Genius of the Month: Chance the Rapper


One 26-year-old Chicagoan has changed the current music landscape more than any big executive or label; more than any big pop star or platinum producer.
One 26-year-old Chicagoan ignited the independent revolution, becoming the Soundcloud rapper to open the door for all others.
One 26-year-old Chicagoan has done more for his city than his government has, becoming the city’s face of activism and philanthropy.

At 26, Chancelor Bennett has accomplished more than most people do in an entire lifetime, if not two. He shows no signs of slowing down, either.


In fact, he’s really just beginning. Part of the reason I chose Chance for the July GOTM is that his debut studio album released this month, July 26.


As I begin writing this, Coloring Book is still Chance’s most recent project. However, I will touch on his debut album once it finally blesses my ears. You guys are lucky enough this month to get a GOTM and a fresh album review all-in-one.


That being said, I’m gonna start from the beginning. I’m gonna tell you the incredible true story of Chancelor Bennett start-to-finish. Or, at least start-to-current. Chance’s story is pretty crazy, and the musical legacy he’s formed over the past seven years has made seismic waves in the culture. A better understanding of Chance will give you a better understanding of how important he really is to the world of entertainment.



EARLY LIFE


Chancelor Bennett was born April 16, 1993 in no place other than Chicago, Illinois. Chance grew up in the middle-class Chatham area of Chicago’s South Side with his brother Taylor Bennett, a fellow musician, his mother Lisa Bennett, a worker for the Illinois Attorney General, and his father Ken Bennett, a government official who worked on Obama’s 2008 campaign. It’s no surprise where Chance gets his roots of political activism and artistry from.



Chance’s musical interest was first sparked by Michael Jackson records and the jazz and gospel that his parents would play around the house. However, Chance’s interest in rap was sparked by his future mentor, Kanye West. The College Dropout was the first rap album that Chance had ever listened to; Kanye became one of Chance’s role models and largest influences alongside artists such as Prince, Eminem, Lupe Fiasco, and Lil Wayne.



Chance attended Jones College Prep, a CPS selective enrollment high school in Chicago’s South Loop. While there, he tirelessly promoted himself and his music, much to the chagrin of his teachers and administrators who would often ridicule him. Chance was a gifted student interested in literature and poetry but didn’t care enough to apply himself, just scraping his way to graduation.



As I touched on in my Hidden Gem for 10 Day, Chance’s career was essentially started by an incident at Jones. During his senior year, Chance got busted while ditching class and smoking weed in the parking lot, subsequently landing him the 10-day suspension that named his first mixtape.



That mixtape did a lot for Chance. 10 Day established Chance as one of the city’s brightest up-and-coming talents, emerging him into a league of his own within the Chicago music scene. With most of the Chicago rap at the time being drill, Chance the Rapper was a poetic breath of fresh air in the city. Something positive; something fresh.


10 Day was only the first proof that Chance the Rapper was a one-of-a-kind talent. 10 Day gave promise that Chance would evolve into much more over time.



ACID RAP-COLORING BOOK



In 2013, Chance crafted the soundtrack for an entire generation with a little mixtape called Acid Rap.


If 10 Day was the lit match, Acid Rap was the resulting fire.


In some ways, Acid Rap was 10 Day on steroids- better sound quality, better production, better lyricism, better features.


In other ways, Acid Rap was entirely a beast of its own. Acid Rap was an album-quality mixtape that beautifully blended an assortment of niches and subgenres. With features ranging from Childish Gambino to Action Bronson and producers ranging from Ludwig Goransson to Brandun Deshay, Acid Rap brought something to the table for everyone to enjoy and became a true fan favorite.


Acid Rap propelled Chance’s career, bringing him endless praise from fans and critics alike. After making a splash as a solo artist, Chance took some time off to work with his long-time friends and collaborators- The Social Experiment.


Left to right: Peter Cottontale, Nate Fox, Nico Segal, Chance, Stix

The Social Experiment is a multi-genre band comprised of Chance the Rapper on lead vocals, Nico Segal on trumpet, Stix on drums, and Nate Fox and Peter Cottontale on keys and production.


In 2015, they released their debut album- Surf.



