Album Look Back #1: Chance the Rapper’s ‘The Big Day’

I listened to The Big Day the day it came out. After spending hours waiting along with folks on Twitter for the album to come out, I was finally gifted with the opportunity to listen to the project. And I was less than impressed. I listened to the album without distractions, a tactic I’m trying to get better at after Tyler the Creator offered that listeners should hear IGOR for the first time without doing anything else, but wasn’t given the opportunity to find something to grasp on to. The album, for me, was messy, ill-put together, a full of moments where Chance JUST missed the mark. I was surprised that something this bad could come from an artist that had, up to that point, been so consistent. I hadn’t – and still haven’t – listened to 10 Day (cue the boos from the crowd), but I loved Acid Rap and Coloring Book (though, it took me another listen to actually like it). So I expected to enjoy this album just as much, and was shocked to find myself not wanting to ever listen to another song from this project ever again. So I didn’t.

However, I couldn’t help but be reintroduced to snippets of the album while watch Big Quint’s reaction video to the project. Going through the same rollercoaster of emotions, Quint expressed his disappointment with the album, expressing that all the featured talent from DaBaby, John Legend, Megan Thee Stallion, Smino, and others “didn’t save it much.” But more than wanting to see what Quint had to say about the project, I wanted to revisit it for myself without dedicating another hour and 17 minutes. And just as before, I wasn’t happy with what I heard.

I think more than the instrumentals and production coming off of this project, a lot of my problem comes from how fake the content comes off. I LOVE how happy Chance is; I love that he has a great relationship with his wife and that his daughters are growing up strong and healthy. I love that he has a good enough relationship with his brother Taylor to get him on a song. And I think the people that make him happy and the day that made him the happiest deserve a project dedicated to them. However, the way that Chance expresses this love comes off very inauthentic.

This seemingly inauthentic display of love is the same energy that, arguably, comes off of Kanye West’s Jesus is King. My disclaimer for this is that I’ve been listening to Kanye for 14 years. His music has meant so much to me, despite some of the things he has said or done (though I think that a lot of it is misunderstood). I enjoyed Jesus is King after hearing it the first time, and enjoyed it even more after letting it marinate some more, while I watched some reaction videos on YouTube. It reminded me of being in church with my mom when I was younger and less cynical. But some of the criticism that has come from this album, and some of my own discontent with the project, is that Kanye’s show of appreciation for Jesus comes off inauthentic because the show of love is so unquestioned. Everything good that has happened in Kanye’s life is because of Jesus; without Jesus, Kanye wouldn’t be where he is today; Jesus is KING. And while all of that is great, it reminds me of a quote I heard a while back that I no longer remember the origins of: loving something or someone involves embracing both their beauty and ugly. It involves letting them be whole.

This very thing is why crushes are BS. You see a cutie and fall in love with them, but as soon as you realize that that person is manipulative or has a cornball stance on sociopolitical issues, then the rose colored glasses are slapped off your face. You begin to see that person fully for who they are, and that fullness allows you to make a better decision on if that is the right person for you or not. And that’s really what this whole thing is about. Seeing a person fully for who they are doesn’t mean that they turn into a terrible person; it just means they turn into a PERSON. Idolizing someone to the point of ignoring their flaws takes away the goofy-looking pieces that make us human. The same thing works for non-human beings, things, etc.

So of course, with The Big Day, there are going to be people who don’t like it because they hate to hear a woman actually receive some appreciation. But I think a large part of why people are so annoyed by it is because we don’t get to see the people in Chance’s life fully. We don’t get to know Kensli or Kirsten in a way that allows them to exist beyond the pedestal that Chance puts them on in this project. This doesn’t mean that Chance has any responsibility to tell us everything about everyone in his life – the sacredness of the private is important – but there is room to give them a little more personhood than what he offers.

[Chance’s] wife and child are his muses but they almost never manifest as humans beyond his awestruck fascination with them. The true history of wives is one in service to the legacy of patriarchs. In Chance’s songs, this marriage exists solely as a symbolic vehicle for his maturation.

 Sheldon Pearce , “Chance the Rapper: The Big Day Album Review” (via Pitchfork)

I think a good example of this balance is on IDK’s Is He Real. On the project, IDK – and the listener – goes through a journey of understanding that never quite manifests into completeness. The hope that IDK presents on the album is to answer the question of whether or not God exists, and by the time the album ends, there is no clear answer. He makes cases for God’s existence and non-existence. He offers that if we aren’t able to understand whether or not we see the same colors, then how can we be so sure that God isn’t real. But he also offers that, based on what science has proven, the existence of God doesn’t make sense.

And we’re not advanced enough, um, like
Society, humanity, whatever you wanna call it, or technology
To say that, to know if we actually even see the same colors
Then how, can we say there is no God?

IDK, “Julia…” (via Genius)

It’s this back and forth that makes IDK’s project an enticing one. He keeps the listener engaged by constantly creating moments for the listener to not only reflect on the ways that IDK is questioning things for himself, but he also creates moments for the listener to reflect on their own beliefs. God – and IDK – have the opportunity to seem and feel more real because of that ambiguity. And honestly, I think if we approached things with this kind of unsureness more, then we’d all be in a much better place as people. But I’ll save further thoughts for a different article. I’m in literal LOVE with this project.

They say seein’ is believin’
Well, I don’t see angel nor demon
I demand explanation, the pastor says, “For what reason?”
Well, pastor, your theory lacks reason, meanin’
When I ask Google the question
Even Siri lacks speakin’, it’s semen
The sperm travelin’ to the egg makes more sense than
Adam and evenings of gospel

IDK, “European Skies” (via Genius)

So while I hated the Big Day, I’m excited to see more from Chance. He recently announced that he was cancelling his 2020 tour, in order to spend more time with his family and to ground himself in his craft more. I’m hoping by allowing himself to take a break, Chance comes back better than ever and ready to continue to show the world what he can do.

Featured Image Credit: https://genius.com/album_cover_arts/354110, edited by me 🙂

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