The Style, Stance, and Sound of Chance
There are two sides to the argument of record labels’ interfering with artist creativity: the corporate side needs to be contained, or the artists need to be tamed. The latter may sound a little ridiculous, but what else would labels be saying when their signed artists are going crazy with poly-stylistic releases and not producing enough lucrative outcomes? Of course, this argument itself has been one for the ages, but with the evolution of technology, business, and music itself, things are and will always continue to change. But there’s one artist in particular who has blatantly refused involvement with any official music business at all. So far, at least.
In the extremely expansive world of Hip Hop music, it’s easy to get lost in the messy plethora of rappers, artists, writers, lyricists, DJ’s, and all the other forms of expression the umbrella genre possesses. Except, however, if you’re looking for Chancellor Bennett, or Chance the Rapper, as his stage name goes. In that case, Chance’s business decisions and outlooks on music itself may come as a nice refresher and reminder of how the Indie music scene works best, being that, not only is he not signed, but he turned down a formal request to be signed by Top Dawg Ent, the same label Kendrick, Ab-Soul, and Jay Rock are currently under.
Chance has had three successful, independent releases so far: 10 Day, his debut mixtape he released right out of high school, Acid Rap, and The Social Experiment. Coincidentally, no one ever had to pay for any of these releases: Chance releases his music entirely for free under public platforms like SoundCloud. He does release physical copies, but the number of which he hands out is nothing but minuscule compared to the number of downloads, plays, and reposts he receives on SoundCloud. He not only writes original and powerful lyrics, such as those heard on No Better Blues, but also samples and remixes other popular songs, including a jazzy, soulful rendition of the title theme to the PBS Kid’s show Arthur titled Wonderful Everyday. A lot of the income he receives is generated from the sales of tracks on which he collaborated with other artists, not from the sales of his own music.
It’s artistic avenues such as these that Chance has used to sculpt an image and sound that’s entirely his. In no way does this immaturely disparage his writing, rapping, and singing abilities, but it certainly enforces the principal he firmly stands by: he should be allowed to do whatever the hell he wants to do.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Chance explains his stance on record labels and the business side of the industry he’s a part of. “It’s a dead industry,” he says. “What’s an album these days, anyway? Cause I didn’t sell [Acid Rap], so does that mean it’s not an official release? So I might not ever drop a for-sale project. Maybe I’ll just make my money touring.”
Chance also expounds on the release of Acid Rap and the much larger, salient meaning its release illustrates. “The whole point of Acid Rap was just to ask people a question: does the music business side of this dictate what type of project this is? If it’s all original music and it’s got this much emotion around it and it connects this way with this many people, is it [just] a mixtape?”
When you step back and compare the larger image of music these days with the image Chance is creating for himself, you see two, totally different portraits entirely, and one thing’s for sure, that’s definitely not a bad thing. Chance holds firmly onto the perspectives that the homemade, grassroots independent music scene bolsters. Some skeptics say that the possibility of Chance being “secretly signed” is certainly there, as was the case with the rapper Logic, when he came out in 2014 about his being signed to Def Jam since 2012. But with the way Chance has been conducting himself and his business decisions, it’s far easier to gravitate towards the conclusions he’s already given us. But again, that was the case with Logic, too.