After three immensely successful mixtapes and three Grammy awards, it’s hard to believe that Chance the Rapper (Chancelor Bennett) has not released a debut album until now. He’s reached a level of success that very few independent artists can achieve. With large artistic freedom, he’s created unique, uplifting rap heavily influenced by jazz and gospel, accumulating close personal and professional ties with some of the biggest rap stars in the process. Given his artistic and commercial success, his debut album The Big Day is long–awaited, highly–anticipated and appropriately titled. On these twenty–two tracks, Chance has set out to deliver a musical marathon that will have a little something for everyone.
At an hour and seventeen minutes long, The Big Day is an assortment of new music, skits and features. Despite this heterogeneity, Chance the Rapper’s music remains very much unchanged from his earlier mixtapes. His signature gospel-inspired hip-hop style remains overwhelmingly positive, energetic and playful. He devotes large parts of lyrics to themes of his faith in Christianity and the importance of family.
On the opening track, “All Day Long, ” Chance dominates the beat with infectious, joyous energy, singing about his loyalty to his love and God while harmoniously accompanied by John Legend’s vocals. One of the strongest tracks, “We Go High,” is quintessential Chance the Rapper at his best, manipulating wordplay and storytelling on top of a melodic flow to describe his personal relationship with his wife.
Another noteworthy song, “5 Year Plan” is a powerful, introspective track in which Chance the Rapper envisions his future full of love and spiritual growth. He seamlessly weaves rap with vocal interludes from Randy Newman offering advice as an omniscient, God-like narrator.
Perhaps what makes this album so noteworthy is its liberal use of features, each heavily shaping the sound of each track. With unprecedented ease, especially for a debut record, Chance the Rapper demonstrates a unique ability to blend and tailor his music around a wide range of vocal talents.
On “Do You Remember,” Death Cab for Cutie’s lead singer Ben Gibbard, lends his indie-rock vocals to create a nostalgic and euphoric sound. Up-and-coming rapper, Megan Thee Stallion, adds an electrifying and rapid flow to her verse on “Handsome.” Clearly influenced by Megan Thee Stallion’s style, the lyrics are confident and sassy. The most surprising, yet well-executed feature is from Shawn Mendes, who lends a catchy and charming pop verse to “Ballin Flossin” an otherwise up–tempo house track.
Closing the album is “Zanies and Fools” is a mash-up of the beautiful vocals of Darius Scott, the high-energy, fast-paced rapping of Nicki Minaj and the story-telling style of Chance the Rapper set to dance-worthy drum rhythms. It’s a fitting cherry-on-top to this eclectic, genre-mixing and star-studded album.
Although its great length allows Chance the Rapper to experiment with new music styles and creators, it also causes the album to feel unfocused and boring. Many listeners may find that the album's best hits are buried in all the excess. One gets the sense that Chance the Rapper tried to fit as much as he could on This Big Day while sacrificing clear focus and cohesion. This album serves best as a portfolio displaying Chance’s versatility and adaptability, rather than as a curated concept album.