By: Max James Hill, Courtney Miller, and Natalie Serafini
Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
Chance the Rapper will take you to church with his third mixtape. Whereas 2013’s Acid Rap was full of youthful longing for Rugrats VHS tapes, Coloring Book tackles more mature themes — fatherhood, religion, identity — without skimping on any of Chance’s charm or contagious enthusiasm. It’s a hell of a victory lap.
Like all of Chance’s work, the album is a joy from start to finish. “No Problem” is so delightful and energetic you’ll almost forget it’s a song about threatening music producers with violence; on the other hand, Peter Pan tribute “Same Drugs” is as tender and thoughtful as the rapper’s ever been. Chance shows an impressive amount of range throughout the mixtape, while recurring themes of devotion to God and loved ones keeps everything grounded.
Less self-absorbed than Kanye, more accessible than Kendrick, and more inventive than Drake; with Coloring Book Chance the Rapper might just steal the hip-hop crown while no one is looking. –MJH
Ariana Grande – Dangerous Woman
Ariana Grande returns with Dangerous Woman, the third release from the powerhouse singer. Her sound hasn’t changed much, it’s simply been refined and elevated to a higher standard of music. Many critics say that it’s her best album yet, and they’re right.
Her maturation and confidence fully shine through in lead single “Dangerous Woman.” The entire album seems to have been bumped up in sex appeal with some of her most sultry songs to date, such as “Everyday” and “Side to Side.” Her pop anthems and ‘90s R&B combine with other styles, like reggae in “Side to Side.” A host of other artists — Nicki Minaj, Macy Gray, Lil Wayne, and Future — are all featured on different tracks throughout.
Is it a musical masterpiece? No, but it’s easy to listen to and the vocals are always on point. Maybe soon Grande will embrace her full potential and give us the dynamite record her previous albums only allude to. –CM
Oddisee – The Odd Tape
Rapper and producer Oddisee takes an odd turn on his latest album: there are no vocals. No raps, no rhymes, no finely crafted lyrics. Instead, the album bleeds from one jazz-infused tune to another.
He hasn’t pulled a complete 180 musically, though. There is still a significant amount of hip-hop and soul influence on this record. If you’ve heard Oddisee’s previous works — including Alwasta and the addictive The Good Fight — you know that he’s long flirted with jazz, hip hop, and soul mixology.
Where The Good Fight was perfect get-up-and-go music for the day, The Odd Tape is a sexy set of tunes for the evening. “Right Side of the Bed” feels ready-made for cocktails and dimmed lights, while “Out at Night” is full of hip hop influences. Don’t think this is an album that bounces between styles, though. The album progresses organically: there are no jarring switches from jazz to hip-hop and back. Oddisee takes firm beats and marries them with complex melodies.
The Odd Tape is a must-listen for any jazz or hip hop aficionados. –NS