There’s a side of Chance the Rapper that often goes overlooked in the shadow of his radiating joyfulness—the not to be fucked with side, the “never think that I’m not from Chicago for one second” Kanye quote side. This side manifests at some point in all of Chance’s releases, as sort of a warning not to take his kindness for weakness.
On his first mixtape, 10 Day, Chance directs the length of an entire song toward the school authorities responsible for his suspension, repurposing Waka Flocka Flame’s “Fuck This Industry” into his own polemic called “Fuck You Tahm Bout.” He goes: “Give a high five to my teacher face/and my principal that fist pound.” This song stood as an anomaly in a project otherwise void of hostility, sandwiched by characteristically tenderhearted songs like “Family” and “Hey Ma.” That is to say, when Chance is angry, it is specific and the target is generally some kind of figure in a position of power who is leveraging that power irresponsibly or holding someone down unwarranted.
School disciplinarians, the police, elected officials, these are subjects of Chance’s anger when it does emerge, and in the case of “No Problem” off Coloring Book, it’s the music labels: “If one more label try to stop me, it’s gon’ be some dread head niggas in your lobby,” goes the refrain.
We may not know what exactly the major labels have done historically to antagonize Chance and the stake he has claimed for his own independence, but the subject opens up a parallel for Lil Wayne’s verse. It allows for a rare moment of Wayne saying something topical, perhaps in a way that rendered it less disposable than any number of recent Wayne features from the last year (Chance seems to be good at bringing out the best in modern Wayne, their prior collaboration “You Song” being one of Wayne’s standouts from 2013), but certainly not before referencing prescription medication and warm pussy like the Wayne we have come to know and love.
The Cash Money disintegration was much more of a public ordeal than whatever clashes with the industry Chance has had to endure, though in his verse, Wayne doesn’t necessarily elaborate or vent about the situation; he just touches on it at the end: “And if that label try to stop me/There gon’ be some crazy Weezy fans waiting in the lobby.” Hopefully, label security budgets have increased since this song came out, all around.
But “anger” is a reductive way to describe how Chance expresses his frustration in this song, and in general. Thinking about how the song is framed, amid the swelling rejoice of a gospel choir, what results sounds less like frustration and more like triumph—as in, he has faced and will continue to face whatever industry obstacles, and always walk away unscathed. In the same way Chance gleefully rapped, “If you ever actually hit me better watch out for my brother” on the Acid Rap introductory track, there’s this sense that it’s less a threat to his foes than a testament to his untouchability. It seems god and the people around him have his back, and will end up in whichever lobby that may lead to a potential problem for Chance.