This past Sunday was the 59th annual Grammy Awards and with the usual nominations in categories, Chance the Rapper’s nominations were groundbreaking.Chicagoan rapper Chance the Rapper has been making history for the past few years both through his music and his activist work in the city of Chicago. It all began in 2012 with a high school mix tape 10 Day, which led to another more sophisticated mix tape in 2013 Acid Rap, to yet another mix tape this past past summer in 2016 Coloring Book.
Now, these obviously aren’t just mix tapes or there would be no point in elaborating on his Grammy wins. Chance has been steady climbing the hip hop and rap hierarchy ladder, a protege to Kanye West and friend to Kendrick Lamar, while still maintaining his roots and collaborating on an album, The Social Experiment with friend and fellow musician Donnie Trumpet. Besides his musical achievements, Chance has managed to stick close to his community by creating Open Mic nights for high school students, a winter coat drive, and has a relationship with the Obama’s from his recreational political work.
So, let’s get back to why his wins mean more than what a normal Grammy win might be for another artist. Chance has managed to remain unsigned to any sort of label and has never actually sold a physical copy of a CD. Why is this so impressive? For starters, Chance has mostly been a “underground” rapper, meaning that he doesn’t have radio play, so a majority of his fans have found him on the internet through free music.
But all of this changed when Kanye put him on the intro song, “Ultralight Beam” on his The Life Of Pablo album, as well as him being a contributing writer for other songs on the album. Then came this past summer (2016) and the release of Coloring Book, a mix tape to be distributed solely through streaming services. He then created the Magnificent Coloring Day festival, a festival in response to the mix tape, that brought close to 50,000 people to Sox’s Cellular One Field.
Now after this year’s Grammy’s, Chance has a whole new list of accomplishments to add. He is the first artist to ever be nominated and win a Grammy without ever selling a CD only made more impressive knowing how stingy the Grammy’s governing board is. Known for being stuck in their ways, bending the rules to allow a streaming only, unsigned artist to be considered is a shift in the greater scheme of the music industry. Chance went on to take home 3 awards for best new artist, best rap album, and best rap performance.
His decision to stay unsigned has led to a huge payoff, while money may not be coming in from CD’s, he makes up for it in tours, merchandise, and payment from streaming services. Chance has also served as a greater inspiration for those who want to stay true to themselves, make music for them and the fans, and not have to rely on a label limiting what they can do.
These wins are huge, and not just for Chance, but for the future of music and where it is heading. The fact that streaming artists can be considered and gain major recognition without a label or radio play will further change the way the music industry works. It’s safe to say Chance isn’t slowing down anytime soon and if things continue, there’s no saying how big an impact will be left.