Culture is the cause, the root; politics is the effect. Culture is the genesis of change, and politics is what gets caught in the snowball as the movement starts rolling down the mountain toward social metamorphosis.
In this way, the left has taken the lead in politics recently thanks to its near unanimous control over what’s culturally cool. Music, movies, TV – most of what breaks through to become important and ubiquitous culturally could be considered furthering a left point of view.
But it’s changing. Hip-hop has a near culturally monopoly on what is cool in music culture. The latest example on a big scale would be Beyonce’s “Lemonade” experience, and the subsequent Becky search. But Chance the Rapper may be the next breakthrough “cool” artist, and his faith, family and responsibility-filled new album is a win for those thirsty for a shift in cultural priorities.
Before we jump into “Coloring Book,” Chance’s new album available for free on Apple Music that has seen incredible reviews and a big response since it was released last month, hip-hop has seen bits and pieces of cultural breakthrough from right-leaning perspectives. Lecrae is a Christian rapper that has achieved some fame but hasn’t peaked mainstream. J. Cole is certainly rapping from the left, but his song “Lost Ones” could be the most anthemic pro-life piece of art ever. Kanye West said he was going to make a gospel album, but “The Life of Pablo” was far more about Kanye than God (and also, not that great).
But it is Kanye’s protege Chance that has the answer, an unapologetically joyful and faith-first reinvention of the hip-hop concept album that will reinvigorate conservatives about where pop culture could be headed.
The album starts with the West-featured “All We Got,” with a strong focus on family and parenthood, with lyrics that may sound unfamiliar coming from the typical rap song:
Tryna turn my baby mama to my fiancée
She like music, she from Houston like Auntie Yoncé
Man my daughter couldn’t have a better mother
If she ever find another, he better love her
On “Blessings,” Chance goes straight to the gospel, with biblical allusions (“Hit Jericho with a buzzer beater to end a quarter / Watch brick and mortar fall like dripping water”) and more. Watch Chance’s performance of “Blessings” on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon – an incredible performance:
One of the more unique tracks is “Same Drugs,” which flips the drug-fueled lyrics of other rap songs on its head, and instead focuses on the challenges, but ultimate value, in growing up and becoming more responsible. Immediately after leaving the club hanger-ons behind on “All Night,” Chance goes to a straight gospel song, “How Great.” Listen for all the references to scripture throughout Chance’s rap verses.
On “Finish Line” (my favorite track), Chance again returns to the themes of marriage and getting older – in a hopeful way. “We in a marathon we could build a marriage on,” he raps. The album closes with a remix of “Blessings,” in which Chance declares, and summarizes: “I talk to God in public.”
It’s a rare admission and even rarer that we see in such a blatant and unapologetic way in pop culture. But Chance’s active social media has been on this path for awhile, like this declaration in January:
Today's the last day my old life, last day smoking cigs. Headed to church for help. All things are possible thru Christ who strengthens me.
— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) January 31, 2016
As summer approaches, we start to see discussions about the Song of the Summer and other references to a musical “winner” to dominate the airwaves and public consciousness through the heat. Chance the Rapper and “Coloring Book” have a good chance to fill that roll, and the implications culturally are huge. Chance’s influence, positivity, faith and responsibility could become what’s “cool” – and as culture takes the lead, the reverberations might be enormous.