Chancelor Bennett, 23, is a Chicago born American hip-hop recording artist who you’ll know better as Chance the Rapper. He was up for 7 GRAMMYs this year; and he’s unsigned.
This year, Chancelor was nominated for seven Grammy Awards and set records with the first ever Grammy nomination for a streaming-only album after the Recording Academy (organisers of the Grammys) relaxed their eligibility criteria last year to accept works released via streaming, and walked away with Best Rap Album, Best Rap Performance and Best New Artist up against the likes of Anderson .Paak, Kelsea Ballerini, Maren Morris and The Chainsmokers. This poignant and unusual win for an unsigned artist makes for a great story, and I felt the need to take a look back at the road Chance traveled to reach such a pivitol moment in his career.
“I know that people think that independence means you do it by yourself, but independence means freedom.” – Chance The Rapper
It seems as though Chance was destined to become a rapper since the ripe age of 10, upon discovering Kanye West’s 2004 debut The College Dropout – the first rap album he would ever hear. This love for Kanye would greatly influence his music, and defined the majority of evenings through his high school years from thereon in.
Chance’s music career bore roots at the Chicago Public Library (his highschool library) where he would write songs and lay down vocals; he also spent these early years attending open mic nights performing Slam Poetry and quickly became a force on the local music scene. This local scene is where he met rap-rock collective Kids These Days along with rappers, Vic Mensa, Kami De Chukwu, who together form rap collective, SAVEMONEY.
As you can imagine, Chance had always been more focused on performing than he was his academic studies. At High School, he was caught smoking weed which lead to a 14,400-minute (10 Day) suspension which (thankfully) enabled him the time to work on his debut mix tape 10 Day which he spent the next year recording in the studio at YOUmedia, and later released in 2012 straight to the internet, where it was pick dup by Forbes magazine and featured in their ‘Cheap Tunes’ column. Basically kids, detention paved the way for his Stardom.
After leaving Jones College Prep School, he launched something he labelled SaveMoney School Days, where he and Patrick Corcoran, 26 (his manager and a firm believer in Chance from his earliest days) would visit local high schools selling his first tickets to ‘Chance the Rapper’ shows. The pair would also arrange meet-and-greets with show-goers to build up a loyal following.
Around the same time, Chance fell out with his father – who worked for the Obama senate administration – over the whole academic hiccup thing, who told him that he needed to either ‘make it as an artist, or continue his academic studies at school’. As a Grammy-Award-Winning independent artist, I think it’s safe to say we know what he chose.
In September 2011, when Chance was really starting to focus on a legitimate music career, his close friend, Rodney Kyles Jr, was stabbed to death in front of his eyes. His lyrics in Acid Rap are an open and honest reflection of his own harrowing experiences:
“My big homey died young, just turned older than him. I seen it happen, I seen it happen, I see it always. He still be screaming, I see his demons in empty hallways.”
– Chance the rapper
Following his death, the aspiring rapper intensified his efforts to build a global audience, and could be found rehearsing every chance he had, awake all hours of the night in order to record and later promote his #10Day mixtape which he handed out (for free) to people on the streets of Chicago. Who doesn’t like free music!
His music career really started to fly when he dropped the afore mentioned Acid Rap in 2013 in which he name checks late friend Rodney. Acid Rap blew up, quickly amassing a staggering 4 million downloads and was produced by Jake One, known for his work with rappers 50 Cent, Iamsu & DJ Khaled.
The success of Acid Rap earned Chancelor slots at SXSW which led to representation from publicist Dan Weiner as well as a signing with the world’s leading touring agency, CAA (Creative Artists Agency) now sharing a roster with the likes of Eminem and the icon of his ten-year-old-self, Kanye West.
A few (massive) features and (some equally massive) live shows later, the fast moving success of Acid Rap lit the way for a highly anticipated next move and this came in 2016, in the form of Coloring Book.
Chance’s third mixtape, Coloring Book was announced on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon in an exclusive deal with Apple Music on May 13th 2016, and later made available on all other streaming platforms as of May 27th 2016. The album peaked at no. 8 on the Billboard Charts (reaching 57 million streams in 24 hours) and was the first ever streaming-only album to enter into the Billboard 200.
Chance is committed in his determination to remain a completely independent, unsigned music artist.
Nominations: GRAMMY Awards 2017
- Best New Artist – WIN
- Best Rapper Performance – No Problem – WIN
- Best Rap/Sung Performance – Ultralight Beam
- Best Rap Album – Colouring Book – WIN
- Best Rap Song – Famous
- Best Rap Song – Ultralight Beam
- Best Rap Song – No Problem