The Big Day is a Good Project but it's Chance the Rapper's Worst
Evan Dale // Aug 3, 2019
When all of us – fans of hip-hop, fans of soul, fans of music and emotion – all of us looking for relatability in art and all-encompassing vibes – were first introduced to Chance the Rapper through Acid Rap (please don’t try to act like you were there for 10 Day. Also, just a side note: please don’t act like you were there for Section.80 before Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City), the world was a simpler place. And Chance’s music was reflecting of that. Acid Rap is Chance’s undeniable thesis. No one would argue that. And no one would be expecting of him to ever replicate it. People change, and artists are people. Music changes with its artist, and for Chance to ever re-attempt to the creative space of Acid Rap would be ridiculous. So, he didn’t. 2016’s Coloring Book was as vibrant as its title would lead to assume. Splattered with incredible features, and dotted even heavier with emotion, it was an intriguing and uplifting look into how Chance’s music would hold up beneath the limelight of relatively recent international fame. It more than held up, in part because the absurd list of features brought with them myriad stylistic direction, but mainly because Chance led them all with signature charm, innocence, relatability, and undeniably expressive ways of delivering fervent poeticism. It wasn’t as effervescent and game-changing as Acid Rap – how could it be – but it was special and delivered with purpose. But then came The Big Day.
Chance would have done well to continue labeling his projects as mixtapes, experimenting with sounds and direction in the process, and inviting less opinion into his work. After all, a mixtape has traditionally been the space in hip-hop to take risks and work towards something bigger, better. But Chance used his three non-album projects building up wide-ranging and deep expectation of what would be to come in an eventual debut album. And though The Big Day is built on a big enough stage to deliver a big enough boom, its track list – 22 in length – is the biggest thing about the project. If anything is second most notable, it’s Chance’s featured artists. Still and likely forever an undeniable force on the greater music spectrum with a personality about as charismatic as they come, Chance has a lot of friends and no qualms exhibiting their talent in his album.
But as our Head of Photography pointed out, when the potatoes are better than the steak, you got a problem.
We got a problem.
Ask anyone their favorite moment from The Big Day and you’ll hear a lot of different responses. After all, its length and features invite an extraordinary amount of range.
Smino dominates Eternal lyrically and leaves the album with one of its most memorable lines, ‘Side chicks can’t cook no grits.’ MadeinTYO and DaBaby bring the album’s most hypnotic verses on Hot Shower where even given his outrageous, quirky hook, Chance comes up short of the authenticity he once found so effortless. Ari Lennox steals the show like she always does on I Got You – a tremendous nod to late 90’s pop R&B. On Handsome, Megan Thee Stallion continues making waves as one of the most enticing female acts in hip-hop. Likewise, Nicki Minaj has a couple strong appearances. Even John Mayer, John Legend, Death Cab for Cutie, and Randy Newman guest spot throughout The Big Day. Everyone has something to look forward to. Except for those looking for Chance.
On nearly every track, he’s outshined by his compatriots. His signature spark and energy are muffled by attempts to deliver relaxed, one-dimensional vocals. His rare attempts at quirky, experimental vocal play feel like diluted attempts to stab at the youthful exuberance that made him such a lovable goof in the first place. Where once stood a misunderstood, artsy figure trying to make music for his fellow misfits now stands a Nickelodeon-conscious good guy inviting his friends to make the music he no longer can creatively or socially. His bars are still intact, and his writing is still relatable, but is he?
That’s The Big Day’s big question.
Chance The Rapper is currently existing between two very different realities. He was a positivist, understanding idol to his loyal audience of lovable losers, making hip-hop for a different reach and a different purpose. He is now headed for international fame as a symbol of rap cleanliness and good-guy-isms, drowning out his past and becoming lost artistically. In the wake of Coloring Book and a Grammy win, the media painted him the Jehovah’s Witness of a dirty genre, and instead of continuing an exploration into himself, he embarked down a path perpendicular to his original, cutting his audience in two: old and new, dark and light, hip-hop and pop. For his debut album to be released underneath such a sectional dichotomy of character is simply a matter of less-than-stellar timing, and it’s obvious in his voice, in his delivery, in his lack of creative standout. All of his friends were ready for Chance’s Big Day and all of his friends brought the shine, while Chance, unfortunately, stayed in the shadows of self-uncertainty and two-sidedness. The Big Day is a good project, but it’s Chance’s worst.
In a world now brimming with fun-loving, relatable bubble rap stars of which all owe some semblance of thanks to Chance for opening the door, there are so many more artists and so much more music to look towards. Where The Big Day falters, projects like Tobi Lou’s debut album, Live On Ice stand strong as warm and positivist, but never misstep in being relatable to a hip-hop audience instead of a generic pop crowd lacking thematic discourse and wanting to implement their own. There is little doubt that he will get back to his feet in the wake of The Big Day, but for now, we take our chances elsewhere.