out without accounting for Chance’s proven album and ticket sales. A money-making monster and a safe bet for pop cultured exurbanites looking for approachable and authentic, Chance remains a morally secure Christian rapper. At this point he essentially plays the role of rap game Joe Biden. It is not surprising that Chance has gone from collabing with talented up-and-comers like Vic Mensa, Noname, and a young Childish Gambino, to getting lauded by the tangerine in office and headlining blatantly capitalist festivals such as Las Vegas’ Life Is Beautiful. While I can’t blame Chance for taking the financial opportunities that came his way, as a fan who remembers what a bond an appreciation for Chance The Rapper stoked between music lovers when I was in high school, the arc of Bennett’s legacy has left me despondent and frustrated.