For a rookie, Chance the Rapper is pretty seasoned. He’s dropped three massively popular mixtapes and won three Grammys but, until today, he hadn’t released a proper album. The Big Day is his first solo project since 2016’s Coloring Book, and it features a long list of high-profile features and producers, from Timbaland and Gucci Mane (“Big Fish”) to Megan Thee Stallion (“Handsome”) and Nicki Minaj (“Slide Around”). He even makes space for the OGs Rodgers & Hammerstein.
The Big Day is less gospel-centric than some of his past work, and stylistically in line with the string of singles he’s released since Coloring Book. The constant, though: he’s still in search of truth and meaning in his family and his community.
A Big Wedding
If the wedding ring on The Big Day’s cover wasn’t conspicuous enough, the record’s three skits (“Photo Ops,” “4 Quarters in the Black,” and “Our House”) are set at a wedding, too. Most of the songs are about his wife and their children, and they sound like they could have soundtracked his own reception. There are songs designed to get everyone onto the dancefloor, from grannies to grandkids: “I Got You (Always and Forever)” features a stirring appearance by En Vogue; the juke jam “Found a Good One (Single No More)” ends with a footwork breakdown likely to form a dance circle; a choir adds singalong punch to the Lion King-esque “Zanies and Fools.” “Zanies” also references another major milestone: the day he first saw his future wife, when she was performing Destiny’s Child songs as a precocious 9-year-old.
A Family Affair
Like many weddings, The Big Day is family-centric, featuring appearances from Chance’s brother Taylor (rapping on “Roo”) and his dad Ken (who helped write “Eternal”). For better or worse, Chance puts his inner circle’s business on the front street: “My baby mama went celibate/Lies on my breath, she say she couldn't take the smell of it/Tired of the rumors, every room had an elephant” (“We Go High”). He also uses the record’s final skit (“Our House”) to bask in the perks of having a two-parent home:
“I used to have dolls at my mommy’s house and my daddy’s house
Now I only have one house and all my dolls are all together
And when my daddy wakes up with me at my house
And asks what toy I wanna play with
I say, ‘All of them’”
Sweet Singin’ White Boys
The Big Day sees Chance further embracing the pop and indie of some of his most mainstream collaborations. A noted Death Cab for Cutie fan, he connected with them years ago during a busy Bonnaroo where he wasn’t even scheduled to perform; that meeting turned into the whole band’s appearance on “Do You Remember,” a hushed electronic production that could easily be mistaken for a Postal Service b-side. It features writing and production credits from Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and Francis Starlite of Francis and the Lights; they also grace “The Big Day” and Starlite appears on “Ballin Flossin’,” a bouncy house bop which sports a Top 40 sheen courtesy of Canadian pop prince Shawn Mendes.
“First album, every track could be the outro,” Chance raps on “Do You Remember.” Considering the outro of a hip-hop album usually looks back, this shows how much Chance is feeling contemplative about his history on The Big Day. It’s yet another example of his tendency to romanticize his own story, to create a fond oral history of his young life as it’s unfolding.
The Big Day doesn’t feel like the very distant past, but it is already presented in sepia tone; it’s a wedding album to be flipped through at the coffee table. Two of his skits are voiced by actors with extreme wise-old-uncle vibes—Keith David on “4 Quarters in the Black” and John Witherspoon on “Photo Ops.” The skits highlight the multigenerational nature of weddings with familiar scenes: grandpas breaking up fights between little boys, old men bragging about their business and doling out financial advice.
The nature of mixtapes has evolved in the past few decades. What began as compilations mixed by DJs morphed into bootleg sets of artists rapping over popular beats; those couldn’t be officially sold, but they kept interest piqued between albums. But these days, the mixtape/album distinction is a seemingly arbitrary one that lies mostly with the artist’s intention—if they say it’s a mixtape, it’s a mixtape. But for Chance specifically, declaring The Big Day as his first album has specific artistic and commercial significance. To Chance, the concept of an album is tied specifically to the live performance, suggesting a Big Day tour may be imminent. As a young artist who grew his audience by distributing his work for free, Chance’s “debut” suggests a shift in how he intends to evolve his business, and possibly also his legacy. As he said way back in 2017, “I might actually sell this album.” And for the first time, he is.
Originally Appeared on Pitchfork