Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Chance the Rapper

  • Acid Rap [free download, 2013] A-
  • Coloring Book [self-released, 2016] A

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Acid Rap [free download, 2013]
His flow a cartoon whine, his wordplay wittily associative, his affect educated ghetto, and his main life experiences rising in the rap game, zonking on cannabis and lysergic, and surviving a battle zone, he projects an anxiety that has recognizable cognates among alt-rock waste-os with a lot less to be afraid of. Amusing though he and his yelp can be, I like him best when anxiety is a mood rather than a subject, particularly on the quasi-political track hidden behind "Pusha Man"--"Paranoia," an anti-summer song, because summer's when people gets shot. I also welcome the two-and-a-half minute "interlude" that praises, yup, "falling in love"--and the one that proves "Clean Up Woman" is his favorite song. A-

Coloring Book [self-released, 2016]
An atheist till death takes me home to nowhere, I nonetheless welcome the gospel emphasis here--larger than Kanye's, larger than goddamn Lecrae's--for how it warms Chance's tone of voice and sense of family. The irrepressible cheer of his vocals has always lit up his music. But reaccess Acid Rap and notice how whiny his timbre gets sometimes--charming, always, but immature. Here the death of hisgrandma (who told him he was "kosher" why, exactly?) and the birth of his daughter (joint custody not wedlock; too bad) make a man out of him vocally--that adolescent thing is a memory. And the many church singers who pile on mellow melodicism and cultural affirmation broaden his vocal muscle and instill pitch control. His cheer remains irrepressible, and essential. But it's gained weight, even beauty. A