2017-05_LT-ChanceTheRapper

Music/My Culture

Chance the Rapper: a Musician With a Message

If you’ve plugged into the music scene for the past year or so, you’ve seen that Chance the Rapper, a hip-hop artist out of Chicago, has made a roaring entrance and has quickly solidified himself as one of the major artists in the hip-hop genre, as well as a figure on the billboard charts.

As a Catholic and a hip-hop fan, Chance has been and still is a huge role model for me. He means more to me than just an amazing rapper. His story and how he uses his stage is inspiring. First, however, you should know the story of the face that is changing modern music.

The Story of “Lil Chano from 79th”

Chancellor Bennett’s career as a rapper started with the release of 10 Day, a mixtape that he created while he was on a ten-day suspension from high school. He posted the mixtape online in 2012 which gathered attention from the Chicago rap scene. Chance followed this with two more projects, Acid Rap and Surf, both of which were praised by fans and critics alike.

Outside of a few songs that that got relatively high on the Billboard Charts, Chance wasn’t a household name until his work on Kanye West’s 2016 album The Life of Pablo. A few months after the release of the album, Chance announced that his new mixtape, later officially called Coloring Book, was coming out soon.

Coloring Book was an instant hit and was the first streaming-only album to reach the Billboard charts. The mixtape, which I can best describe as as mainstream rap with Christian messages, became a huge success, landing him three Grammies. He’s been on everything from Good Morning America to Saturday Night Live, and everywhere in between. Chance has reached a level of popularity and success that some only dream of yet his life has been anything but the glitz and glamour of the stage he’s on now.

Chance grew up on the South Side of Chicago and was heavily involved with gang activity. His 10 Days mixtape was a project he made because he was suspended from school after selling drugs to other classmates. In 2015 his on and off again girlfriend revealed to him that she was pregnant with his daughter. After releasing Acid Rap (which he made most of while under the influence of hallucinogenics) Chance had a 6 month long binge on the prescription drug Xanax. To say the least, his rise to the top has been an uphill climb with several dark obstacles.

Some people might see what Chance has gone through and label as him as just another artist who has glorifies sin. However, what separates Chance from other artists is that, especially in Coloring Book, he acknowledges his struggles as detrimental to his life and identifies God as a reason for hope and worthy of worship. I personally enjoy his music, not because it talks about the toxic things (i.e. drugs, money, casual sex, the usual things society praises) he’s encountered in his life, but because he places priority to things that he knows are better (his daughter, his relationship with God).

Although Chance may be a superstar, he’s still human and not afraid to be honest about his sinful past. He struggles with sin the same way that you and I wrestle with our sins. If you look at his discography, you will see a man who has gone through struggles but through his faith, seeks to live a life joyfully praising God. He’s sharing his story and the Gospel message with the world, and the world is loving it.

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In the hip-hop world, there are some artists that use their story in their songs to explain who they are or to use allegories in order to explain what they’ve learned in their own experiences (J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, etc.). They take the hip-hop platform that most people presume is only about glorifying sex, drugs, and other more toxic parts about our culture and use it to tell their story — past, present, and future. Chance is like these artists and uses his past and his story to bring glory to God. Instead of running away from his troubled past, Chance has embraced it and the way God has worked in it; and now he’s using it as a God-praising, soul-searching, truth-telling redemption story, in a culture that desperately needs to hear one.

Magnify, Magnify, Lift it on High

If you take a look at Chance’s discography, you’ll find biblical stories referenced more than a kid’s Sunday school class. In his song “Blessings,” Chance references to Joshua 6 and the Battle of Jericho when he tells Nico, a trumpeter whom he has worked with several times in the past with, says,

“I’m feeling shortness of breath, so Nico grab you a horn
Hit Jericho with a buzzer beater to end a quarter
Watch brick and mortar fall like dripping water”

Chance doesn’t just know the stories from the Bible; his songs are beautiful examples of faith and praises of God. In “How Great,” after singing the chorus of the Chris Tomlin song by the same title, he says,

“With the faith of a pumpkin-sized-seed mustard seed
Hear, for I will speak noble things as entrusted me
Only righteous, I might just shrug at the skullduggery”

Chance uses his music to share the truth of where he’s come from and why he praises God, and he holds himself to higher standards than the rest of the hip-hop world. With just a few rhymes he has spoken with more spiritual merit than most rappers have in whole their whole albums.

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These are the type of lyrics you expect to hear coming out of your youth minister’s playlist on Spotify. The fact that these god-praising songs are being embraced and enjoyed by mainstream society is truly remarkable. Chance has reached a level of popularity that some only dream of reaching and, instead of succumbing to the pressure to echo worldly messages, he has used the global stage to continue to praise God. Don’t believe me? Just check out his performance on Saturday Night Live the week before Christmas.

Music has not had an artist like Chance in a long time and he is the breath of fresh air a lot of Christians may be looking for in the secular music scene. If we’re going to learn how to evangelize in our society through widespread means, we should look to Chance for his unrelenting courage and resilience when people may be judging; and above all else, we should be honest about our sinfulness and the way God continues to redeem it; and we should use those stories, our own witnesses to spread the good news.

I Speak to God in Public

Chance has taken his struggles and used his divine gift for music to help spread messages of positivity and ultimate trust in God. Not only has this not hurt his career but catapulted it to new heights.

As mentioned earlier, Chance has been on several talk shows and music award ceremonies that are watched by millions. People everywhere are desperate for something to give meaning to their pasts and their suffering. Chance, as a popular member of this society, is using this stage to articulate the Good News that God can redeem our sins and do beautiful things with them, and people are listening to his message. He’s being himself AND his music provides an authentic message that all human beings can relate to. Evangelization at it’s finest.

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People are enjoying Chance’s music because of its excellent production and honesty. He isn’t afraid to tell his story and the quality of lyricism makes it a delight to listen to. Sure, he’s not going to be able to write all of “Theology of the Body” into a verse but his testimony is extremely relatable to teens like myself. His moral stances make him stand out from the rest of the popular music right now. In a music world that celebrates a countless number of things people should avoid, Chance’s music praises God.

We talk a lot about what the “modern evangelization” should be… well here it is! We might not be called to win any Grammys but we can use our own “stages” to spread the Good News. To some, talking about God at school might be as scary as performing on primetime television. It might be scary and we might be judged but how is the message of Love going to be spread if we stay silent? Chance was brave and with his talents is now taking over the music world with positive vibes. We need to use our stories and what skills we’re blessed with to share the Gospel message to whomever God puts in front of us.

Editor’s note: Life Teen does not endorse or condone all of the lyrics in Chance the Rapper’s music, as some of his songs and features do include explicit content.

Feature image by Enjoy the Show, used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, some modifications made, logo added.

About the Author

Dillon Duke

I’ve convinced way too many people that I’m majoring in Dragon Slaying at Hogwarts when in real life I’ll actually be studying Communications at The University of Houston in the Fall. Being the Catholic band nerd I am there is always a Bible, Skittles, drumsticks, and a Rubik’s Cube in my backpack. I have a cool collection of football cards I’ve spent years building, awesome people I’m honored to have as friends, and the most forgiving and loving God that I will never deserve. You can find my life in 140 characters on Twitter @dillduke