Published Jul 29, 2019Hip-hop's good guy has a confession to make. Yes, Chance the Rapper — the church-going, gospel-inclined, typically chipper MC — has learned the hard way about being a better husband. On "We Go High," a key track from the front end of his sprawling new LP The Big Day, Chance reveals fresh blemishes on his seemingly squeaky clean image. Over forlorn horn samples and high-pitched percussion that pops and clunks in grippingly distinctive fashion, Chicago's golden boy spits about transgressing and drifting far enough from his wife that she treats him like she's "celibate" before nimbly rhyming that word with the "elephant" haunting every room of their home.
It's but one of the many fearlessly soul-bearing, sonically unique highlights on this 22-track LP. It might seem bold for Chance to delve into his flaws on "We Go High," especially when his prior choirboy shtick made his 2016 release, Coloring Book, an instant classic. Nevertheless, he spits unflinchingly vulnerable bars on "Do You Remember" and "5 Year Plan." He also balances the trouble-in-paradise revelations of "We Go High," with the martial bliss of "Found A Good One (Single No More)," making for a viscerally relatable narrative.
And he gets plenty of help along the way. Not merely one but two indie rock gods grace "Do You Remember." Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard offers a reliably earnest and heart-wrenching chorus, while the alpha to his omega, Justin Vernon (aka Bon Iver) serves up distorted snippets of backup choir singing, like gusts of wind that'll send shivers up your spine.
Then there's the hottest MC of the year, Megan Thee Stallion, stealing the show on the mellow "Handsome" with gleefully empowering lines like "Bad bitch with a lot of options / After me, it's really hard to top it." More impressive still: Chance snags both En Vogue and (of all people) Randy Newman on "I Got You (Always and Forever)" and "5 Year Plan" respectively.
Those guests offer a vast spectrum of sounds to The Big Day, ensuring its hour-plus runtime never bores. En Vogue's turn on "I Got You (Always and Forever)" brings '90s New Jack Swing back to life with an elegant vengeance, while the aforementioned "Do You Remember" would fit snugly on both any indie rock and hip-hop playlist.
But Chance also doesn't need a star guest to go eclectic, pushing his sound to thrilling new reggae- and ska-inflected frontiers on the rapidly sung, guitar-riddled "Let's Go On the Run," one of his very best songs yet.
So yes, 22 tracks is a lot. But unlike other lengthy recent rap albums (*cough* Scorpion), The Big Day has enough ideas, sounds and flows to justify its vast breath. What's more: it finally gives us a glimpse at Chance's multitudes, letting us accompany him to the altar and the confessional, instead of restricting him to the pulpit. (Independent)