I remember when I first started coloring my mom would always tell me, “Micah color inside of the lines”. No matter how much she petitioned for me to stay inside of the lines I always found myself to be an outside of the lines type of person.
This past month 23-year-old Chicago rapper from 79th St. Chancellor Bennett better known as, Chance The Rapper, released his much anticipated third mixtape, Coloring Book which has already proven that the young MC is not afraid to color outside of the lines. If you’re looking for a review this isn’t it. It’s more of a retrospect of the project and the man and how it connects.
I’ve followed Chance’s career since he dropped his 10 Days mixtape. Anyone who knows me, knows I love my Chicago roots so when I seen there was a new rapper being dubbed as the “next Kanye” (who at the time was my favorite rapper) I had to check him out. 10 Days was a solid project and even then I could sense that Chance The Rapper wasn’t just an average rapper talking about the same old things. 10 Days and Acid Rap both were solid mixtape projects that I added to my rotation and often listened to them both religiously. His first projects I heard him speak a lot about drugs and after following him on Twitter and IG I saw that he did lead a “lifestyle” that many would look down upon. But still for some reason I said to myself that he wasn’t like the rest of the industry.
Then in 2015 I heard this song on the Surf project entitled, “Sunday Candy.” He made an ode to his grandmother but the hook said, “Come on in this house, it’s gonna rain, rain down Zion, it’s gonna rain.” For those who grew up in church we know this was hook is from the Milton Brunson gospel classic, “It’s Gonna Rain.” I thought to myself only someone who grew up in church would know that song. Then I listened to the song again and realized Chance was talking about taking community in this song. This is when things began to click for me.
Fast forward to January 31st, 2016 and Chance tweeted, “Today’s the last day my old life, last day smoking cigs. Headed to church for help. All things are possible through Christ who strengthens me.” Since then we have heard Chance speak a lot about Christ and talk about many biblical stories in his music. From songs like “Church” with BJ The Chicago Kid to “Ultra Light Beam” with Kanye West to “Blessings” and “How Great” (which brilliantly recreates the Chris Tomlin classic with the help of MC Jay Electronica) we can hear and see that Chance is on a spiritual journey and it’s both refreshing and encouraging to see.
I remember coming to New H2O when news first broke about not only him turning his life around but also his collabs with both Kanye West and Kirk Franklin. I remember reading many comments about him only talking about God because it’s becoming the cool thing to do. I remember reading people say that Kirk Franklin was sinning because he was hanging out with sinners. As I read through comments all I saw was judgment. All I saw was the exact thoughts and statements that keep so many people away from church.
As Christians we have been told this lie that we have to color inside of the lines. That there is only one-way to reach the lost. We say bring them to church and all else will be solved. But how do you reach the lost if you never go out to the lost? How do you reach the lost if you never build a relationship with them? We don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. We don’t know the discipleship that could be going on between Kirk and Chance. Kirk is in a position that he can help this young brother far more than we could ever sitting behind our keyboards policing one’s faith and one’s witness. I see Chance in a position that many of us are either in now or have been in before. It’s clear that God has been tugging at Chance’s heart, which is crazy dope. It’s also clear that Chance is in a world where Jesus isn’t the coolest thing and it’s hard to live for him with everything that is around him. He even says in Blessings, “I know the difference between blessings and worldly possessions”, which eludes to the fact that he is constantly presented with both.
So many believers have given criticism that Chance still uses profanity and he raps about worldly things so publicly so how could he be a Christian? This disturbs me because I know many believers who use profanity on a daily basis but they do so privately.
When we turn our lives to Christ it isn’t an overnight change. It’s a process. Many times it’s a long process. That is why the Apostle Paul said we must die daily. We must die to ourselves daily. Chance is no different than any other believer who has a heart for God but also wars with their flesh (or as Chance says in Blessings, “war with his wrongs). For some it’s alcohol or drugs. For some it’s homosexuality. For some it’s pornography. For some it’s cursing. For some it’s jealousy and gossip. For some it’s depression. But we all struggle with something. Our responsibility as Christians is to lift one another up and carry one another’s burdens. When someone confesses their sin we don’t need to condemn them but we need to cover them in prayer. The only difference between our lives and Chance’s life is we aren’t on display 24/7.
I truly believe that God is going to use Chance for some great things. He’s refusing to be what the industry wants him to be. He is on top of the charts right now and his mixtape was free for his fans just like his previous 2 efforts. He’s got folks who never step foot in a church singing, “How Great Is Our God.” He’s got folks asking, “Is Chance a Gospel rapper now?” This is good. Does he do everything right? No. But none of us do and that’s why we are so desperately in need of God’s grace.
Chance is not the same artist that he was when he first splashed on the scene and I believe his progression and his spiritual maturation will become more evident as time goes on. I myself grew up in church and have had to figure it out (and I’m still figuring it out) over the years. Daily I have to confront my sins and my flesh and ask God to guide me to be who He has called me to be. I’m not the prototypical Christian. After all the years of my mom telling me to color inside of the lines I still find myself doing the exact opposite.
We have to be ok with being real and transparent. That’s what makes us relatable. When others see our struggles they will know that when the change does come it was God and not us. Today I challenge you to pray for Chance and anyone else you feel isn’t “fitting the mold.” This is how we make an impact in the world. So my friends let’s color outside the lines.