The Big Day - A Culmination Of Chance From Acid Rap Present Day (Review)
Growing up alongside one of your favourite artists is an experience that is hard to quantify. Their music seems to resonate in a way that is so personal, you could swear they wrote the song directly for you. It's not uncommon for artists to affect our lives through their work, but when that artist is a similar age to you, there is an opportunity for you to be experiencing similar contexts around situations in your lives. From his 2011 mixtape '10 Day', a 17 year old Chance The Rapper burst onto the scene as a squawking, wide-eyed, young man, with a tender yearning for the simple day of childhood while simultaneously racing toward adulthood and stardom. A young Chance opined on family, nostalgia, religion, death, and more while making songs that showed a writer with a sharp and incisive writing ability beyond his years. It was Acid Rap, his follow up project that cemented him as a generational talent,
someone to take lead in the class under Drake, Kendrick and company. His preternatural song making ability made him the darling of the blog era, with Acid Rap being deemed an instant classic, all while turning 20 only days after its release.
One of the reasons Chance’s fanbase at the time was so rabid, was that he was just like them. He was a kid trying to figure out how to deal with life and loss, God and family, self-love and copious drug use. He was able to tackle these topics in breathtaking ways with songs like Paranoia, Cocoa Butter Kisses, and Acid Rain. His music was the flipside of the drill movement taking place in Chicago led by street legend Chief Keef and his crew among others. He was
personable, charming, and relatable. Listening to Chance felt like listening to a friend narrate their thoughts while high as fuck and it felt good, but as people get older, their paths in life start to diverge and he was no exception. Over the second half of the decade, Chance began to grow up in ways that his fanbase couldn’t relate to as closely anymore.
The Big Day, the debut studio album from Chance the Rapper is a culmination of events that have occurred in Chance’s life between Acid Rap and now. He rekindled his relationship with God, became a father, and got married. Closer to 30 than he is to 20, this album is meant to be a grand celebration of family and adulthood yet feels like a hollow endorsement of marriage and TBN friendly values. His pen is still sharp, but the message behind his lyrics feels more unclear than ever. “First album, every track could be the outro, velcro on shell toes, things that we would
outgrow” is tucked into the album’s joyous opener, Do You Remember? Nostalgia is one of Chance’s greatest tools and he still knows how to wield it effectively, continuing the recurring theme from all of his other projects. He still knows how to be cocky like when he cooly states “I made the 3 more famous than Steph” on Eternal a groovy jam shared with Smino. They both rap about all the things that sidechicks and sideniggas can’t do, a silly premise that works because of its bouncy beat that dares you not to two-step.
While his Christian lyricism had increased on his Grammy-winning third mixtape, Coloring Book, Chance dives into the deep end of the baptismal pool on The Big Day. Multiple references are made regarding his love for and commitment to God, yet they land with the same depth of a youth pastor who turns his hat backwards to really nail a point. On We Go High he says “They prop up statues and stones, try to make a new God, I don't need a EGOT, as long as I got You, God.” Ignoring the fact that he had a bar flexing about his three Grammys in the same song, the line still gives us no insight into the workings of his relationship with God. There’s no sight of that inquisitive nature, only blind devotion. Chance is the friend that went to university, got baptised, and only tweets bible verses and foreboding warnings about “this generation”. On I Got You (Always and Forever) he says “turned my life around, I’m tryna go to heaven with ya” about his wife, yet provides no details about what turning his life around entailed. The song is a summery jam with Ari Lennox on the hook and it floats by quite easily, but there simply isn’t much depth to it. It's a consistent theme on the album mirrored only by the references to his marriage and wife.
Kirsten Corley has been a fixture in Chance’s life since childhood. From high school sweethearts, to co-parents, and now husband and wife, references to the different stages of their relationship have been dotted throughout the course of Chance’s discography. The album’s title refers to their wedding day and the tracks are meant to take listeners through that day, with skits helping to set the scenes. It is obvious that Chance is in love with his wife, but
also with the idea of marriage and a Christian family. Songs like Let’s Go On The Run, Handsome, We Go High and Get A Bag make multiple comments about his marriage. Despite all his marriage bars, he rarely ever goes beneath the surface. We don’t know if he had doubts or fears about getting married or what kind of trials they faced in the leadup to their marriage. Instead Chance provides lines like “guess they don’t sell marriage no more, guess being all
alone ain’t so scary no more.” With a fanbase in their mid-20s who are most likely trying to figure out what they’re doing in life, his platitudes come across preachy and heavy-handed. The wit and tender undertone to his writing isn’t as omnipresent as it once was and relating to him feels harder than ever.
Musically, The Big Day is great, with it's bright and upbeat songs sounding in line with the handful of singles he released last year. It’s a warm sonic experience painted in primary colours, perfect for family gatherings like weddings and barbecues where everyone can shimmy and slide together. Chance enlists the help of artists like DaBaby, Smino, Megan Thee Stallion, SWV, Shawn Mendes, and Gucci Mane. It's an eclectic mix that works for the most part, though some of the features come across as awkward, sounding at odds with the family friendly vibe
Chance has tried to curate. Chance is as assured in his sound as he is in his life. Questions have been replaced with proclamations underscored with production that would be at home during praise and worship at your local Pentecostal church.
Being in your 20s can feel like being trapped on a treadmill of uncertainty as you try to navigate every new challenge that adulthood seems to throw your way. Your friends all seem to be at different points in their lives with some working, some just graduating, marrying and even becoming parents. Chance seems to be one of the lucky ones that has “figured it out”, that phrase meaning different things to all of us. He has faith in his God, love for his wife and daughter, millions in the bank and Grammys on the shelf. Despite, or maybe because of, all of this, he is unable to communicate this in a way that feels even remotely relatable. It's amazing that an album with a runtime of 1 hour and 22 minutes manages to say very little for the listeners to take with them. The music sounds good but the message is lacking. Chance’s journey through his 20s has taken him on a path that seems to have diverged greatly from a fanbase that grew into adulthood with him. It seems that he has all he could want and doesn’t even provide any substantial backstory to lend depth to his big day. Nowadays listening to Chance feels like following a close friend that you lost touch with on Instagram. You might see snapshots of their seemingly perfect life, but you don’t know what’s happening beneath the surface anymore.
Words by Seunfunmi Tinubu
New Wave Rating