Exclaim!'s Top 27 Albums of 2016 So Far

1. Chance the Rapper
Coloring Book

A rose pushing through concrete; a rainbow post-flood; a glimmering hour of hope and love born of a city besieged with gun violence. Chance the Rapper's near-perfection on Coloring Book makes 2015's incredible Surf look like practice, and confirms the 23-year-old Chicagoan to be what we hoped for after tripping off his breakthrough Acid Rap for three years: He's a leader of the now school, a new/old Kanye for millennials in search of substance and seen-it-all souls hunting for a fresh, strong voice.

A gospel rap "mixtape" written, produced and released by a first-year dad on his own terms, the good Book seamlessly pulls 2 Chainz, Kirk Franklin, Future, Francis & the Lights, Young Thug, Jeremih, Kanye West and more all into one congregation, yet one never feels as if anyone other than Chance is conducting mass.

This the focused, fully realized LP you wanted to soak into after hearing Chance steal the spotlight (accept the torch?) from Mr. West on "Ultralight Beam."

The self-proclaimed "blueprint for a real man" had himself a growth spurt. A steel drum flourish here ("Angles"), a hot Jay Electronica 16 there ("How Great"), a tour around the roller rink with Justin Bieber — Chance went and made us smile through pain and figured out how to make God raps not preachy. Seems like the ideal year for the Grammys to invite stream-only releases to the award show, doesn't it?

Because no, Chancelor: You're not the only one who still cares about mixtapes.
Luke Fox