Chance the Rapper held a press conference Monday afternoonn at Westcott Elementary School on the South Side of Chicago. Flanked by students, educators and media, he livestreamed his speech on Facebook, Twitter (Periscope) and Instagram. He announced he will donate $1 million to Chicago Public Schools.
As usual, Chance took an unorthodox route. Rather than inviting TV news crews to the rally or producing a high-definition YouTube video for the announcement, he used his own social media oulets and the presence of children -- sitting in virtually the same seat he held a decade ago -- to make his point. Chance is becoming an accomplished, humble millennial by ignoring traditional norms and carving his own path.
We can all learn a little bit from Chance the Rapper: Politicians, celebrities, athletes and average American citizens.
— Lil Chano From 79th (@chancetherapper) March 6, 2017
Maybe you don't know a lot about Chance the Rapper, 23, born Chancellor Bennett. He grew up in West Chatham on Chicago's South Side in a middle-class family. Chance's father, Ken Williams-Bennett, was active in Chicago politics, working as an aide to Chicago mayor Harold Washington in the 1980s and a senator by the name of Barack Obama in the 2000s. Williams-Bennett later became Mayor Rahm Emanuel's chief of staff.
Chance found his gift in rapping. He recorded his first mixtape, 10 Day, as a high school senior in 2011 after getting suspended 10 days for possessing marijuana on campus. The following year, he was featured on Complex's "10 New Chicago Rappers to Watch Out For" list. In 2014, Emanuel gave Chance the city's "Outstanding Youth of the Year" award. Last February, Chance served as a co-writer and featured vocalist on fellow Chicagoan Kanye West's The Life of Pablo.
In May, Chance released Coloring Book, his third mixtape. It earned him three Grammys, making Chance the first person to ever win a Grammy with a streaming-only album.
Despite being arguably the most valuable free agent rapper on the market the past few years -- one Grammy was for Best New Artist -- Chance has declined to sign with any record label. Chance has defied artistic norms by producing his own music. Doubters abounded, but in the last 18 months, Chance has left no doubt. He is a fixture in the global musical world, and he is doing it all under his own name.
Chance has turned down millions of dollars, opportunities to work with various artists and the ability to focus more on making music (and less on production). But none of that would go with what Chance wants to be. Chance is what we all strive to be: A talented young individual who is confident in himself, even when older generations question his decision-making.
Last Friday, Chance -- a 23-year-old with no college education -- met with Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner to talk about funding for Chicago Public Schools. Afterward, he told the media that Rauner, a Republican, gave him "vague answers" and tweeted that the rapper would have a plan Monday morning.
Chicago Public Schools and I did not lose today. Please don't let that become the narrative. Monday morning I'll have a plan.
— Lil Chano From 79th (@chancetherapper) March 3, 2017
That plan starts with his donation of $1 million, which will come directly from revenue of his spring tour, which starts April 24. Social Works Chicago, a foundation co-founded by Chance, will also donate $10,000 for every $100,000 raised. Chance called on other wealth Chicagoans to also contribute to CPS, the nation's third-largest school district.
As for Rauner, Chance called out the governor, whom Chance has criticized for refusing to sign a bill in November that would have given CPS $215 million. "Do your job, Gov. Rauner," Chance said Monday.
But it isn't just Rauner that Chance has challenged as of late. In a recent dual interview with Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler in The Undefeated, Chance was asked about President Donald Trump's comments regarding the high level of crime in Chicago.
"I hope he's coming in to do some type of federal overturn of our state and city budgets in terms of schooling and housing," Chance said. "I'm tired of n—–s talkin' about Chicago like it's a Third World country. Like, that it's not a place of booming business with a very successful downtown and all types of new development. It sounds like he was announcin' he was going to war with Chicago. I don't like to look at s— through that lens."
Chance insists he is not a politician. That's important. That is why he acts the way he does. Chance's decisions, whether it's criticizing Donald Trump or turning down a record label, are not calculated to make personal advancements. They are statements and choices that Chance believes, in his gut, are just.
Thanks @chancetherapper for giving back to the Chicago community, which gave us so much. You are an example of the power of arts education.
— Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama) March 6, 2017
On Monday, a reporter asked Chance, "You are the biggest rapper in the world at this moment, but you're in your hometown city, most would be on vacation, doing whatever they want to do, talk about why you're here, fighting this fight."
His response: "Well, mainly because this is what's right. And I want to say it would be cool if I could just dust it off and say I don't care about the Grammys, but the Grammys were what I needed, or what I traded in, to have my first meeting with Governor Rauner."
Let that line digest. Chance is essentially saying that his hard work to get Grammys was necessary to give him legitimacy to meet with the governor of sixth-most populated state. And he is using that influence to advance public school education in the same city where the president is threatening to send the Feds.
Chance the Rapper is the type of person people dream of being when they grow up: A famous, young, talented humanitarian who gives back to his own community.
It's one thing to say you never forget where you came from. It's another thing to act on it.