More than just the artist with no label, Chance has altered the music scene
Back to back tours. Best Rap Performance. Best Rap Album. Best New Artist. The past year has been a time of achievement and maturity for 24-year-old Chance the Rapper. With his ascent to fame and influence, Chance is no longer just the boy from Chicago who got suspended from school for 10 days. Chance recorded his debut mixtape, and then later recorded Acid Rap while tripping on, well, acid. There is more to him than the fact that he created his success without a label — that’s just a part in his championship of the music game.
Fame to his degree without a record label is of course an accomplishment worth recognition and admiration. Keep in mind, however, this is also the result of a configuration of lucky situations — the classic “right person heard him at the right time.” The real merit does not solely lie here. I stated in a previous article that Chance’s title as “the most famous record-less artist of our time” would earn “a top place on my list” of the best albums of 2016. I take back my claim after further consideration. Chance has differentiated himself in more substantive ways, ways that prove him more masterful and important as an artist. And that earns him the number-one spot on that article’s list.
The praise for Chance’s recordless artist title must be taken with a grain of salt. Indeed, he is not humble about it — Big Fella roars it. “No Problem” off of Coloring Book was entirely about record labels trying to claim him — jokingly threatening “if one more label try to stop me.” He petitioned to make stream-only songs eligible for a Grammy nomination. This could be interpreted as a philanthropic act for music creativity, but it’s no coincidence the success of this petition allowed his songs to be nominated for awards (which he won).
Being an unsigned artist does not take Chance out of the music scene; he is an active member of it, pulling similar high-status stunts other musicians have done. After all, he strategically announced the surprise of a new album a week before it dropped — very Beyoncé-esque. He still has high-production nationwide tours, and he still surrounds himself with a possé of rappers like Future and Kanye. He has in no way exiled himself from media attention; he is not the lone wolf people often perceive him as. What’s funny is that he doesn’t hide it. He says it himself: “I don’t make songs for free/ I make ‘em for freedom.” But that’s also the point — he utilizes his fame now for a purpose.
Chance is obvious in his attachment to and involvement in the music scene with no hidden agenda; I think he wants us to notice it, to see past his “no label” label — he is not exempt from change as an artist. His label now is himself, what he speaks for — he makes songs for “freedom.” To be even a minor character in the music industry, you cannot be a shadow. You must be the light. Even with his humility, deep roots and compassion, he has to play the game. He knows that. He made his platform of the underdog turned rap star, and he’s currently making the careful steps to shed himself of such a close-minded and superficial label. He’s focusing on the “so what”: what can he represent, what can he say, what he can capitalize on, what impact can he make with his personal label?
His label is altering into a humanitarian rapper. He is a voice of reason beyond his years; he is an optimistic and masterful poet; he is a kick-ass dad on his Instagram stories. Part of his aura is his humility to know his roots, to know himself, to understand the power he holds. He can address the responsibility that he has and his listeners directly — he can call for a better and more hopeful future “so his daughter can have somewhere to play.”
Likewise, something greater can be added to his list of accomplishments: his recent donation of one million dollars to the Chicago Public School (CPS) system. This act that has been a concrete step in the solidification of his new label — his platform was strategically made for the purpose to do good, to make immediate and direct change. Indeed, in order to even enter his website, the viewer is presented with the option to donate to CPS — he encourages us to be equal members in the future he plans to experience.
Chance is now setting the precedent of what an artist can do. He not only altered how an artist can distribute music; he not only created unconventional ways an artist can reach fame; he not only set the standard for great music. He set the expectation of good — musically and morally.
Written by: Caroline Rutten — firstname.lastname@example.org