“Coloring Book” could be album of Summer 2016

Chance the Rapper’s latest album features catchy tunes, religious themes

Each summer, music fans anxiously await a sound that will define those three magical months. This year, an early contender for the summer standard bearer is Chance the Rapper’s third project, “Coloring Book.”

Chance had huge expectations to meet after his 2013 breakthrough album “Acid Rap,” and thankfully he surpassed all of them with “Coloring Book.” The powerful opening track “All We Got,” which features Kanye West, the Chicago Children’s Choir and a backtrack of triumphant trumpets sets the tone for the rest of the album.

This isn’t music made by the stoned out, angst-filled Chance his fans had become accustomed to from his previous two albums. This is a more mature, grown up artist who has been through everything from being labeled the voice of his generation to becoming a father. He’s been through the ringer to get where he’s at and on “Coloring Book,” Chance takes his fans’ hands and allows them to share in his success.

Songs like “No Problem,” which features Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz, showcases a Chance who has been through the perils of record labels trying to sign him and has lived to tell the tale, while “All Night” will set dancefloors across the country on fire. Meanwhile, “Juke Jam” is sure to be the soundtrack to countless summer love affairs. There really is something on the album for everyone.

The album also features a slew of guest spots, with everyone from T-Pain to Future to Justin Bieber taking a turn on the mic. What’s surprising is how easily these seemingly mismatching artists all come together to make music. Usually features on hip-hop albums are either half-spirited or are only there because of contracts, but that’s not the case here. Each guest verse has a purpose and power behind it to help round out the project as a whole.

Where “Coloring Book” will stand out among the competition is the reoccurring theme of faith and religion that is present throughout the album. Songs like “Blessings,” “Angels,” “How Great” and “Blessings (Reprise)” all have gospel-like names, which is fitting. While listeners may have first listened to “Coloring Book” expecting a hip-hop album, in many ways what they actually got is a gospel album where Chance is praising a higher power for helping him get through his struggles. Boasting as many Biblical references as a Sunday sermon, “Coloring Book” takes its listeners to church.

Chance the Rapper isn’t your everyday MC — and that’s a good thing. With “Coloring Book,” he fully embraces his weirdness and makes an album that doesn’t subscribe to any of the norms typically associated with hip-hop. Instead of MPCs and samples, the album is built on choirs, a brass section and positive vibes. Although there are sure to be plenty of summer bangers during the season, very few will achieve the legendary status “Coloring Book” seems destined for.

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