Chano, Chatham’s Own: The Musical Maturation of Chance The Rapper, by Jason Meggyesy
CHICAGO, 2011— It was another day at Jones College Prep High School. Students were mingling while the faculty graded the half-assed homework assignments turned in by their students. An imaginative Chancellor Bennett sat slumped in a chair in Principal Powers’ office. After being caught with marijuana at school, Bennett was given a ten-day suspension.
Instead of spending time mulling over his actions, Bennett went straight to work. The ambitious senior used his time away from school to help kick-start his rap career, laying down several different tracks in attempts to find the sound that would carry him to success.
Almost a decade later, Chancellor Bennett now goes by Chance The Rapper, after having carved out a name for himself in the hip-hop community. While Chance is undoubtedly a solidified star by today's standards, some detractors say he has strayed away from the type of music that got him to that point. On the other hand, his fans applaud his development following his marriage and fathering his two little girls.
In this article, we'll take a look at Chance The Rapper's four major studio projects. Each project will be examined to see how the Chicago-born artist developed his own personal sound and chiseled his own path in the industry. To go along with this, we’ll explore how the music was directly affected by Chance’s maturation in real-time.
10 Day (2012)
Fresh off a school suspension, Chance delivered his debut mixtape to the world on April 3, 2012. Premiering the project on DatPiff.com, the fourteen-track tape encapsulates the rookie artist's immature, experimental mindstate of the time. Chance croons and chatters playfully from track to track, experimenting with different sounds and flows while maintaining control over his craft. With standout songs like Brain Cells and Prom Night, the Chicago rapper takes the listener on a ride through his adolescent mind. He balances being a kid in the city who enjoys smoking weed and having fun with being a young rapper who wants his work taken seriously. Still having room to grow, this tape is full of growing pains for a young Chance as he works to find his footing in the rap game.
Acid Rap (2013)
Now at the age of 20, Chance, only a year removed from his first release, was still dissatisfied and even more determined. Out of this drive and persistence, Chance’s second mixtape and his magnum opus, Acid Rap, was born. For 53 minutes, Chano releases his anxieties and uncertainties about the world, his immediate surroundings, and himself to the listener. Gone are the days where the Chicago native could expect tender hugs and kisses from his mother; as highlighted in Cocoa Butter Kisses. Chance also raps smoothly as he comes to terms with the harsh realities of the world in which he lives (see Paranoia). Chance explores death, drugs, and religion alongside comical and tongue-in-cheek bars. Overall, the project stands head and shoulders above anything else in the rapper's discography as the budding star flows comfortably through each song and goes toe to toe with his high profile features, Childish Gambino and Twista to name a few. With Acid Rap's release, Chance put the whole game on notice, reinvigorating the genre and drawing attention from everyone in the industry.
Coloring Book (2016)
Between Acid Rap and his next project, Chance would experience an explosion in his fame and a shift in his personal life. In those three years, Chance was dubbed Kanye's protégé, worked with musicians like The Social Experiment, and blazed a trail for independent artists, leaving the Chicago-born rapper with quite a full plate. Oh, and he fathered his first daughter, Kinsley, in that period, as well. These life-changing occurrences would delay the young rapper from releasing his long-awaited third mixtape, candidly nicknamed "Chance 3" by the artist himself. It would not be until May of 2016 when Chance would satisfy his fans' hunger for new music, releasing Coloring Book exclusively to Apple Music. Fervent in his faith, the artist enlisted help from industry veterans such as Lil Wayne, Young Thug, and Jeremih to deliver his message of self-acceptance and personal growth. In the standout song Same Drugs, Chance acknowledges that he is not the same artist he used to be, but that he is also at ease with the person who he has become between his second and third releases. Marked as his "industry debut," this project was Chance stepping onto the scene for a mainstream audience.
The Big Day (2019)
Another three years would pass before Chance The Rapper would release any solo work. Instead of sitting idly and enjoying the spoils of success, however, Chance shifted his attention to activism within his city. With the help of his non-profit organization, SocialWorks (founded in 2016), the young artist organized coat drives, hosted open mics for creatives in his local area, and dabbled briefly in political lobbying—all to make a real impact on his community. By 2019, Chance was more than a rapper. He was now a father, a husband, and an activist, among other titles, and made this evident when he finally delivered The Big Day in July of the same year. In an album unofficially dedicated to his wife, the listener can hear the neurotic kid from Chicago fade away into the ether. Although the album initially met poor reception from the general public, who resisted the artist's maturation, Chance was unphased by the criticism and embraced the God-fearing, family man image he created for himself. Tracks such as We Go High and Do You Remember perfectly capture a man wholly aware of who he is, a man unashamed of all of the experiences that brought him to that point.
Since the release of The Big Day, Chance has gone on hiatus, perhaps to enjoy time with his family and continue his activism within Chicago. While appearing on various tracks like Justin Bieber's Holy and Cordae's Bad Idea, the lyricist has shifted his priorities toward other endeavors. In December of 2020, Chance made his directorial debut with the premiere of Chi-Town Christmas, a holiday-themed virtual concert that included original sketches as well as songs from previous projects.
Over the years, Chancellor Bennett has evolved from an angsty teen questioning the world to a passionate, self-assured man with real goals and aspirations for helping the world. While some fans now view Chance as corny or a sell-out, it is undeniable that he has discovered just who he is and where exactly he fits into this complex world. And to think, all this following a ten-day school suspension.