Who in the world, is Chance the Rapper? Over the past six months just about everybody and their mother has heard the name. From his verse on Kanye’s “Ultralight Beams” to performing on almost every late night show there is, “Little Chano from 79th” has been on everyone’s mind and in everyone’s ears. So who is Chance the Rapper, and why is he quickly becoming one of the most beloved artists in both the mainstream and hip-hop community? The way I see it, there are three sides of Chance that make him the phenomenon he is today.
Chance the Ambassador
“I got my city doing front flips! When every father, mayor, rapper jump ship// I guess that’s why they call it where I stay// clean up the streets so my daughter can have somewhere to play” –“Angels (feat. Saba)”
The first thing you’ll find out about Chance (second, I guess, other than that he’s a rapper) is that he loves his city. Born and raised on 79th Street in the neighborhood of West Chatham, Chance has never stopped reppin’ Chicago. While the city receives much of its publicity from police shootings, protests, or political corruption, Chance is determined to restore a good name to his hometown. He preaches nothing but love and positivity juxtaposed to the reports of over 450 Chicago homicides in 2015. Chance knows his city is in trouble, and he’s not just sitting around hoping his catchy bars will fix it. Instead, last year he partnered with the Empowerment Plan, launching the “Warmest Winter Initiative.” Chance raised over $100,000, which provided high-technology coats for thousands of homeless Chicagoans.
This is the ambassador that not only Chicago, but also the hip-hop community, has long awaited. Even though rap’s popularity has skyrocketed in the past year, becoming the most listened to genre across all streaming services, a negative connotation lingers. In the mainstream, rappers are seen as thugs, crooks, and delinquents. It shouldn’t be a surprise that in response to the Chicago White Sox naming Chance as their official sponsor, the New York Post called the owners out for it, claiming that he is an “offensive rapper” and asks “how much lower can we fall?”. The ignorance is laughable, and is hopefully on its way out with the generation that brought head-banging, drug-crazed rock stars to popularity – who then turn and look down on someone like Chance the Rapper because he’s black and talks too fast.
Either way, Chance knows what he’s doing, and knows how much his message is appreciated by those it’s meant for.
Chance the Father
“Jesus’ black life ain’t matter, I know I talked to his daddy//Said you the man of the house now, look out for your family” – “Blessings”
The cover of Chance’s much-anticipated 3rd mixtape, “Coloring Book” features Chance simply smiling, looking down. While his first two mixtapes featured him either looking up or straight at the viewer, Chance finally has something new to look at in life: his daughter. Everything he seems to do is for her. The mixtape is filled with family-friendly vibes that are suitable for any audience. There is a clear difference between Chance before and after his daughter. He used to struggle with a Xanax addiction and the majority of his lyrics focused on drug use, whereas now, he has assumed responsibility as a positive role model for his daughter to look up to. This is the biggest change Chance’s daughter has made in his career. He understands that he has a unique podium to speak from, and is no longer going to waste this opportunity.
Chance the Yeezy Prodigy
“Kanye’s best prodigy, He ain’t signed me but he proud of me”—“Blessings (Reprise)”
Chance the Rapper and Kanye West’s relationship has suddenly exploded in the past two years, and it has already impacted both of their careers. It’s no secret Chance has been a lifelong fan of Kanye. He’s tweeted that “Kanye West is my favorite rapper,” and that he and his music “has been there for me since 2004.” In a recent interview with Complex, Chance defended Kanye’s brashness saying, “If I was the greatest artist of this generation, I’d probably say it all the time.” However just recently, this relationship has turned from fan-boy and idol to a collaborative duo.
And boy, has it been beautiful.
Chance is credited with the most writing guest features on Kanye’s most recent album, and also gave, perhaps, the best verse of both the album and his career, on “Ultralight Beam.” The verse was more symbolic than anything. Kanye isn’t the lyricist he once was back in the early 2000’s – so instead of forcing labored bars, he handed the torch off to Chance. He let Chance take the second verse on the opening track of the most anticipated album of the year.
The Kanye influences on Chance’s recent mixtape are abundant. The trumpets ring of “Touch the Sky,” while the gospel choirs are reminiscent of tracks like “We Don’t Care” or “Jesus Walks.” Coloring Book is College Dropout 2.0. Jesse Fairfax’s review of Kanye’s debut album is 13 years old but can be applicable to Coloring Book today: “Relatable to anyone with lofty goals and hopes of bettering themselves, the album spoke to the concerns of everyday people at a time when Hip-Hop icons pretended to be immortal.”
Both artists have pivoted their artistic message on their faith. Whether Kanye is designing a new shoe or Chance is spitting a new verse, they are consistently giving credit to God. Three years ago, Kanye was rapping “I am a God” and Chance was rapping about “lean on blunts.” Now, both of them have garnered mainstream success with two albums preaching the Gospel.
As Chance says, “your favorite rapper’s a Christian rapper.” Get used to it, guys.