Chancelor Bennett, otherwise widely known as “Chance The Rapper,” or if you hail from his early childhood roots “Lil Chano from 79th,” has been up to something. The Chicago-born producer and artist would have never thought that five years ago being handcuffed and put in the back of a police car would be the start of his now idolized career in hip-hop music.
The west side native grew up in the neighborhood of Chatham, a middle class neighborhood that raised Chance and his brother, Taylor. Chance attended Jones College Prep High School in the South Loop and in 2011, halfway through his senior year at Jones Prep, he was arrested three blocks away from his school campus for possession of marijuana and given a 10 day suspension. The young and upcoming artist used his 10 day hiatus from high school to release his first solo project: 10 Day, as he had been recording music all throughout high school and realized now was the time to put out something official. Something solidified. The mixtape did extremely well and caught on quickly with his peers and classmates and soon it went viral. Fast. From there, Chance the Rapper has become a name synonymous with the 21st century’s nuanced and creative style in rap music.
Gaining 300,000 streams in its first year on DatPiff.com, Chance would continue his music career by releasing another mixtape in 2013, entitled Acid Rap. The mixtape had features from well known artists such as, Twista, Vic Mensa, Action Bronson, BJ The Chicago Kid, Ab-Soul, and Donald Glover. Again garnering popularity as it was streamed over 70 million times, Chance’s name exploded and became a well-known rapper across the country. It wasn’t until 2014 when Chance was finally featured in the prominent magazine XXL, where he made the “XXL Freshman 2014” cover alongside other upcoming rappers such as Isaiah Rashad.
On a cold windy night in February in the West Loop, posters started to hit the streets. Large posters–sprawling across poles and street lamps–a majestically vivid portrait of the man of the scene, Chancelor Bennett. Pictured in a sweater and a flat brim fitted hat with the number 3 on it, social media began to bubble with the news of Chance’s upcoming project, supposedly titled Chance 3. He teased his fans on Twitter with tweets about the album and snippets of songs on Snapchat, cutting off abruptly before his fans could retain the full hook of a chorus line. This past May, Chance released what would later be known as Coloring Book, his third major album. Always a proponent of sharing and spreading his music with his fans and followers online, Chance again made this album free of charge to the public as everything he had produced had been released as free mix tapes up to this point. On May 12th, 2016, however, the full album was released exclusively on Apple Music, bringing some criticism to Chance’s free music customers. Yet, the LP was still later added to other streaming services just over two weeks later on May 27th.
Coloring Book became the first and only album to top The Billboard 200 solely on streams. It contained features from his infamous Chicago brethren Kanye West, plus additional collaborations with Lil Wayne, 2 Chainz, Justin Bieber, Young Thug, Lil Yachty, Jay Electronica, Future, T-Pain, Saba, and the Chicago Children’s Choir.
Topping the Billboard 200 at #8, Coloring Book was being played on every major hip-hop radio station in Chicago and all across satellite radio stations as well, heralded widely as a commercial success. As a result, Chance took to Twitter to see how his fans received the album and after receiving some initial criticism for being “too gospel” and not classic Chance, the 23 year old referenced his soulful roots to explain how growing up in the church (thanks to his grandmother who kept him in church) heavily impacted his music, which led to his adoption of the album’s heavy gospel sound. This, amidst all things considered in a constantly changing hip-hop landscape, is what makes Chance The Rapper one of the most unique artists around. While staying lyrical and continuing to produce rap bars and crafty lyrics like a young Kanye West or J. Cole, Bennett continues to remain loyal, integrating the soulful hooks and vocal singing choruses that fostered his love of music as a youth.
As Chance The Rapper continues to ride his own wave of music and originality, he continues to set himself apart from the rest. His production methods and ideas are whimsical and never-ending, forging himself into the discussion as one of rap’s pioneers in the new movement of the genre.
This September, Chance is hosting “The Magnificent Coloring Day”, a music festival inside of U.S Cellular Field, just another stop on the carnival of self-promotion and marketing events he adorns his fans with. The event will mark the first ever festival with 20+ performances inside the south side stadium. After all, it’s not a bad life’s work after a 10-day school suspension from Jones Prep, but his ascension has only just begun.
Check out Chance the Rapper’s new album, Coloring Book, on Spotify today. Check the In Music portion of The Forest Scout later for a comprehensive album review.