By: Laura Bennett
As far an independent artists go, Chicago-born hip-hop artist Chance the Rapper’s ability to cut through and climb to the top is an inspiration for the next in line, but a headache for industry execs who want him on their roster.
Speaking at the first SXSW Sydney last year, Chance used his keynote session to tell the 2500-strong audience about his entrance into the industry, and how he’s been shaping it as he goes.
“The power dynamic between the people with the money and the people with the ideas is lopsided,” Chance said.
After appearing on tour with Donald Glover – who raps as Childish Gambino – Chance was approached by a number of labels who wanted to sign him and give him “validity” as an artist, but he just “felt like it was some type of scheme”.
“What many people don’t realise is that the money that you get from a label is a loan,” Chance said.
“It’s putting artists in debt so that, no matter how much money you make, the label is always taking the lion’s share and you’re always being controlled by somebody that, in layman’s terms, can’t rap. That’s crazy.
With his independence, Chance has earned three Grammy wins and collaborated with some of the biggest names in the business, including DJ Khaled, Skrlllex, Justin Bieber and Kanye West, becoming one of modern raps most admired figures.
It’s not all about the accolades for Chance though, who used his Sydney visit to highlight the work of his charity Social Works – an organisation that’s contributed to programs in education, mental health, homelessness, and performing and literary arts, to help change cycles of voicelessness so many people still experience.
“God is a god for the oppressed,” Chance said. “God’s will is that we be free and be allowed to be ourselves and come into the kingdom that He presented to us.
“There are so many different places around the world where you see oppressed people who are voiceless.
“[Their] willingness to still pray to God, and still love God, and still ask God for assistance and to be in His will, is a testament to the strength of the oppressed.”
“God’s will is that we be free and be allowed to be ourselves and come into the kingdom that He presented to us.”
Chance also acknowledged the impact of his Christian faith on his music, and how it’s led him to believe the meaning of life is all about “opportunity”.
“It’s about the opportunity to contribute, and to bring liberation,” Chance said.
In his music Chance wants to bring joy, “but also I try to not to be naïve and oversimplify the situations that we’re in.”