Stuffed with superfluous features, the Chicago rapper's 22-track debut studio album sags somewhat, but is almost saved by his infectiously optimistic outlook
‘The Big Day’, Chance the Rapper’s debut studio album (following three commercial mixtapes), is a buoyant, cheerful project that looks back on his young, successful career through rose-tinted lenses but, ultimately, doesn’t possess enough depth amidst a mishmash of production and features that make it too long-winded.
Over 22 tracks, ‘The Big Day’ flips through like a nostalgia-heavy scrapbook. As may be the case for most people looking back on their life, Chance focuses heavily on what he loves most. For him, that means his faith, friends and family. There are entire songs – ‘We Go High’, ‘Zanies and Fools’, ‘5 Year Plan’ – about his immediate family. The skits are depictions of grandfathers at weddings: doling out advice needlessly, reliving past stories and breaking up brawls, flexing their muscles. Chance’s brother Taylor and his dad Ken also feature on the record.
The list of guest features on the album reads like a wedding invitation list. Contemporary hip-hop and R&B stars Nicki Minaj, Megan Thee Stallion, Ari Lennox, DaBaby, Lil Durk and Gucci Mane all make the effort, while big-name producers Timbaland and Murda Beatz lend their talents. Familiar Social Experiment collaborators Nate Fox, Nico Segal and Peter Cottontale are also present. The inclusion of indie-rock heavyweights such as Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard, Francis Starlite [of Francis and the Lights] add weight, but seemingly for no other reason than to contribute their name.
All but three tracks end up featuring an artist and ‘The Big Day’ creaks under this star pressure. The production palette throughout the project is uneven, so that even the album’s length feels tiresome. ‘Hot Shower’, ‘Get A Bag’, ‘Handsome’ and ‘Eternal’ seem superfluous and should have been left on the editing floor.
Despite the affirmation of the things Chance loves, walking away from ‘The Big Day’, you’re left with a sense of disappointment. It ends up falling flat in its larger vision. His previous work ‘Colouring Book’ leaned heavily on gospel and religions tones while delivering a hip-hop sermon; ‘Acid Rap’, Chance’s breakout project was a psychedelic-heavy album that showcased his creativity and inventiveness.
‘The Big Day’ showcases the extent of Chance’s talents – which are never in doubt – but, as a whole, the album doesn’t possess the depth that made his past work vital.