The Big Day is billed as the ‘Debut Album from Chance the Rapper’, which is strange given that he’s released at least 6 hour long ‘albums’ at this point. It’s not just confusing referring to the likes of Acid Rap, 10 Day and the ‘Best Rap Album’ Grammy Award winning Coloring Book as Mixtapes, especially given that all 3 feature exactly 14 songs, but it’s confusing to understand why The Big Day would be chosen as the first fully realised ‘body of work’ to showcase.
The Big part of that name is pretty apparent just looking down the track-listing of The Big Day, with 22 songs, 77 minutes and 21(!) different featured artists in that time; there’s certainly a lot going on here. Songs give writing credits to upwards of 11 people at a time, while the production credits are just as long. You’d think that Chance himself could get lost among all of these other voices and creators, but surprisingly he’s the shining core that keeps the album together, even if it’s desperately trying to fall apart every now and again.
Opener All Day Long bridges the gap from the Gospel sound of Coloring Book perfectly, choir and drum machines against a frantic opening verse from Chance kicking things off. Of course we also have John Legend ‘taking it to church’ as soon as he arrives and the result is a glorious opener of an album so full of joy and love that it might even crack through the stone heart of a music writer like me. I said might…
There is a lot of love here, the album coming together as a sort of concept album about Chance’s wedding, where just about song sees him declaring his undying love for his wife.
It barely holds together as a ‘concept’ and in some ways the album works much better if you try and ignore this attempt at a thematic centre, as the real draw remains the still youthful energy of Chance himself.
Songs like Found a Good One (Single No More) are electrifying and joyful, while hearing Shawn Mendes and Chance perform over a sample of 90s star Brandy’s debut single when only the latter was even born on its original release is strangely fun. Eternal bops along with a smooth RnB sheen and the album feels it’s most listenable at these easy going moments.
Of course when Chance decides to rap a frantic verse he more than delivers. Roo is unlike anything else here, but is probably the most immediately intense verse on the record. Do You Remember is exhausting in its energy, but it’s outstanding closer Zanies and Fools that truly push the album to its biggest height. It might sound strange that Chance’s debut album ends with a minute long verse from Nicki Minaj, but given that it’s far and away her best verse in half a decade I really can’t complain.
Every now and again the album falls too much into current trends over consistency, none more so than on Hot Shower with current breakout star DaBaby. It sticks out among the songs here that sound so much like a ‘Chance the Rapper’ song. The high pitched sample on Get A Bag is pure Kanye influenced throwback, or the intimate reflection of Sun Come Down recalls some of Coloring Book’s best moments, but then you’ll have a song like Handsome that leans heavily on another recent breakout rapper, Meghan Thee Stallion to take centre stage.
In crafting The Big Day into the ‘First Full Length Release by Chance The Rapper’ he’s gone past the point of having a consistent album, ironically making something that sounds more like a Mixtape than his 3 actual mixtapes.
There is some fantastic music here, that cements Chance’s place as one of my favourite current hip hop artists, but compared to the expertly focused and memorable Coloring Book, The Big Day just falls short for me.
Words by Sam Atkins.