The stereotype for rap artists is grim–violent, abusive, materialistic, selfish–but artists like Chance the Rapper are dropping a new type into rap’s story.
By Jasper Feild
For decades now, rap music has had a stigma of artists negatively using their platforms to promote drug use, materialistic lifestyles, and violence. Many artists from this generation exemplify this stereotype in the music industry. Examples include those such as Lil Pump, in which one of his most popular songs, “Gucci Gang”, is filled with lyrics about praising the designer fashion brand, Gucci, smoking weed, drinking lean, etc. YNW Melly, a newer artist of this generation, gained exposure after releasing his song, “Murder on My Mind”, which again includes lyrics about smoking weed, guns, homicide, and being locked up in jail. And although these topics are common recurrence in rap music, there must be artists that obtain the success, but use their platform in a positive matter, right? With the youth being as impressionable as ever, some rappers are known for using their voice to make a positive impact in our world. Among many, Chance the Rapper is an artist that does just this.
Chance the Rapper, or Chancelor Jonathan Bennet, is an independent rap artist based out of Chicago, Illinois. Born April 16, 1993, twenty-five-year-old Chance had a modest upbringing due to his father, Ken Williams-Bennet, working for the city mayor, and later, Senator Barack Obama. Education wise, Chance attended College Prep High School, where he began his music career. His senior year, he was suspended for 10 days due to marijuana possession. During this time, he created his first mix tape, accurately named 10 Day. While his start into music may seem to support the rap stereotype, his future demeanor changes this around (“Chance the Rapper”).
Chance’s project earned a top ten spot on the charts and won a Grammy by strictly being streamed through free websites, and it never sold a physical copy.
While 10 Day did accrue some initial success for Chance, his big outbreak came four years later when he dropped his third mix tape, Coloring Book. The project, released May 13, 2016, was a major turning point in the rapper’s career. Since the release of this mix tape, Chance amassed enormous amounts of success and fame. Coloring Book was streamed over 57 million times in the first week it was released, and it charted number eight on the US Billboard 200. This mix tape even broke records by being the “first streaming-only album to debut on Billboard’s charts,” and “the first streaming-only album to win a Grammy” (Payne). To give more context, this means Chance’s project earned a top ten spot on the charts and won a Grammy by strictly being streamed through free websites, and it never sold a physical copy.
Three months after Coloring Book’s release, in August of 2016, “Chano stars alongside NBA stars such as Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony, as he recites a new song, ‘We The People,’ for a Nike Olympics Ad” (Payne). And just a month after that, Chance held his own music festival, called Magnificent Coloring Day, that included artists like Alicia Keys, Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Wayne, John Legend, and more. The next year, on February 12, 2017, was when Coloring Book won its Grammy for Best Rap Album, but Chance also won two more, Best New Artist, winning over incredible artists like The Chainsmokers and Anderson .Paak, and Best Rap Performance, for his song “No Problem” off the mix tape. And on May 1 of last year, “I’m the One” by DJ Khaled, a song Chance is featured on, hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100, making it his first number one record (Payne).
These are just some of the many prodigious accomplishments Chance the Rapper has earned since he dropped Coloring Book back in 2016. After gaining such success, the stereotypical rapper would use the wealth and platform to negatively influence their audience by buying drugs, promoting violence, and showing off materialistic lifestyles. Chance practically does the opposite. He uses his platform to positively give back to his community.
Back in 2017, on March 6, Chance the Rapper donated one million dollars to the Chicago Public Schools System. A couple days before the donation, he met with Illinois’ Governor, Bruce Rauner, to speak on the issue of lack of funding in Chicago Public Schools. The Governor would not approve more funding for the schools and earlier vetoed a bill to fund Chicago schools with $215 million. During the talk, Chance reportedly told Rauner to, “Do your job!” and after the meeting stated, “Our talks were unsuccessful, Gov. Rauner still won’t commit to giving Chicago’s kids a chance without caveats or ultimatums” (qtd. in Hyman). So, unsatisfied with the actions of the state, Chance decided to act himself, donating money he made from ticket sales from his spring tour that year (Hyman).
Chance exclaimed, “Quality education for public schools is the most important investment a community can make.”
Six months later, on September 1, 2017, Chance donated another $2.2 million to Chicago Public Schools. This time he separated the money between twenty schools, each receiving $100,000 in grants over the next three years. On the day he announced the donation, Chance exclaimed, “Quality education for public schools is the most important investment a community can make” (qtd. in Kreps). Chicago’s public schools are massively underfunded and being closed frequently due to this lack of funding. Since the city or state won’t provide the money, Chance is doing what he can to help his city. Later, during the announcement, Chance also said,
Twice, just in the last month that I’ve been back, I’ve had someone tell me that they were going to shoot me. This is obviously just talk; both were small altercations and I could tell immediately upon point of contact that these young people had a chip on their shoulder. That they felt undervalued or cheated. And that’s the way Chicago is. (qtd. in Kreps)
The stereotypical rapper would spend his wealth on other, more selfish items. Chance decides to spend his money trying to provide better quality schools and education that the youth in Chicago, and all over the world, deserve. Today, according to SocialWorks, Chance and his team have raised over $4.2 million for Chicago Public Schools, all which are also specifically named on their website.
