The Gospel According to Chance, shot by GQ
Years ago when I was in high school, a friend of mine insisted that we listen to a new and exciting artist who went by the name of Chance the Rapper.
The year was 2013, and the music world was swooning over Childish Gambino, who had just released the avant-garde Because of the Internet. The year before, Frank Ocean had finally formally introduced himself to the world via his debut album Channel Orange, and Young Money Cash Money was still a family undivided.
My friend pressed play and on came the album Acid Rap. The speakers of his mom?s Toyota Prius crackled as the aux fed into the his iPhone 4. The song Good Ass Intro filled the void. At first, I was suspicious ? even turned off by Chance the Rapper?s unorthodox voice. His subject matter was foreign to me ? a high school junior in Connecticut, unfamiliar with the world of acid and the raps that came from it. Furthermore, I was quick to brush Chance off for the simple fact that his music wasn?t even on Apple Music or Spotify. Main stream rap is already a gamble ? underground rap and ?Soundcloud? rappers can?t be any more promising.
Before we could get to the 3rd of 4th song, we turned it off. I?m sure we resumed the Drake we were playing.
God give me one sentence moreMaybe I just gotta get suspended more?Hashtag it, get mentions for itMake you love it, get it trending more ? Juice, Chance the Rapper
One of the greatest pieces of advice I?ve ever gotten in terms of music is that in order to truly understand the work of an artist, you?ve got to listen to them three, even four times. An uninformed hap hazard listen can leave you with an opinion that is half formed and misguided. I?m ashamed to admit that that evening, I underestimated the pure talent and uniqueness of Chance the Rapper-an artist who would flip the music world on its head as he became the most successful independent rapper ever.
A Writer (Probably as good as Elton John)
In the months following my first experience with Chance?s music, I began to do some digging in order to find out what he was really about. Soundcloud was nearly a half decade old, and artists all around the world were using the platform to steam their music, and reach audiences that they might have never been able to before. The whole of Chance?s catalog was available, including 10 Day, a project that he wrote and recorded while he was on a 10 day suspension from Jones College Prep.
I?m a writer, probably as good as Elton JohnBut what?s writing good for if it ain?t helping moms? ? The Writer, Chance The Rapper
What intrigued me immediately was Chance?s ability to catch the ear of his listeners, while discussing profound and honest subject matters. The rap game was still caught up in the post-Drake apocalypse, and honesty in music was still considered to be fretting over lost romances, and unrequited loves with models and starlettes.
Chance?s music was like reading the diary of a black man growing up in Chicago. Listeners would vicariously experience the anxieties, exaltations and everything else in between.
On his song Cocoa Butter Kisses, Chance recalls the days of his youth when the burn holes in his hoodie and the smell of cigarettes on his breath would cast concern in the mind of his family members. As the song reaches its pinnacle, Chance admits that he would put Visine inside of his eyes so that his grandmother would still hug him.
?Oh generation above me, I know you still remember meMy Afro look just like daddy?s, y?all taught me how to go hunting? Cocoa Butter Kisses, Chance the Rapper
Moments like these weren?t rare for Chance. On the song Chain Smoker, he was once again candid about his failings and confusions. At one point, he wonders out loud why ?The same shit that kills us always tastes so right?. In a moment of seeming clarity he announces ??oh, I seen the light, I lost my lighter/Bic flick, kick the habit and the bucket, f*** your supplier?.
Chance and The Social Experiment
To me, Chance?s music was a welcome departure from a generation that had seemingly lost sight of what good rap was. Chance the Rapper was known for his collaborations with local acts, such as The Social Experiment. In a time when rap had gone mainly digital, Chance the Rapper seemingly brought the form back to its original conception, reminiscent of when MC?s would partner with local DJ?s and other talents on their blocks.
Chance the Rapper ? Sunday Candy feat. The Social Experiment
This has always been one of Chance?s greatest strengths in his music. Much of today?s rap relies on the recipe of trend hopping, club appearances, and ghostwriters. Whip this all together and join a record label, and you?ve got a product that is guaranteed to get at least a few hundred thousand sales.
However, Chance?s success relied largely on his appeal in Chicago and neighboring metropolitan areas. His focus on his community can be observed in the early part of his career, when much of his music was made with the Save Money Collective, alongside rappers such as Joey Purp, Towkio, and Vic Mensa.
In one of Chance the Rapper?s early songs with the collective entitled Blessings, he weaves a prayer into his verses, announcing that he will never leave his friends, while asking God to protect those he cares about.
