Two of the biggest hip-hop albums of the year, Drake’s Views and Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book, were released within a month of each other (April and May, respectively). We can learn a thing or two about finding fulfillment in our work by comparing them.
Both albums contain enough explicit language and content to merit parental advisories. I won’t be making a case for Christians to listen to hip-hop in this post, as others have, but I do suggest giving Coloring Book a listen if you’re interested.
Now, let’s dig in.
Brooding vs. Blessings
Views is a brooding album that delves into Drake’s problems. Drake has built his brand on vulnerability, so some mopey self-reflection is to be expected, but he sinks further into navel-gazing than he has in the past. He laments that he should have kept his family closer, has to lie to his girls to protect them from the truth (whatever that may be), and that all anybody wants is his money. As Ryan Dombal summarizes in his Pitchfork review, “Views is what happens when venting turns into whining.”
For a man who has all of the trappings of success, Drake can’t seem to find fulfillment in his work or life. His album oozes dissatisfaction, whether railing against a girlfriend on “Redemption” or wallowing in self-pity on “With You,” where Drake raps about a “dry cry cause I’m hopeless.”
On the other hand, Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book is an hour long celebration of, to use Chance’s words, all the “blessings that keep falling in his lap.”
From the chorus of “Blessings” (“I’m going to praise Him, praise him until I die”) to gospel legend Kirk Franklin singing “Jesus rescue me” to a choir singing Chris Tomlin’s “How Great is Our God” on “How Great,” the album is infused with gratitude to God. Beyond the lyrics, an appearance from gospel artist Byron Cage, paired with choirs and organs, gives the album an unmistakable gospel feel.
There are a few moments that will give evangelical listeners pause. On “Juke Jam,” Chance reminisces about “doing what grown folks do” at a roller rink, and in “Smoke Break,” he uses smoking weed as an extended metaphor for not having enough time to spend with his wife after they had a child.
Despite these moments, and even though I can’t know exactly where Chance stands with his faith, the album and recent interviews present a man working out his faith and working to bring glory to God in his music.
Chance Points to True Fulfillment
In an interview for Beats 1 Radio, Zane Lowe notes that Chance’s “devotion [to God] is on display on this album,” and asks how his faith affected the album. Chance responds that “all of this music kind of came from me moving to Los Angeles in 2014. I only lived there for a few months, but in that time, I kind of felt like I was losing my God.”
In the interview, Chance goes on to explain that he reconnected with God by,
Filling every morning, literally filling my whole neighborhood with this Kirk Franklin sound…. We had the craziest speaker system. Every morning starting at 6 AM I’d wake up because I was on Chicago time and we’d crank Kirk Franklin through the whole neighborhood…It carried through and lead me to know my next project would be founded in God and founded in my faith.
He goes on to say, “It’s [Coloring Book] music from me as a Christian man, before I was making music as a Christian child.”
Chance appears to have matured in his faith over the last two years, culminating in a tweet that he was heading to church for help.
This is the fundamental difference between the two albums. Drake pays lip service to God but only raps to glorify himself. In “With Me” he raps,
I gotta talk to God even though he isn’t near me,
Based on what I got it’s hard to think that he don’t hear me…
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah.”
The hallelujahs ring empty in light of the song’s hook, in which Drake claims he “Did it, did it by myself dog” and makes the song’s last lyrics, “Wow, all praise to the most high up,” sound like more praises for the 6 God (as Drake is sometimes called) than God the Father.
Conversely, Chance seeks to glorify God in his music and finds joy and fulfillment as a result.
Writing about the biblical view of success for the Gospel Coalition, IFWE executive director Hugh Whelchel writes,
When we work for God in everything we do, including our vocational callings, we truly find the purpose, fulfillment, and satisfaction that we all desperately seek. We work at the pleasure of the Lord, driven by our love of God. Our only desire should be to hear him say, “Well done my good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Master.”
This is what we can learn from Chance and Drake. True fulfillment in our work can only be found in working at and for the pleasure of our Lord. Other substitutes will never suffice. True fulfillment can only be found in fulfilling the chief end of man, in glorifying God and enjoying him forever.