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Chance the Rapper Is Quietly Releasing Some of the Best Music of His Career

Chance the Rapper Is Quietly Releasing Some of the Best Music of His Career

In 2019, Chance the Rapper wanted to tell the world a story about how grateful he was for his life. He had married his longtime girlfriend and the two were raising a little girl together. Chance was clearly overjoyed, bursting with gratitude to God and delight for his newfound life as a family man who also happened to be one of the most exciting musical artists in America. He unleashed the full expression of his exuberance on his major label debut The Big Day, a rousing ode to faith and family. And the response was, well …you remember.

It’s hard to know exactly what happened to The Big Day, which came on the heels of Acid Rap, Coloring Book and Chance’s side project the Social Experiment, all of which released to great acclaim. Chance was riding high after stealing the show from his mentor on Kanye’s own album, delivering an all-timer of a verse on “Ultralight Beam.” Coloring Book was a shot of pure gospel rap bliss, with Chance reveling in the love of those who never gave up on him, the grace of God and the simple pleasures of being a big star in his beloved hometown of Chicago. But when Big Day hit, there was a sense that he’d hit the ceiling on these themes, and his attempts to mine them for more hits felt more like schtick than earnest creative impulse.

The tepid reaction The Big Day seems to have set Chance on a journey both personal and creative. Just this year, he traveled to Ghana and met with painter Naïla Opiangah, who he also collaborated with. He’s invested deeply in Chicago, helping fund education and hunger-alleviation initiatives on the South Side. And in the middle of all this, he seems to have found his muse again. Or rather, found a new muse. His new music consists of music he quietly drops on social media, often with a lowkey accompanying video, and it’s good work.

“Child of God” doesn’t have the urgent hunger of his Acid Rap work, the wide-eyed wonder of Coloring Book or the dad-rap exuberance of The Big Day. Instead, Chance is sounding contemplative and observational. It sounds like he’s looking out the window, musing about recent revelations. “I’m rich, man, the size of the needle that the camel fits,” he says. “Walkin’ to Jesus with my sandals wet.” His flow is meditative, soothing, almost prayerful.

There’s a little more pep to “The Heart and the Tongue,” but the energy remains sparse and patient, putting the focus on some of Chance’s sharpest and cleverest wordplay. “I’m tired of politicians tryna sell us Diet Jesus / That’s like dialysis was tryna sell us diabetes.” he says. “My ‘Father’ got a special set of skills like Liam Neeson / He told me faith and squinted eyes can turns blind Venetian.”

The minimalism of the production puts Chance’s actual vocals on display, showcasing a playful courage. He’s pushing himself, but he’s not making a big deal out of it.

Thematically, Chance stays on-brand here — rapping about fatherhood and the Bible, while taking an occasional shot at the haters. But the introspection is fresh. Chance isn’t just declaring his faith. There are no covers of Chris Tomlin’s “How Great Is Our God” to be found here. He’s analyzing his faith, figuring out what it really means to trust God. He’s putting that big heart under a microscope and figuring out what makes it tick. It sounds less like he’s talking to God and more like he’s having a conversation with God. That’s growth.

The Big Day didn’t quite land like Chance wanted, but his recent work shows that his career is still evolving. More importantly, it shows that he is still evolving as a person. He came into the game as a spectacularly gifted young artist with blessing of one of the most iconic rappers of all time, and his sheer talent elevated him to a rare spotlight. Now, Chance seems content to operate on the side — at least for the time being. Surely he won’t be there for long. But for now, it suits him just fine. Even when he’s not releasing full-length albums, he remains a fascinating artist to watch work.

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