Independent rapper takes a Chance

Avery Boulware, Campus Carrier News Editor

You might discredit me for writing about a rapper, being the small, white girl that I am. But if you truly believe that music is transcendent, you’ll give me a chance (eh?).

Chance the Rapper (born Chancelor Jonathan Bennett), the 23-year-old from Chicago, took home three Grammys last Sunday. He was the first artist to win without having sold a single song. Chance gained popularity completely through streaming, and has yet to sign to a record label.

Because he is not affiliated with any rap labels, Chance has been able to take a stance on subjects he might not otherwise be able to. In his most recent mixtape, “Coloring Book,” several songs explicitly mention praising God: “Im gon’ praise Him, praise Him til I’m gone. I don’t make songs for free, I make ‘em for freedom. Don’t believe in kings, believe in the Kingdom.” 

Chance discussed this freedom with Justin Sarachik of Rapzilla: “I know for a fact we’re not pushed or promoted to speak about God with fervor. I don’t think there’s anything that really allows us to do it as so. But I think the new generation and the forward is all about freedom and all about the ability to do what we want. We’re not free unless we can talk about God.”

By remaining independent, Chance is not only allowed to speak about what he feels, but proves he is producing music for the love of it and not for money. Chance has turned down many big name record labels, including Kanye West’s GOOD Music. He receives profit from tour dates, appearances and merchandise, but has not said yes to getting disgustingly rich like many other rappers. 

Not only has remaining unsigned from big-time rap labels allowed Chance to speak his mind, but staying away from Christian music labels has also been a smart move. Even though Christian music has started to work itself into the mainstream through artists like Lecrae and Drew Holcomb, there are just as many (if not more) restrictions on artists that sign with Christian labels as those that sign with rap labels in terms of public relations. Chance certainly would not have been able to release “Coloring Book” under a Christian label, much less his “Acid Rap” mixtape, which set him up to break into the mainstream in 2013. 

By staying independent of both rap and Christian labels, Chance can be honest. Christians aren’t squeaky clean, like many Christian artists seem to claim. Rap isn’t from the devil, like many conservative Christians believe.  If he had identified with a rap label, many Christians wouldn’t have listened, no matter the message. If he had identified with a Christian label, rap fans would not have listened, and Jesus’ name would have continued to simply bounce around in Christian circles without going where it actually needs to go. When Jesus said to take His name to the ends of the earth, he hoped we would include Hollywood in that mission. 

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