By Deanna Costa
Chance the Rapper’s The Big Day beautifully blends authentic passion with superior talent and special guests with star power.
During my endeavor to boil down July’s best newly released music, I found myself going back to several songs from the same album. I wrestled with picking one for this short column, but I found too many worthy of the spotlight. So I’ve decided to let one artist take center stage this month: Chance the Rapper, with his album The Big Day. The three mixtapes Chance released over the past seven years generated plenty of popular guest features and opportunities to broaden his audience via other artists’ albums. Still, it’s astounding that a three-time Grammy winner (and seven-time nominee) is just now releasing his first studio album. The hype generated by his fledgling career made the stakes high for this project, which was released on July 26. Fans immediately voiced their opinions of the work on social media; reactions seem to be a blend of overjoyed and underwhelmed. Many have criticized the overall album as being a grand love letter to his wife — not the Acid Rap they had come to expect. To me, The Big Day beautifully blends authentic passion with superior talent and special guests with star power. Those who don’t enjoy it are limited; they can’t relate to the maturity of the songs’ subject matter and this new phase in Chance’s life.
“Do You Remember” (Featuring Death Cab for Cutie)
Starting off the album with a John Legend feature, then quickly slipping in Death Cab for Cutie was undoubtedly a bold move. The choice was heavily questioned by many of Chance’s hardcore fans. They complained that, by working with an Alt-Rock/Indie band, the rapper was selling out. Apparently, they forgot about his Gospel-influenced mixtape, Coloring Book, which included pairings like Kanye West and the Chicago Children’s Choir, among others. “Do You Remember” starts like a standard DCFC song; a calm piano melody compliments the melancholic/nostalgic message of the lyrics. Chance and his guests want the listener to pay attention to the fact that time slipping away from them, as he contrasts the differences between the summers of his youth and his present days as a husband and father. With the help of Ben Gibbard, he is announcing his ongoing metamorphosis from boy to man.
“Hot Shower” (Featuring MadeinTYO & DaBaby)
With an Easy-E Type Beat, “Hot Shower” is the closest The Big Day gets to a single. Chance’s rhymes are lighthearted and full of ’90s references, such as Good Burger and Dragon Ball. MadeinTYO and DaBaby’s verses are examples of standard modern rap, as they flex their wealth and namedrop designer brands. Chance has a tendency to scream his chorus, but the cadence of the lines are infectious:
Ooh, hot damn, hot water, hot shower // Hotlanta, smoking green cauliflower // Tangerine, yeah, I call her sweet and sour // And my lawyer say it’s urgent, I’ma call him in a hour
The three came together nicely to make a radio-friendly bop; it’s no surprise that this is the most popular track of the album.
“I Got You (Always and Forever)” (Featuring En Vogue, Ari Lennox, Kierra Sheard)
“I Got You”articulates the album’s central theme. Some of the weaker songs could’ve been easily scrapped, if it gave Chance more time to develop in this generous direction. The track is a heartfelt throwback to ’90s R&B love songs. In the effort to create such a vibe, En Vogue is the perfect choice for the intro and backup vocals. Ari Lennox’s voice is also a terrific addition, especially when she takes over during the chorus. The production values are fantastic, though some Chance’s lyrics may be confusing for those who aren’t up on their Bible. For example, his references to “1-9 Love” are evidently an allusion to Philippians 1:9:
I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.
With themes like marriage and religiosity, Chance suspected that The Big Day would not be admired by all. In this ballad, he also adds: “Lot of folks share they opinions, same folks so easy offended. One thing I’ll always remember: they here today, but we’ll be together forever.”
“Handsome” (Featuring Megan Thee Stallion)
This hot jam is filled with images of a married couple hyping each other up as they head out for a rare childless night on the town. The quiet beats in the background, Chance’s enthusiastic vocal flow, and the repetition of the chorus come together to create an ideal end-of-the-night club hit. It’s easy to sing and bop along with the tune — until Megan Thee Stallion speeds up the energy with her rapid-fire verse in the second half. The sexual innuendos peppered throughout prove that passion doesn’t have to end after a couple says I do, making Hot Girl Meg the perfect collaborator for such a steamy track.
“5 Year Plan” (Featuring Randy Newman)
Chance is a native Chicagoan, leading most fans to expect at least one song will feature Kanye West. When he wasn’t on the album, many were (unnecessarily) livid. However, the feature appearance that absolutely no one expected can be found on “5 Year Plan.” Randy Newman’s iconic voice is only audible twice in the song, though his quiet piano is steadily present throughout. In his turns, Chance laments the dreaded practice of meticulously planning one’s future. The tune is best enjoyed with headphones in stereo, because Chance and Randy slide in and out from left to right. They encourage the listener to embrace change, be oneself, and let God lead the way. If “I Got You” proclaims Chance’s love for his wife, “5 Year Plan” proclaims his love of God.
Deanna Costa is a recent graduate of Boston University’s College of Communication, where she earned a B.S. in Journalism with a focus on Magazine Design. During her time at BU, she covered local concerts for on-campus publications in multiple formats. Outside of writing, she routinely interviewed artists and reviewed albums live on her weekly radio show, DJ-ed on campus events, and held the Studio Productions Director position in 2017. Currently, she is a full-time administrative assistant, a freelance music journalist, and a podcast co-host alongside her husband.