After a slight delay, Chance the Rapper's new album, The Big Day, is here. Following a series of successful mixtapes, the 26-year-old Chicago rapper has been adamant that this is the first project he's selling, so he's presenting it as his debut album. With 22 tracks in total, there's a lot to get through on this project, and it will take much more time than a day to fully digest everything going on here, but we've taken some time to write out our initial thoughts after an initial spin. These are the biggest takeaways from a first listen of Chance the Rapper's debut album, The Big Day.
He’s still vocal about remaining independent
Arguments about whether Apple should count as a record label aside, The Big Day makes clear both lyrically and in the credits that Chance is still independent. This is true despite the fact that, as he raps on "All Day Long," "I still could hit up Sony today and get a loan." He continues, "And shout out to Ms. Sylvia Rhone, we get along/But that boy advance gotta be bigger than Diddy Combs." Chance hints at a reason for his continued independence on "Big Fish" when he says, "Their boardrooms look like eight Channing Tatums and a Peyton Manning." The credits on the record, in fact, don’t mention any label at all. Instead, everything goes through Chance the Rapper LLC. It is (we checked) a real Illinois LLC owned by Chancelor Bennett, one that the preternaturally business-savvy rapper started all the way back in 2013. —Shawn Setaro
He doesn’t stick to one sound or style
Chance's last project, Coloring Book, was rooted in gospel music, but he doesn't tether himself to one sound or style on The Big Day. After the release of the TisaKorean-assisted "Groceries" (which did not ultimately end up on the album), some guessed that he would lean into the ultra-youthful brand of hip-hop dance music that artists like 10k.Caash are popularizing on TikTok and Triller. That's just one of many styles that Chance incorporates on The Big Day, though. The fact that a bass-heavy, Gucci Mane-assisted song like "Big Fish" (a personal favorite on first listen) is on the same tracklist as a breezy effort like "Do You Remember" (which features Justin Vernon and Death Cab for Cutie's Benjamin Gibbard) shows just how sonically diverse this thing is. Of course, that means it's also all over the place. While the various styles keep the 22-song tracklist interesting and diverse, it also makes The Big Day anything but a cohesive album. —Eric Skelton
He wants us to dance
"It’s a very dancy album," Chance the Rapper told Zane Lowe before the release of The Big Day, and he was not lying. In fact, this is Chance’s most danceable album yet. Although The Big Day is all over the place stylistically, the upbeat production is the main thing that ties things together, infusing Jersey club music on tracks like "Found a Good One (Single No More)," house music on tracks like "Ballin Flossin," and afrobeats on tracks like "Zanies and Foolies." The Big Day tour might look a lot like Soul Train episodes once they begin. —Kemet High
The production is mostly handled by his Social Experiment collaborators
The Big Day features some big name production credits from guys like Timbaland ("Big Fish") and Pi'erre Bourne ("Slide Around"), but the bulk of the album was produced by collaborators he's been working with since day one: Members of his group the Social Experiment (Nico Segal, Peter Cottontale, Greg Landfair, and Nate Fox) appear on the majority of the tracklist. He also calls on frequent collaborators from the past like Francis Starlite of Francis and the Lights, reinforcing the idea that Chance likes to keep things in-house and work with familiar faces. Another name that shows up all over the production credits is Darius Scott, who says he contributed "a lil boom bap and ivories and guitar" in addition to vocals. —Eric Skelton
Chance really, really likes being married
One thing is extremely clear after a first listen of The Big Day: Chance the Rapper is very psyched about being married. Before it dropped, some fans noticed that the cover artwork appeared to be inspired by the day he proposed to his wife, and now that The Big Day is here, it's obvious that his post-wedding glow guided the direction of the whole album. Like Coloring Book, the tone of this project is very happy and upbeat, but this time, that energy seems less inspired by God (although that's still there) and more influenced by his family. This is honeymoon rap. One of many examples comes on "Sun Come Down" when he raps, "You wanna use my likeness, please approve it through my wife." —Eric Skelton
DaBaby’s run of show-stealing verses continues
It really is the year of DaBaby. After dropping one of the year's true breakout albums, Baby On Baby, which was home to the best song of 2019 (so far), the Charlotte rapper has turned his attention to stealing the show on everyone else's albums. Following "Cash Shit" on Megan Thee Stallion's Fever and "Under the Sun" on Dreamville's Revenge of the Dreamers III, he strikes again on Chance's "Hot Shower." Coming in at the 2:45 mark, he barks a series of wild, over-the-top lines, delivered with his immediately recognizable flow: "Today I just signed to Republic/And go get some head from a white man's daughter/Her lips ain't big but I'm loving it/I get in, fake ID, I'm McLovin' it." You love to see it. —Eric Skelton
It’s not a gospel album, but he’s still fitting in biblical references
One holdover from Coloring Book remains on The Big Day: Chance keeps it holy with a variety of biblical references. Most are found in the first half of the album when he’s talking about what his new life is like now that he's found his soulmate. On the third verse of "We Go High," Chance raps, "We give the glory to you God/One living true God/You make us boo-yah, and throw up the woo like you God/They prop up statues and stones tryna make a new God/I don't need an e-God as long as i got you God." The sixth track, "I Got You" has a soulful gospel hook lead by Ari Lennox and Chance litters the second verse with references like, "You gotta remember that the enemy is not in the flesh/You gotta remember that our imagery is made from the best/so pray for the best." He continues this spiritual flow on "Roo" as he raps, "This is me and my bro versus you of all of those heathens/They think I'm reading Ephesians/I have all these niggas hiding, avoiding meetings like vegans."
