The now world- famous rapper is at a huge crossroads in his career, as this weekend’s release will ultimately determine Chance’s role in the grand landscape of modern hip-hop.
Chance the Rapper is one of those artists that has never really disappeared since the first time people noticed him. Ever since his meteoric rise following his legendary breakout mixtapes, 10 Day and Acidrap, Chance has become increasingly present in the discourse of popular culture. What followed his undeniable underground success was a seamless transition into the mainstream, mainly in the form of talk show appearances, big-name features, and widespread merchandise; not to mention his incredibly generous acts of philanthropy in his hometown of Chicago which also have contributed to the general inability to dislike this man in any way. In short, ever since Chance started winning, he hasn’t really stopped, but this hasn’t been at the hands of conflict or compromise.
The Big Day, which is labeled as Chance the Rapper’s “debut album” is slated for release this weekend, and despite the initial thought that it will be yet another accolade to his legacy, there’s actually a ton riding on this album. This is the case partially due to the framing of The Big Day as a debut album rather than a “mixtape”. Because of this more substantial commitment to the album’s artistic direction and heavier thematic promotion over these past few months, this project will function as a sort of opus, thesis statement, career-defining moment for Chance. Why does this matter, you ask? It’s because, for the first time in his career, Chance will have to truly decide and commit to the artist he wants to be.
Take a look at Chance’s character arch up to this point and the implications and conflict become very apparent. 10 Day showed potential in a young and energetic creative, which led to the increased precision and ambition of Acidrap, a groundbreaking mixtape that simultaneously set industry defining standards and presented a clear ability to surpass them. This undoubtedly led to more growth, expansion, and creation from Chance. More collaborative efforts with outside artists and further attention to the collective restorative power of art led to an unexpected ode to bohemia of Surf. What followed after was what seemed to be the completion of the character arch, as the collective love for music seemed to then manifest itself into a rekindled altruistic love for religion, which was heavily prevalent in his latest project, Colouring Book.
Chicago fans, I’m throwing a party with @Spotify Thursday night to celebrate the release of my debut album and I’m inviting fans, friends and family.
— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) July 24, 2019
Of course, as there have been many phases of Chance leading up to this debut as well as a drastic change of mentality from 10 Day to Colouring Book, fans have consequently been torn on which version of Chance’s music is preferred. The main comparison that is brought up is between Acidrap and Colouring Book, primarily because of the clear difference in drug- fueled spontaneity and centered religious altruism. This, of course, feels rather unfair, as it is inevitable that artists mature and change over time, but it illustrates a very important fact of Chance’s career specifically, Chance has an extremely wide variety of fans with very, very different expectations of him.
This brings me back to my earlier point that Chance the Rapper’s extensive past has all led up to this debut, in which the now- iconic figure will have to decide what kind of creative he will be moving forward. In the terms of Chance’s mentor, peer, and trailblazer, Kanye West, we see parallels to his 2010 earth-shatter My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, wherein the midst of fame, controversy, and crisis, Kanye destroyed his ego and reinvented himself. But even outside of thematic development, Chance is at quite the crossroads.
Now rid of his independent, underground, DIY business model of creation, Chance is going full commercial for this album rollout, already selling merchandise, tour access, and album presale;, something he has never done before. For the first time ever, all of Chance’s music is now on all streaming services, therefore profiting off of his initially free art while also creating a newfound pre-industry nostalgia. This unique retroactive presentation of Chance further displays the kind of transformation that the Chicago native has endured. Moreover, Chance is now presenting himself not as a reckless teen or industry rogue, but a married man, father, and seasoned veteran of music. Looking to this weekend with The Big Day, all initial aesthetic and logistical creative approaches that made him have been left in the past as we find a more matured artist looking to establish his new legacy moving forward.
Chance’s development since his first glimpse of the public eye has been nothing if not utterly inspiring, compelling, and at times breathtaking to watch over the years. His dynamic music has reached raw lows and larger than life highs all while accumulating more loyal fans and valuable wisdom. Now after weathering the storm of the industry, navigating his own creativity and doing it all while reaching what seems like the entire world, Chance is back to show his new definitive ideas, his new vision, his new self. The result will be undoubtedly honest, powerful, and passionate, the real question is what it will mean for fans, for himself, and for music moving forward.