Monopoly: Chance & The Community Chest
On August 11th, a DJ by the name of Kool Herc started to change how music was played and created. He decided to play on two turn tables at a back to school party in the Bronx. He extended the instrumental sections, which led to the creation of 'The Break'. This allowed people to dance longer, which then lead to MCs rapping over it. Boom! Rap was born. Today in honor of this day, Google is allowing everyone to play around with their turntables on their homepage. This should only last for one day so check it out while you can!
Now fast forward to 2010, imagine you heard of a guy from a nearby high school that got sent to the principal's office. Later you find out he was got suspended. His teacher and administrators thought he was trash and disregarded his other abilities. Fast forward to a little while later. He has a mixed tape that gets recognized and starts gaining fame and notoriety, especially from your hometown. From starting off in a city that never really knew who he was, he went on to become one of the most famous modern rappers of today. Among the many awards and acclamation that he has received, one of the most impressive is that he is the first solo artist to ever be nominated and win a Grammy for a streaming-only album. Depending on how old you are, that can be considered as off the hook, mad-cool, sick, bomb, dope, tight, ratchet, or whatever is cool these days. Either way, many of us have been waiting for rappers like this to be played on the radio and gain recognition. There aren't many rappers who still write their own lyrics, without ghost writers, and rap about real problems and events, but Chance the Rapper is too with it. I am huge fan of artists like this and I have lots of respect for ones who sample classic songs and do it well. Today a lot of the music is generic and is marketed for specific reasons to sell specific products.
We see this in different parts of the world. It's not always for the better. Some artists attempt to sample and make their own hooks and try to rap bars over famous ones, but it takes a certain craft to fit it together like a skilled Tetris player. We see a lot of attempts, especially in advertisements and jingles. The U.S. is not exempt from this practice, but wait! Not all commercials feature famous artists, right? Yes, but companies are smart. Using up and coming artists from popular songs serve as a great way for subliminal advertising. You will associate the product with your favorite pop songs, especially if they contain the vocalists or backup singers that aren't as well known. An article written by Patrick Ryan from USA today shows this. I learned that many of the commercials for Taco Bell, Apple, Mc Donald's, Nature Valley, Hulu, Subaru, and Hyundai among others that exist, use this strategy. Chance the Rapper has become successful despite selling out and his talent is raw and fresh. How was it possible for a young, high school dropout (Keep in mind we aren't talking about a college dropout who went into the tech industry like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or Paul Allen) from Chicago able to achieve this? He kept working hard. It's that simple. Take a look at his albums; each of which had a different style all together.
Some of my favorite samples and Chance the Rapper songs are from his first album, 10 Day. Chance has been grinding since day one. He sampled Lonnie Liston Smith's "A Bridge Through Time." This original was cool and mellow. It makes you think of driving down the 405 or 101 on a summer evening with your sunglasses on and the top down. He maintains the same mood by using the hook "I just wanna roll my windows down..." while talking about his hopes and dreams about rapping and turning into a career. He sampled Beirut's Nantes, which shows the wide ranges of music that he listens to and appreciates. Some people assume rappers are not cultured, try to act hard, or have very aggressive feelings without thinking about the other emotions. In this song, Nantes evokes a sense of happiness in a lost love. Chance uses this to describe his challenges in breaking into the industry as a solo artist with nothing but his craft and diligence.
Another banger is the Islay Brothers' song, "Between the Sheets." I can almost hear Biggie Smalls belting out "I love it when you call me Big Poppa..." to the beat. For those of us who grew up hearing these iconic lines, it's hard for us not to scratch that line from recollection, but great artists who sample well give you that nostalgia and then give something more that is new or different. Imagine finally breaking into the niche, in the career you want, but knowing your self-worth allows you to value yourself to never settle with any monetary amount thrown at you. It's hard to imagine. Almost everyone has an amount in mind that they would settle for regarding their job's salary, rent, lease, down payment, or what have you. Chance has never settled.
This is quite rare in the music industry. You have to make a name for yourself. Most artists need promoters and then sell themselves to brands and include products or items within their song lyrics, music videos, clothing fashion as a means of spreading their name by association. Examples of this can be seen in DJ Khaled's music video I'm The One. Within the first ten seconds bam Beats by Dre. I can't be too upset with that. I like the brand Supreme. Justin Bieber is sporting that later in the music video. A lot of videos in rap and hip hop ooze with luxury cars, mansions, flashy jewelry, and for the most part anything brand oriented. My favorite anti-materialistic rap music video is from Lil Dicky also known as David Andrew Burd. The song $ave Dat Money is great because the premise is to make the most epic rap video without any money. Even $ave Dat Money advertises for something at the end. It goes to show that to a certain extent, they need the advertising money in order to pay for the bare minimum, unless there are funders willing to take a risk on them failing, which isn't common.
Chance's album Acid Rap came in 2013 and was nominated for the Best Mixtape award from the BET Hip Hop awards. After giving it a listen, you can see why. He has his own sound, personality, and way to rap. It's almost as if he is talking to you and telling a story. Some rappers today sound really generic. One of my favorite music videos that satirizes this is by Hopsin called No Words. It's hilarious because if it was playing on the radio or on your online streaming player, half of you wouldn't turn your head to try and listen carefully if it was in the background while you were working or hanging out with friends.
I love Chance because his music is very versatile. In his more recent album Coloring Book in 2016 he moved in a direction that associated faith and his own life experiences. Since it's not only about the positive things in life, people were apprehensive about labeling it solely as direct move toward gospel because he has songs that completely move away from it as well as mentioned by Craig Jenkins from Noisey.com. Chance was nominated for Lyricist of the Year, Best New Hip Hop Artist, and Best Mixed Tape from the BET Hip Hop Awards. He ended up winning Best New Hip Hop Artist and Best Mixed Tape. Additionally, BET named him the Best New Artist of 2017 and The Best Collaboration with Lil Wayne and Two Chainz. No matter how far he goes, he stays humble. He donates money to public schools despite dropping out. It may not have worked out the same with Chance's path, but Chance is a direct contributor towards higher learning in the community because, whether students choose to go to a trade school, university, community college, or choose to do an internship to gain skills for a career after high school, they will still be better prepared for life if they start off with a high school diploma.
Also, he shows a lot of love and respect to his grandmother. She is referenced as Gladys in his songs. He hopes that she is proud of him after all he has been through. He also gives a lot of thanks to his family and friends within the community in his "Hey Ma" single. To me these albums show that Chance is great, but he never flat out says it. He just did it. That's why he released all of his songs for free streaming. What courage. What foolishness. Promoters must have laughed at him. In hindsight, it looks like it was the right thing to do. He sticks to his beliefs about what music should be: creative and easily accessible to the people while still making money as an independent artist. People didn't think it could be done in this day and age. He is a true entrepreneur and artist. In a world where life feels like a game of Monopoly, Chance played the game and came out honest. That’s a hard thing to do. Be right back. I’m going to play. I call the thimble.