The second half of the album feels like a wedding reception, filled with upbeat songs and a variety of unique features. However, he still chats with God on the 20th track, "Town on the Hill" in what feels like the self reflection that follows after all the guests have left the party and the dust settles on a new married life. He calmly sings on the refrain, "Thank you Father, you really love me." —Jordan Rose
He takes us behind the scenes of his family dynamic
Chance isn't the most private artist when it comes to his personal life, but here, fans get an inside look at his relationship with his wife and family. On various songs throughout the album, Chano drops hints about the ups and downs he has experienced in his relationship. On "We Got High," he takes us back in time to look at the early mistakes he made with his wife and how it affected her. "My baby mama went celibate/Lies on my breath, she say she couldn’t take the smell of it," he spits. It’s not all bad, though. Chance also revisits his childhood on songs like "Roo," where he recalls his father’s strong presence in his life despite many of his friends growing up the opposite: "A lot of dads left, they abandoned the house/My dad Joe Jack start a band in the house." —Jessica McKinney
He brings back ‘slip-hop’
In the late 2000s and early 2010s, a style that my friend Matt deemed “slip-hop” was all the rage. Rappers would pretend to make a mistake, and then playfully correct themselves. Think of Lil Wayne's "I shall hayve them—oops, I mean have them" on "Barry Bonds" or Earl Sweatshirt telling us "the hash, I mean the harsh truth" on "Luper." The intentional slip-up has faded from rap’s vocabulary in recent years, but Chance fleetingly brings it back on "Hot Summer": "Now I got a few rings on, Jupiter skating/I meant to say Saturn, switched up the pattern." —Shawn Setaro
The skits feature some recognizable Hollywood voices
Chance rallied some major black actors for this album. The most appropriate (and most recognizable) Hollywood feature is John Witherspoon, who notoriously starred in the Friday series. He lends his voice to the "Photo Ops" skit, in which he attempts to break up a conflict between two brothers. If there is one thing Witherspoon is really good at, it is playing a father figure-type character and adding a splash of comedy in the midst of chaos. Keith David later comes in on the second skit, "4 Quarters in the Black," where he proposes a toast during a wedding reception. In some ways, his toast pokes fun of the groom, casually mentioning his shortcomings. Even so, he manages to throw in a couple of compliments. "This is a guy who literally never ceases to surprise me," he says. "The decision he makes are not necessarily the decisions I would have made or anybody with some sense. But what I can say is: the boy is fearless." Overall, Witherspoon and David offer good anecdotes to help illustrate what the "big day" mean for fans. —Jessica McKinney
Is Nicki Minaj hinting she's pregnant and getting married?
On the album's final track, "Zanies and Foolies," Minaj details her relocation from Trinidad, working with Rihanna’s Fenty, and she also teases a glimpse into her love life. We’ve seen her cuffed with guys like Safari and Meek Mill, but on “Zanies and Foolies” she addresses a rather new but old relationship. "I met my husband when I was 17 out in Queens/If you love it let it go, now I know what that means/While he was up north for a body/I bodied everybody and got known for my body/My nigga home now, he the Clyde to my Bonnie/‘Bout to walk down the aisle and be a mommy," she raps. Of course, it’s not certain that Nicki is either pregnant or expecting a marriage, but this is sure to get fans speculating. —Kemet High