Coloring Book is the third solo full-length album from the 23-year-old Chicago sensation Chance the Rapper.
The album has been received with critical acclaim, earning Best New Music on Pitchfork, glowing responses in The Atlantic and MTV News, and gratitude from devoted fans. With its black gospel influence (the album opens with a collaboration with Kanye West and the Chicago Children’s Choir), the album is a joyful, spiritual celebration of life’s blessings, a nostalgic look back at childhood, and an open-armed collaboration with a multitude of other artists.
In the past, the rapper has spoken openly about his own drug use, and even “dedicated a small travelogue to taking acid south of the US border” (his last album was named Acid Rap).
In his new project, however, he uses the language of drugs to symbolically convey the complex emotional dynamics of romantic relationships, friendships and growing up.
In “Same Drugs,” he sings: “We don’t do the same drugs no more.” In response to more cursory interpretations of the lyrics, he tweeted:
Same Drugs isn't about drugs 😒
— Lil Chano From 79th (@chancetherapper) May 13, 2016
Rather, the song is a poetic, beautifully simple way to describe how it feels to grow apart from someone you once loved—to realize that you don’t “do the same drugs” anymore.
In “Smoke Break,” he uses smoking weed as a metaphor to discuss the ways his life has changed since becoming a father (he had a daughter this past September). He and his partner are now so busy all the time, rushing around to take care of themselves and the baby, “throwing on clothes,” and “putting milk in the bowl,” when they used to have more time to actually smoke a bowl.
But they’re “too young to get old,” and he’s determined to still make time and space for their romantic partnership, even if, with a new baby, there’s “no time for sex.” He sings: “Let me crack your back / Let me rub you all over […] Let me make this blunt / Make you dinner or somethin'[…] Slow it down for a second…We deserve, we deserve / We deserve, a smoke break.”
Other artists chime in throughout the album with their own take on substances. On “No Problem,” Lil Wayne says that he “just popped five percocets and only caught a buzz” and on “Smoke Break” Future raps about giving a woman “a perc for esteem.”
The metaphors and wordplay abound, and sometimes, too, a blunt is just a blunt.