Surf was a groundbreaking musical project; Surf switched up its relative genre nearly every track and included a star-studded feature list with the likes of J Cole, Quavo, Big Sean, Erykah Badu, Busta Rhymes, DRAM, and B.o.B. Surf was met with critical acclaim, earning a Metacritic score of 86 and ending up on many of 2015’s end-of-the-year lists.


As if Surf wasn’t enough evolvement for Chance in such a short period of time, he decided to shock the world again in 2016 with the release of Coloring Book, aka “Chance 3”. With his third and final mixtape, Chance entered a new league of artistry and subject matter.



With its sound heavily inspired by gospel, Coloring Book was a far cry from the drug-anthem Chance seen across Acid Rap and 10 Day. Religion was by far one of the major themes across Coloring Book; Chance claims the mixtape’s themes were “God, love, Chicago, and dance.”


While some OG Chance fans were turned off by Coloring Book and its theistic nature, Coloring Book ignited Chance’s career like wildfire. You remember that analogy I made about the lit match and the resulting fire? That resulting fire from Acid Rap made contact with Coloring Book and erupted into an unquenchable wildfire. No one’s been able to put the fire out since; Chance has been one of the most prominent figures in all of music ever since the release of his life-changing third tape.



THE BIG DAY



As I begin writing this section, it is July 27.


The Big Day just came out about 24 hours ago.


To be honest, I’m not entirely sure how to feel about the album yet. I like it and I’ve enjoyed my listen-throughs, but it’s a curveball from what we’ve come to expect from Chicago’s favorite. It’s fitting that we just covered the evolution of Chance over the years, because The Big Day may just be his biggest experimental leap yet.


However, I can tell that The Big Day is a true passion project for Chance and that alone makes me automatically respect the album. All opinions aside, it is obvious that Chance and his team put their all into the creation of this album. Chance truly had a vision that he wanted to bring to life, and he did.


At its core, the theme of The Big Day is centered around Chance’s wedding. On a sonic level, Chance wanted the tracks to all be reminiscent of the songs he danced to at his wedding. Diving deeper, that translates to a whole lot of Chicago influence.


Two of the most prominent influences in Chicago music are house music and juke music, both native to the city. If you’ve ever listened to a Chicago rap/R&B station late at night, you’ve heard plenty of juke mixes (shoutout 92.3). Tracks on The Big Day such as “Found a Good One” (Single No More), “Ballin Flossin”, and “All Day Long” are all heavily influenced by juke and house, with a splash of R&B. One of the most popular forms of Chicago dance, footwork, is a staple of juke and house music, tying back to the music Chance and guests danced to at his wedding.


Aside from juke and house, The Big Day sees Chance and his team make a foray into genres such as alternative, trap, pop, and R&B more than ever before. I mean, you can’t have just juke music at your wedding, right? You gotta include something for everyone, and that’s just what Chance did with The Big Day. Tracks such as “Do You Remember” with Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie, “Five Year Plan” with Randy Newman, “Eternal” with Smino, “Slide Around” with Nicki Minaj, Pierre Bourne and Lil Durk, “The Big Day” with Francis and the Lights, and “Hot Shower” with DaBaby and MadeinTYO were all shockers, covering an expansive range of sounds and subgenres.


Despite all of the experimentation, Chance showed that he’s still the same at heart- slightly corny and goofy with poetic, outside-of-the-box lyricism. He stayed true to his love for his family, his roots, his artistry, and his city; his anecdotes across the album are often honest and insightful; he showed glimpses that he’s only getting better at his craft overall.


The Big Day may not be what everyone was expecting, but Chance said from day one that it would be nothing like 10 Day, Acid Rap, or Coloring Book.


I mean, as an OG Chance fan, of course I long for another project like Acid Rap.


But, if Chance never changed or evolved, that’d be boring.


Evolution goes hand-in-hand with longevity.


Releasing his debut studio album at 26 years old (after seven years in the game), Chance is gonna be around for awhile. As he’s shown us over the past few years, he’s only going to continue to experiment with his sound and make music that he truly cares about.

The music may not be for everyone, but Chance’s evolution and contributions to the culture are textbook material in the making.


Chancelor Bennett is one of this generation’s most important artists.

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