Heads bowed for the curly haired sons of AbrahamDear father, guide all my brothers away from SamIf they ever get caught let?s hope they shake that jamIf they ever get caught let?s hope they shake that jamShake that jam ? Blessings (Save Money Prayer), Chance the Rapper
Listen to Chance?s recent music and you?ll see that he still has the same introspective bend that he always has. In an appearance of the Colbert Show, he debuted an unreleased song, in which he spoke of the challenges of fatherhood. ?You just can?t tour a toddler? he laments.
One of the most exciting aspects of music is that it?s contagious. We as humans revel in finding a song or artist that we enjoy, then sending it off to our friends so that they too can enjoy what we?re listening to.
Thinking back to when I was a boy listening to Chance?s music for the first time, something that?s now apparent is the fact that his work spread mainly through word of mouth. Chance?s presence in his community is so strong that those who invest in it do so deeply. And for good reason. Chance is known to hold open mics at local high schools so that students can foster their creative spirits much like he did during his 10-day suspension from school.
Instead of flashy advertising and campaigns run by record labels, Chance?s music took on a gospel like nature. Chance?s branding is similar to the Odd Future collective in that its emphasis is on people who hold similar values, and share similar concerns.
The Bennett family meets Obama in the Oval office
Without a doubt, Chance the Rapper is an important asset to his community. Chance?s father, Ken Bennett was appointed by Obama to serve in the Department of Labor, and as a result, Chance?s music has a strong emphasis on investing in and protecting the community.
It?s no secret that in the music industry, many artists who sign record deals find themselves frustrated with the results, wishing that they?d never put the pen to the paper in the first place.
Consider Lil Uzi Vert, who has been increasingly vocal about his frustrations with Atlantic Records. Or Lil Wayne, who claimed that YMCMB was holding back The Carter V as well as millions of dollars in payment. Reports have even surfaced Lil Peep?s frustration with his record label, First Access, contributed to his drug fueled down fall. Let us not forget that the OVO label is a purported ?sweat shop?.
?The Manager? and ?The Rapper?
For this reason, Chance the Rapper has emerged as an enigma. The one who made it. Many musicians falsely convince themselves that the only way to make it in the music industry is to have a label that plasters your name all over, to be seen by the masses. However, Chance has is proof that independent artists can claim a significant share of the market. Chance has done all the major appearances that are typical of a big name artist, but the only outside help he has had is from his manager, Pat ?The Manager? Corcoran.
To date, Chance has seven grammy nominations, which is more than most artists who have the support of a label.
Relying on the same dedication to community that made him famous is what allowed Chance to achieve many of the accolades that artists on record labels dream of. When Chance opened up Kanye?s Life of Pablo with the track Ultralight Beam, many noted that Chance?s presence was so strong that it sounded like he was introducing his very own album.
Pat Corcoran became Chance?s manager right after he released his first mixtape, dropping out of school to do so. The two have been in business together ever since. In an interview with Complex, Pat explained how he and Chance grew from two kids new to the business, to two moguls.
Pat was a great supplement to Chance?s team, masterminding several of Chance?s top performances and acting as a key to many of Chance?s industry relationships.
Though much of Chance?s success was a result of pure smarts, ambition and skill, Chance also entered the music industry at a time when the tides were turning. Not a single one of Chance?s releases has been done through a major label, and this marketing strategy paid off in May of 2016 when he released Coloring Book as an Apple Music exclusive. Evidently, this type of strategy was beginning to become popular among top artists. Three months later, Frank Ocean released Blonde exclusively on Apple Music, while also fulfilling his obligations to Roc Nation by releasing the visual album Endless. To this day, many call this one of the greatest finesses by a musician over a record label in order to fulfill a contract and become an independent artist.
The Big Day
On July 26th, Chance?s career reached a new peek when he released his latest album The Big Day. I?ve already broken my own rule by reaching a conclusion about this album without listening three times, but it is one of his most exciting projects yet. Equal parts catchy, and equal parts introspective, Chance?s album, as well as his career are evidence that independent artists might be the new trend in the music industry.
If we?ve learned anything from Chance, it?s this ? You don?t need a huge label behind you, or even a lot of money in order to make a splash. From suspended Chicago school boy turned rapper, its evident that all you need is heart, ambition, and your city behind you. Just give it a Chance.
If you like my writing, maybe you?ll like my music! Check out my latest EP Under The Bed, streaming exclusively on Apple Music and Spotify.