After three successful and well-acclaimed mixtapes, Chance the Rapper shed the mixtape label, but without signing to a label. The Big Day serves as Chance’s self-released debut album. While it was unable to reach the top spot on the Billboard 200 chart, Chance tied Macklemore and Ryan Lewis with the highest-charting self-released album.
Chance released six singles in 2018, including “Work Out,” “My Own Thing,” and “Wala Cam.” The offerings seemed to tease what we might expect from Chance’s next album: a blend of old and new sounds.
Unfortunately, most of the songs on The Big Day pale in comparison to these singles.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or just aren’t in tune with the hip-hop world, you’re probably aware The Big Day wasn’t very well-received. I’m here to tell you that while it’s not a great album, it’s also outrageous that prominent reviewer Anthony Fantano gave the project a 0/10.
Breaking down the album’s contents, the full-length project is the longest of Chance’s career. The tracklist spans 22 listings: 19 songs and 3 skits. Of these 19 songs, a staggering 16 of them have features, leaving only three tracks where Chance handles the vocals alone.
A handful of these tracks are a pleasure to listen to. My personal favorites include “Hot Shower,” “Slide Around,” “Big Fish,” and a level below that, the first three tracks “All Day Long,” “Do You Remember,” and “Eternal.”
That’s not to say the other tracks are horrible, but they suffer from common issues: lack of originality, spineless bars, lack of thematic progression, underwhelming and/or unnecessary guest features, and overall lack of memorability.
The three skits were also pretty forgettable and I could’ve done without them.
Chance can still rap, but the majority of his lyrics here lack actual substance. One of my favorite Twitter accounts, Hip Hop by the Numbers, shared a great breakdown of some statistics from the lyrics.
First of all, the similes and punchlines. Basically, a lower effort way to fill bars. Instead of adding layers to the lines, or using symbolism and/or metaphors, Chance constantly dumbs down lines to “I’m (blank) like (blank).”
Here’s one example of four similes in three straight lines:
“Found your way back like a Cadillac with the flats
Came around like satellite, down like a battle axe
Why do you word insure me like it’s Aflac?”
Chance has always used this kind of wordplay in his rap, and it’s given him success in the past. But with 100 similies across his bars, accounting for 56.2% of the lyrics (according to Hip Hop by the Numbers), Chance kind of over does it here.
While this album pretty much shelved Christian-rap Chance (34% of the bars in Coloring Book vs. just 7% in The Big Day) the obvious new theme was marriage. Perhaps the best thing to come from this album’s release was the “I Love My Wife” meme.
Chance would eventually start embracing the meme on Twitter, though he also shared some feelings on how the negative feedback he received on the internet made him feel.
Even with the “I Love My Wife” mantra and 38.8% of the album’s lyrics dedicated to marriage/his wife, it still doesn’t feel like a great theme. The lyrics don’t come off as personal or intimate, and by the time the album is finished, I would still be hard-pressed to tell you any details about Chance’s wife or marriage.
And on some of the tracks where I like what Chance is going for more, whether lyrically or musically, he passes the spotlight all too often to artists that don’t always add to the music. “Hot Shower” and “Slide Around” are interesting enough for Chance to carry the song, but each has two features after Chance’s initial verse. I do enjoy DaBaby and Nicki Minaj’s performances here, but could do without Lil Durk and MadeInTYO’s.
John Legend, Benjamin Gibbard, and Francis in the Lights perform better in supporting roles, complimenting Chance’s vocals. Shawn Mendes, Megan Thee Stallion, CalBoy, and Smino turn in decent performances, but they venture more into the forgettable and unnecessary.
The total list of features is lengthy, but the mashup and blend of artists is hardly on Kanye West or Travis Scott level. Interestingly, as far as I can tell, none of the artists featured on The Big Day, were featured on any of Chance’s first three mixtapes. It would have been nice to see Chance link up with frequent collaborators like Vic Mensa or Kanye West. In comparison, Coloring Book blows this feature list out of the water, with Kanye, Lil Wayne, 2 Chainz, Young Thug, Lil Yachty, T-Pain, Ty Dolla $ign, and Future all contributing.
Chance traded in guest vocals from these All-Star rappers for a grab bag of rap and pop artists.
Overall, listening to The Big Day is never a bad experience. It’s just one you might not be in any rush to get back to. Without thematical layers, musical achievement, or smash hit songs, The Big Day serves as a streamlined, underwhelming Chance the Rapper experience.
As the 26-year-old Chicago rapper continues in his musical career, it will be interesting to see how he responds to the criticism of his latest album. It’s understandable we’ll never hear something like Acid Rap or 10 Day again, so Chance may have to try something new to find his next hit.
“The definition of average”
“a streamlined, underwhelming Chance the Rapper experience”
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