The conversation around The Big Day has been dominated by two questions. First, is this really, as claimed, Chance the Rapper’s debut album? And second, does it need to be 22 tracks long?
Opinions will differ on the former — in hip hop, the distinction between mixtape, EP and album proper can be blurry — while the latter is obviously a question of individual taste. What’s beyond doubt is that the 26-year-old Chicagoan has a lot to share — most of it positive.
This is the album in which Chance lays it all out. He’s had relationship wobbles, become a parent, and rediscovered his Christian fate. That’s a lot of life lived and he addresses it frankly, playfully — and at considerable length.
The happy ending is that in March Chance married Kirsten Corley, three years after their high-profile custody battle over their daughter.
They are very happy together, as he makes clear on ‘Let’s Go On the Run’ (“I’ve got plans to hug and kiss you/I’ve got plans to hug and hug and hug you”). However, there have been dark times too: there is ominous mention of “side-chicks” on ‘Eternal’.
What does it add up to? Thematically, The Big Day is self contained. Musically, though, it’s a little scattershot. Some of that is down to the generous roll-call of guests, including Gucci Mane and Nicki Minaj. John Legend even pops up to sing along on opener ‘All Night Long’.
Later, there are turns from, of all people, acerbic piano man Randy Newman (‘5 Year Plan’) and indie schmindie elder statesman Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie (‘Do You Remember’ — co-written with Justin Vernon aka Bon Iver).
All that and a running time that approaches double album length and it’s clear this is a record first and foremost for true believers.
But its secret weapon is Chance’s charismatic rhyming. He’s had his woes yet his no-drama delivery insists that, even on the cloudiest days, there’s always a chance of sunshine.