Chance the Rapper
Birth name: Chancelor Jonathan Bennett
Birthplace: Chicago, IL
April 16, 1993 – Present
Years Active: 2011 – Present
Chance the Rapper was born on April 16, 1993 in Chicago, Illinois. His father, Ken Bennett, was a political aide, and his mother, Lisa Bennett, worked for the Illinois attorney general. Chance and his younger brother, rapper Taylor Bennett, cite pop superstar Michael Jackson as their first exposure to music growing up. However, it was fellow Chicago rapper Kanye West’s release The College Dropout in 2004 that sparked Chance’s interest in hip hop. By high school, Chance began rapping, and with money he received from an afterschool job, started recording his music and releasing it on YouTube. He also regularly participated in open mic nights and used the media space at Chicago’s Harold Washington Library to make music. By spending time in the public library, he met producers and other artists around his age, such as Vic Mensa and Nico Segal.
In 2012, Chance released his first mixtape, 10 Day, following a 10-day school suspension during his senior year of high school. The mixtape was released on the media sharing site Datpiff and quickly gained the attention of local producers. The project was well received by artists like Childish Gambino, who invited Chance to collaborate on the track “Royalty” and to tour as his opening act in 2012.
The following year, Chance released his critically acclaimed mixtape Acid Rap online, for free. It featured Chicago rappers Noname, Saba, BJ the Chicago Kid, and the legendary Twista. Chance also collaborated with Childish Gambino, Ab-Soul, and Action Bronson for Acid Rap. The mixtape’s popularity crashed websites that hosted the mixtapes, .peaked at #63 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums, and propelled Chance into the mainstream. Acid Rap appeared on several end-of-the-year lists, and produced a U.S. tour at the end of 2013. The following year, Chance appeared on the magazine XXL’s Freshman Year Class list, which is an annual feature of up and coming rappers.
Outside of his solo career, Chance’s band The Social Experiment with friend and frequent collaborator Nico Segal released the album Surf in 2015. It featured artists such as Jamila Woods, Janelle Monae, BJ the Chicago Kid, Noname, Big Sean, J.Cole, Quavo of Migos, and legends Busta Rhymes and Erykah Badu. The album was praised by critics.
In 2016, Chance returned to releasing solo work after appearing on other artists’ work, including Kanye West’s album The Life of Pablo, and Macklemore’s album This Unruly Mess I’ve Made. In the summer that year, Chance released his anticipated third mixtape, Coloring Book. It debuted at #8 on the Billboard 200 and became the first streaming-only album to appear on the chart. Coloring Book saw a different direction from Chance’s previous two mixtapes, with the rapper adopting Gospel influences and proclaiming himself a “Christian rapper.” The mixtape featured a wide array of artists such as gospel legend Kirk Franklin, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, T-Pain, 2 Chainz, Future, Young Thug, Lil Yachty, Justin Bieber, the Chicago Children’s Choir, frequent collaborators such as Noname, Saba, BJ the Chicago Kid, Jamila Woods, and several others. Coloring Book, like his previous work, was also a favorite among critics, and earned Chance seven Grammy nominations and three wins at the 2017 Grammy Awards. His Grammy wins for Coloring Book were historic, as he was the first artist to win the prestigious music award for a streaming-only album.
2017 saw many achievements for Chance. He was nominated for an Emmy for Best Original song for “Last Christmas,” which he performed on Saturday Night Live. In the summer, he headlined Lollapalooza Music Festival in his hometown of Chicago, which became the festival’s most attended performance. He also donated $1,000,000 dollars to the Chicago Public School system that year.
Coming off of the success of Coloring Book, in 2018 Chance continued to appear on other artists’ work, including Cardi B’s debut album and Ed Sheeran’s “Cross Me.” In preparation for his debut album, Chance released six singles. While maintaining his status as an independent artist, his debut album The Big Day eventually came in 2019. The Big Day was inspired by his wedding day and marriage to his wife Kirsten Corely, who he has two daughters with. Similar to his other projects, The Big Day included a star studded roster. Chance collaborated with artists such as John Legend, DJ Casper, indie rock band Death Cab for Cutie, rappers DaBaby, Megan Thee Stallion, Nicki Minaj, Gucci Mane, Smino, Taylor Bennett, R&B singers Ari Lennox, En Vogue, and SWV. Pop singer Shawn Mendes and legend Randy Newman also sing on the album, in addition to several others. The Big Day, which is over an hour long, included skits revolving around a wedding that include actors John Witherspoon, Keith David, Cree Summer, and Jackée Harry. The album charted at #2 on the Billboard 200. It was to be supported with a national tour, which was cancelled due to the arrival of Chance’s second daughter.
Outside of music, Chance is heavily involved in charity and philanthropy. In 2016, he founded his Chicago based non-profit, SocialWorks. According to SocialWorks their mission is to empower Chicago’s youth through “the arts, education, and civic engagement.” The organization runs several initiatives: The Warmest Winter, which aims to provide relief to those experiencing homelessness through service events and donations, such as a citywide coat drive, OpenMike, a monthly event where high school students can showcase their talent and socialize with students their age, Support CPS provides funding to Chicago Public Schools (CPS), the faith-based performing arts summer camp Kids of the Kingdom, and SocialWorks’ newest initiative focused on providing mental illness services and guidance, My State of Mind.
Aside from King of Pop Michael Jackson and fellow Chicago rapper Kanye West being Chance’s inspirations he has also mentioned Prince, Lupe Fiasco, Common, Kirk Franklin, Eminem, Souls of Mischief, Young Thug, and James Brown as inspirations of his.