Chicago’s public schools aren’t the only problem Chance is trying to fix though. The next year, on October 4, 2018, he announced another million-dollar donation, this money being put toward mental wellness providers in Cook County, Illinois. Each provider, similar to the schools, received a grant of $100,000 (Legaspi). With the stereotypical rapper promoting drugs, alcohol, partying, and other items that negatively affect mental health, Chance uses his platform to ensure that the people of his city have easy access to and feel safe getting the proper help they need.
Unlike the stereotypical artist, after gaining success, Chance uses his position to help solve problems his city of Chicago faces.
SocialWorks is Chance’s non-profit organization that “aims to empower the youth through the arts, education and civic engagement” (“SocialWorks”). The organization offers many initiatives to help the people of Chicago, especially the youth, get involved in the city. One of them, My State of Mind, was the initiative that donated a million dollars to mental wellness providers. Another initiative, Warmest Winter, “aims to raise awareness and provide relief for the homeless and transient community through forward-thinking service, experiences, and donations” (SocialWorks). This program was created to help the over 125,000 homeless people of Chicago. Warmest Winter has raised over $115,000, collected over 16,000 items such as coats and hats, and provided food, and other daily supplies to over 15 shelters in efforts to help this problem. The next program, Support CPS, is the initiative focused on helping fund the Chicago Public Schools System. OpenMike is the next initiative. This program works with the Chicago Public Library to provide a place for high schoolers to express and perform three-minute pieces, then brings out professionals that help teach the students and serve as role models. The last initiative provided by SocialWorks is named Kids of the Kingdom.
K.O.K. is our faith-based summer day camp located in the Roseland Community. K.O.K. provides students with a safe, fun, and nurturing environment that focuses on performing and literary arts. Campers build ownership, social and emotional learning, agency, and civic engagement. K.O.K. aims to promote growth by enhancing students academically, behaviorally, and socially. (SocialWorks)
Chance the Rapper’s organization contributes to six different programs to help battle important problems in the city of Chicago. The organization’s website has many tips and ways to get involved physically, or financially by donating as well.
Chance the Rapper’s many donations and his organization’s initiatives are all examples of his character as an artist. Unlike the stereotypical artist after gaining success, Chance uses his position to help solve problems his city of Chicago faces, help get the youth involved, and have a voice for those that do not have one. Giving away millions of dollars of his money, providing places for the youth to express themselves, providing an educational day camp for kids, and trying to create a safe and interactive way to provide warm clothes to the homeless, all amplify the opposite characteristics set up by the rappers in the first paragraph. While they promote negative and harmful aspects of life, Chance promotes positive and charitable actions and giving back to your community however you can.
He even speaks on it in his music. In his song, Angel, he says, “I got my city doin’ 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” talking about the work he’s done for Chicago for his daughter and the youth, even when mayors and other people of the city aren’t helping. Diving deeper into his lyrics you can find him rapping about topics like the condition of Chicago, violence in the city, and his experiences in life growing up there. In the song “Paranoia”, he raps, “They murking kids, they murder kids here/ Why you think they don’t talk about it?/ They deserted us here . . . And we shooting whether it’s dark or not/ I mean the day is pretty dark a lot/ Down here it’s easier to find a gun/ Than it is to find a ****** parking spot” speaking on the problem of gun violence in Chicago and America trying to raise awareness on the issue.
Chance the Rapper time and time again showcases why he is different from typical or stereotypical rappers. The stereotypical artist raps about murdering others and going to jail in their songs, Chance brings awareness to gun violence in his city in efforts to stop it. His charitable donations and programs created for the younger generation exemplify role model characteristics instead of drug using, violence promoting, and materialistic habits. Artists like Lil Pump, YNW Melly, 6ix9ine, and Demotus are rappers that cause rap to maintain this stigma of negatively influencing kids. While rap will never completely rid of these types of artists, and neither will any genre, people should focus on artists like Chance, who are constantly trying to make a positive impact for his city and the younger generation of this world.
“Chance the Rapper.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 20 July 2018, www.biography.com/people/chance-the-rapper-5152017.
Hyman, Dan. “Chance the Rapper Donating $1 Million to Chicago Public Schools.” Rolling Stone, Rolling Stone, 25 June 2018, www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/chance-the-rapper-donating-1-million-to-chicago-public-schools-128365/.
Kreps, Daniel. “Watch Chance the Rapper Announce $2.2 Million Fund for Chicago Schools.” Rolling Stone, Rolling Stone, 25 June 2018, www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/watch-chance-the-rapper-announce-2-2-million-fund-for-chicago-schools-126511/.
Legaspi, Althea. “Chance the Rapper Pledges $1 Million to Chicago Mental Health Services.” Rolling Stone, Rolling Stone, 5 Oct. 2018, www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/chance-the-rapper-pledges-1-million-chicago-mental-health-services-733328/.
Payne, Ogden. “A List Of Chance The Rapper’s Accomplishments Since The Release Of ‘Coloring Book’.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 14 May 2017, www.forbes.com/sites/ogdenpayne/2017/05/13/a-list-of-everything-chance-the-rapper-accomplished-since-the-release-of-coloring-book/#39a205a81cfd.
“SocialWorks | Inspiring the Next Generation of Chicago Youth.” SocialWorks – Empowering Youth through the Arts, Education and Civic Engagement., www.socialworkschi.org/.