Take a Chance on Artistic Integrity
Both as an artist and as an entrepreneur, Chance the Rapper is the greatest threat to normalcy hip hop has seen in years. His music is characterized by a multitude of beautiful contradictions, as it is musically complex yet effortlessly cool, innovative yet saturated with retro influences, and high-spirited yet still serious in tone. The bending of genres and expectations that occurs throughout his body of work sets it apart from those of his contemporaries.
Irresistibly optimistic, Chance’s music dares to rid listeners of any and all cynicism they possess. Even when his tracks carry heavy subtext, the sheer playfulness of his voice steers the mood away from somberness and towards hopefulness. Varied in musical influence and freeform in structure, his output attracts a broad audience of alternative thinkers.
Off the rampant success of his 2013 mixtape Acid Rap, Chance could have chosen to direct his career in the most profitable and glamorous direction fathomable, but he instead chose to continue making music on his own terms with the artists who inspire him the most. His latest output, a collaborative album crafted by his band The Social Experiment, serves as a testament to the power of collaboration and authenticity. While Chance is not the official frontman of The Social Experiment, he certainly plays a prominent role in the group’s dynamic. His lyrical acrobatics are the driving force behind Surf, injecting charm into the album and setting the tone on nearly every track.
In addition to his incredible musical talents, Chance is also equipped with a deep understanding of how to market himself to consumers of the internet generation. Barely out of his teens, the young Chicago MC has been able to amass an incredible amount of fame – and income – without ever charging a penny for digital or physical copies of his music.
Chance’s ability to thrive in the current climate of the music industry highlights the fragile nature of traditional distribution methods. As the notion of record sales as a viable means of generating profit becomes a fading memory, artists are pioneering new ways to monetize their music. No rising artist has found nearly as much success releasing music independently as Chance. He has made it abundantly clear that he’ll never need the backing of a label, neither major nor indie, to reign as one of hip hop’s heavyweights. His business model is centered firmly around touring, merchandise sales and most importantly, fostering what he describes as a “person-to-person connection” with his audience.
Hip hop is going through a period of renaissance, as a fresh crop of young rappers are using their music to promote positivity in their communities and speak out about contemporary issues. Chance has positioned himself at the epicenter of this movement, constantly seeking out new ways to give back to the community that raised him. His love for South Side Chicago is limitless and unconditional, serving as a source of lyrical content and more importantly, the inspiration for his charitable efforts.
Chance’s strong artistic integrity is a triumph in its own right, and his admirable D.I.Y. hustle is merely an outgrowth of it. Since the early days of his career in 2011, he has been cultivating his own sound without pandering to the typical hip hop consumer. As a result, he has created an unprecedented and purely hypnotic blend of neo-soul, nerdcore rap, jazz, and spoken word that is unequivocally his alone. By rejecting traditional methods of making and distributing music, he has spent the entirety of his career pushing into uncharted sonic, lyrical, and monetization territories. It will be exciting to see and hear where he goes from here.