Chance the Rapper is back and more hopeful than ever with The Big Day, a persistently happy, semi-concept album about his recent marriage. His opening line—“If you blink you might miss it”—instructs us that this album is all about moments: seizing them and joyfully inhabiting them. Such euphoria is to be expected. An album about newlywed bliss from hip hop’s premiere proponent of exuberance should be joyous. Yet The Big Day’s hopefulness is a unique blend of celebration and invitation. While most rap artists chaperone their listeners to life’s darkest valleys (which is good and necessary), The Big Day mostly takes us to the mountaintop, where the hope-filled view and vibe are contagious.
It doesn’t take long for The Big Day to invite listeners into its hopeful possibility. The second song, “Do You Remember,” is a dreamy, melodic anthem (featuring Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard) that literally asks us to remember the happy summers of your youth. As we ponder our own past, Chance explodes into a joyful ode to Chicago summers, alongside early, sentimental memories of his marriage. For Chance, nostalgia, whether dated or recent, is not a vehicle for regret but for reflective celebration. The Big Day immediately establishes itself as a marker of moments (marriage, memories, covenantal love), which then for the listeners become moments of shared possibility. Will we get in on the celebration too?
As the song proceeds, Chance invites listeners to celebrate his personal moments of transformation, ones that have occurred and those he hopes are still ahead:
“Used to have obsession with the 27 club
Now I'm turning 27, wanna make it to the 2070 club
Put the 27s down, Lord, give me a clean lung
Took the ring up out the box I know this ain't no brief love”
When Chance details giving up cigarettes (“put the 27s down”), forfeiting an attraction to an early death (“obsession with the 27 club”), and embracing the beauty of marital commitment (“took the ring up out the box”), his voice crackles with sincerity. Chance’s transformation and his petition for more of it feel like possibilities for the listeners, too. Coupled with Gibbard’s vocals, which ask us to look back and fondly remember, Chance’s verse prompts us to look forward and hope toward the possibilities of transformation that await us.
There’s an already-but-not-yet, New Testament aura to the music: some change is complete (“used to..”) and some change is verbalized as still in process (“Lord, give me…”). In hoping for more change even while celebrating what’s been changed, we encounter a sliver of Romans 8. Though we are in the slow process of change, Paul writes, in Christ Jesus there is no condemnation, only the constant hope of transformation.
Will we get in on the celebration too?
The strongest parts of The Big Day find Chance addressing life’s moments with this perspective of hopeful possibility. “We Go High” serves as a prime example. Thematically, the track starts in a confessional manner, then turns Godward through a flourish of worshipful wordplay in the final verse. Sonically, it opens with a sparse, warm piano, drums noticeably absent, in a stark shift away from the maximalist, genre-blending production that shapes most of the album. This allows a praise vocal sample—“we love you God”—to take centerstage before yielding the floor to Chance’s jarring opening confession: "My baby mama went celibate / Lies on my breath, she say she couldn't take the smell of it." These words shock given the way they contrast with the album’s hopeful, celebratory nature. Yet Chance details his relational shortcomings with instructive frankness. The lesson is subtle but clear: even moments of disappointing weakness, framed by divine hope, become possibilities for confession and healing.
On The Big Day, even the fraught task of looking to the future is filled with hope. Moments of planning become possibilities for trusting God’s providence. On “5 Year Plan,” Chance takes the biblical promise that all things work together for good and sing-raps it into 2019 hip-hop parlance:
"Anything you gave to me, they couldn’t pry from my hands
Anything you gave to me, I know it’s right for my brand"
The collective force of Chance’s hopeful possibility at first feels foreign—we’re not used to our pop stars being so hopeful in a God-centered manner—before turning instructive: we too can hope in the goodness and providence of God, moment by moment. This is how The Big Day’s best moments elevate the album’s thematic range beyond just Chance’s big day. It’s about all our days—big and small. Here the album feels as if it places us in Chance’s inner circle, like one of his wedding guests, as we listen in and share in the euphoria of his larger Big Day perspective. Because of the goodness and providence of God, there’s hope to be had in every one of life's moments.
While The Big Day places the sacred and the profane in confusing proximity at times, the album’s hope-filled perspective, to which listeners are invited, ultimately comes from God’s goodness and grace. Our great hope is that no moment of failure, weakness, or trial can separate us from the source of that hope—the love of God in Jesus Christ. What The Big Day hints at, Christianity invites us into: a way of life rooted in the God of hope, whose providence guides our ordinary days and big days alike.