“Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is our strength,” the prophet Nehemiah says. The latter half of that verse, “The joy of the Lord is our strength,” has been immortalized in gospel anthems, and it’s the guiding principle behind this mixtape, infused with a liberal dose of black liberation theology. On “How Great,” he evokes the imagery of faith no bigger than a mustard seed, magnifying God while shouting out Nat Turner’s slave rebellion: “Hosanna Santa invoked and woke up slaves from Southampton to Chatham Manor.” On “Blessings,” Chance raps “Jesus’s black life ain’t matter / I know, I talked to his daddy,” deftly comparing the black lives lost to police brutality with the ultimate death of Jesus. Chance gives his music not for free, but for freedom, freedom from the labels he believes are all too willing to exploit black artists. He’ll give the devil a swirly, he’ll conquer his Xanax addiction, he knows the difference between “blessings and worldly possessions.”
For those of us who remain in the church, wedded somehow in spite of the challenges that make leaving appealing, Chance’s ebullience is a reminder of the joy that faith in God can bring. That there’s hope and justice, even when evidence seems to be to the contrary. That we serve a good God who is present in our pain and beaming in our joys. “I speak to God in public,” Chance tells us, twice at the mixtape’s end. He’s giving us permission to speak to God too.
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