At the just concluded 59th Grammy Awards, Chance the Rapper took home three Grammys for his independent album The Coloring Book, making him the first artist to win a Grammy without selling physical copies of his music—or selling much of his music at all, for that matter.
Chance is a mainstream rapper who has recently taken to merging Christianity into his hip-hop worldview. Five of the 14 tracks of The Coloring Book have deeply religious themes and sample Christian contemporary artists like Chris Tomlin, Fred Hammond, Kirk Franklin and Byron Cage. Franklin and Cage are even featured on a few of the album’s songs.
With neither a record label contract nor any physical album sales, Chance hinges his finances off of the meager payouts from digital streaming. Yet the rapper doesn’t care about missing out on lucrative profits. He explained why in a recent Vanity Fair interview:
“After I made my second mixtape and gave it away online, my plan was to sign with a label and figure out my music from there. But after meeting with the three major labels, I realized my strength was being able to offer my best work to people without any limit on it.I make money from touring and selling merchandise, and I honestly believe if you put effort into something and you execute properly, you don’t necessarily have to go through the traditional ways.”
Remaining unsigned, Chance has said in previous interviews, also allows him to collaborate more freely with other musicians and build up an authentic fan base. While his business strategy may be “in uncharted territory,” it’s piquing the interest of longtime industry executives—enough so that “they’re almost like, ‘keep going,’ ” curious to see what his unusual model might mean for the future of music.
A few years ago, Chance was on a completely different path. When asked about his transformation on The Coloring Book in a radio interview, Chance shared a personal story. “One day during my Acid Rap tour, my grandmother saw me and began to pray. She said, ‘I break off anything in your life that is not God.’ After that, things began to change.”
For the past year, audiences have seen Chance on SNL, The Tonight Show, and now the Grammys alongside Kirk Franklin and Tamela Mann, proclaiming his love for his savior, Jesus.
At the Grammys, Chance performed a combination of several songs off his award-winning album. The main songs were “How Great” and “Blessings.”
At one point, he even exhorted the crowd and told them to stand up for his God because He is worthy to be honored.
Describing Chance as a miracle of God’s message to the world, Alexis Maston writes on gospel magazine, Charisma News; “God created Chance and gave him the spiritual intellect to make this powerful music to reach the masses. Chance’s raw salvation is enlightening; and for us, it represents the true process and messiness of salvation. God is literally transforming him in the spotlight, and he isn’t afraid of it, either. He lets it be known “I speak to God in public, He says my new stuff jams, and I think we are mutual fans.” Later, he said, “I used to hide from God””.
“Chance does not omit God from his music; he includes Him and gives Him his platform. Chance is not the first to do this, but perhaps the first to make such a major impact by conjoining the secular with the gospel. We are watching the true work of the cross on national TV. We are watching a man’s life be transformed by the same God who changed our lives. Not only were the Grammys turned into a worship stage, but so was this independent rapper’s life,” the magazine added.
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