Meet Chance the Rapper: Tubman Of The Underground

Kanye West’s bizarre, yet compulsively engaging, album release for The Life of Pablo last week captivated the world. Besides being arguably the most well-produced album in decades, TLOP is a lyrical masterpiece with powerful themes and massive features. From Rihanna to Young Thug, Post Malone to Chris Brown, Frank Ocean (Yeah, but where’s that album though?) to Future, it seems anybody that’s anybody was on this album. The god-like standard West holds for himself seemingly rubs off on his feature artists as everybody delivers with gorgeous contributions. One, however, seemingly more so than the others.

Maybe you haven’t heard of him before but Chance The Rapper has been here since Arthur was an ant-eater. Chances are (pun intended) you haven’t heard 10 Day, the Chicago born-and-raised artist’s first mix tape, but that’s okay because you’ve probably heard Acid Rap, right? No? Oh, you thought you recognized Lil Chano on Saturday Night Live with Kanye West?! THAT verse on ‘Ultralight Beam’, oh that’s him?! World, meet Chancelor Bennett.

Bennett started young, showing a passion for the performing arts from a very young age. He performed in talent shows from pre-school to high school while growing up in the middle-class neighborhood of West Chatham in Chicago, IL, demonstrating early talent specifically in music. It was in high school, however, after having his ambitions ridiculed by his teachers and peers, that Bennett really put pen to paper with his talent. Following a ten day suspension for possessing marijuana on campus, he wrote and recorded his first full-length mix tape 10 Day, which was released a year later in April, 2012. It has since been downloaded over 300,000 times. It was a year later that people began to take notice, with Acid Rap being released in April, 2013 to massive recognition and positive appraise. The mix tape featured some of the biggest names in the underground scene including Vic Mensa, Ab-Soul and Action Bronson and feature-fans quickly swarmed to Chance. The release was nominated for Best Mix Tape by BET, and was consistently seen on top album lists for the year, including those by Rolling Stone, Complex and Pitchfork.

More recently, Chance released Surf in May 2015. While receiving high acclaim from music critics and his fans alike, the album still flew relatively under the wider world outside of hip-hop’s radar. Regardless, the album was snatched up for free from iTunes by anybody who was curious and was generally well liked. Also during 2015, Bennett proved his talents in performing arts don’t lay solely in music by releasing an incredible short film entitled Mr Happy.

Fast-forward to now and Chance has just been the gold in Kanye’s mined, filtered and treated album The Life of Pablo. It seems you can’t ignore him anymore, even if you want to. If you didn’t already know him before, you certainly knew when West tweeted “It’s Chance’s fault the album not out yet…he really wanted Waves on that b****… we in the lab now…” after delaying the album release (what seemed to be) one final time. It wasn’t until we heard ‘Waves’ that we were on our hands and knees, thanking Chance for pushing for the song’s addition to the album. Ignoring the fact that we don’t actually have an official release date as-of-yet, fans of Chance believe the wait for his third mix tape and junior release may be coming to a close. Following his work with Kanye, it’s hard not to be excited.

While TLOP may have paved the way, to a certain degree, for Chance, it needs to be said that he’s done the same for underground artists struggling to make it. He has infamously avoided record deals and released all of his work for free, this trend being seen as a new and threatening business model for independent artists. A line from ‘Ultralight Beam’ states ‘Tubman of the underground, come and follow the trail, which refers to his leadership of all other artists towards independence and freedom and makes reference to Harriet Tubman, a former slave-turned-prominent abolitionist during the Civil War. Chance is well educated; a minute of listening to him will tell you that, which is probably why his references are second-to-none in the rap game right now. It’s hard to ignore the power in his words when he says this though. He talks with humble authority while making the drastic, however accurate, claim that he has led a movement for self-regulating artists.

So, where does Chance go from here? Up. His much anticipated release is eerily close and won’t disappoint. Continuing his trend of working with his once-idols and top players of the game will only solidify his place within them and it seems anything Kanye touches turns to gold. Outside of music, Chance’s long-term girlfriend has recently given birth to a baby girl, whom he makes beautiful reference to in his most recent work. The new-found responsibility is sure to show us an emotional side of Chance we have not yet been exposed to. Even if you’re not as excited as I am for what’s coming up for him, you don’t really have a choice anymore but to enjoy the ride.

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