Headphones: Chance the Rapper Breaks Records

Our column’s debut comes at a crossroads in the world of music.  While we mourn the passing of musical icons like Prince and David Bowie, we welcome the addition of a plethora of new music, primarily in the hip-hop world.  The year was rung in with a new Rihanna album (Anti) as well as a 7th album from Kanye West, The Life of Pablo.  In March we received a surprise new project from Kendrick Lamar, Untitled Unmastered.  Finals week for most college kids paralleled the release of highly anticipated follow-up albums from Beyoncé and Drake, while the dawn of the summer brought in Chance the Rapper’s third mix tape, Coloring Book.

Essentially all of these releases were met with widespread acclaim, yet we’re just warming up for summer.  Before we get into that, a quick introduction into our Headphones column.


Album of the Week: Malibu – Anderson .Paak:  Not since Kendrick Lamar released To Pimp A Butterfly last year have we got a hip-hop album that is so comprehensive and deep in its ability to blend musical genres and talent. While those are some big shoes to fill, Anderson .Paak and his backing band the Free Nationals deliver with the release of Malibu, .Paak’s sophomore album.  Distinctly calling it hip-hop is a bit of a stretch, as there are numerous elements of R&B, funk, rock, and soul. The LP comes across as craftily confused about which genre it wants to be placed under, with the tempo and style switching from track to track. Despite being released in January, this album feels like a summer album with its swinging hymns and uptempo backing on tracks like The Bird and The Waters.  Only adding to the theme, snippets of a surfing documentary are stuffed in between certain tracks.  Anderson .Paak has a unique ability to switch between a raspy R&B crooner to street savvy rapper within the same verse.  It’s this knack that allows him to stand out so much on Malibu. Look for Anderson .Paak to be making waves in the future. 


Music Videos

Pop: Adele – Send My Love: Adele shows once again that she can dominate the music scene on her own terms.  No dancing, no flashes of skin, no swinging wrecking balls.  Adele instead opts to rely on her amazing vocals and innovative camera variations to produce a great video.


Hip/Hop: Panda – Desiigner: The early favorite for track of the summer now has an accompanying video.  After receiving acclaim as a sample on Kanye’s Life of Pablo, Desiigner let’s his newfound fame ride.


EDM: Flume – Helix: This solely instrumental track allows Flume to take over in his trance genre of EDM.  The video plays along with the theme of the album, generated images of flowers that lend to the light but turbulent aesthetic he produces from the tables.


Alternative: Twenty-One Pilots – Stressed Out: One of the top songs of 2015, the quirky Ohio duo allow you to follow them on a typical afternoon in ‘the good ole days’… in tricycles no less.


International: Enrique Iglesias - Duele El Corazon: Even in 2016, Iglesias is still pumping out hits.  He has over 50,000,000 YouTube views on his new hit Duele El Corazon to prove it.


Noteworthy: Chance’s Album Reaches Billboard; Breaks Record:  The night Chance the Rapper dropped his third mix tape Coloring Book, there was one question that rang across the Twitter-sphere: Why is Chance’s new album exclusively on a streaming service?  Chance has been a long time proponent of keeping his music free and available to all, so what gives?  The day of the drop, I was visiting the city of Chicago.  Chance, a proud native, had ‘colored’ the town in anticipation.  Billboards and posters flooded the streets.  While most of it was promotion done by Chance himself, fans had taken to buying the posters and putting them up all around the city.  The hype for ‘Lil Chano’s’ follow up to Acid Rap and the Donnie Trumpet album was there, now it was time for Chance to deliver. 

So when 11PM came along EST, many fans were mortified to find out that the album was only available via Apple Music.  Twitter and Reddit blew up asking for explanations?  Largely, this wave was made up of people who belong to a generation that doesn’t believe in paying for music, not to mention a streaming service.  Alas, within a few hours anyone who wanted to find it bad enough was able to listen, whether it was from Apple Music or on another site that leaked it.  By that point, the conversation was no longer about whether or not it was free.  It was about the music that now flowed out of our headphones.

Overwhelmingly, Coloring Book has been heralded as a huge success.  Chance craftily utilizes his music roots in jazz, gospel and hip-hop here, and reassuringly tells us of all his Blessings.  Most of the mix tape is set to the background of a choir, which echo’s the spiritual theme of the album.  With this release, Chance asserts himself among the top of the hip-hop game.  Even more impressing, is the movement he is making on the Billboard charts.  Chance’s Coloring Book debuted at number 8 on the Billboard 200, making it the first album ever to chart solely on streams since Billboard adjusted its rulesBack in December of 2014, Billboard broke the news that album streams would now be incorporated in their Billboard chart numbers, which previously were based solely on album sales.  This adjustment may explain the questioned motives of Chance releasing Coloring Book to Apple Music.  By doing so, he was able to chart his mixtape and at the same time prove that artists don’t have to be signed by a major label to be heard.