Or, What I Learned About Business from Chance the Rapper
Like every slightly hip, Midwestern Millennial in America, I'm obsessed with Chance the Rapper. I don't even listen to rappers, besides the obvious icons... But I have nothing but love and respect for Chance. I'm not going to pretend that I know everything about his music (I don't), and I'm not trying to sell you on his tunes (though it wouldn't take much work)...
Today I'm talking about his grind, and what exactly I've learned from it. I think it should inspire us all - a little bit, at least.
Let passion lead you there
Chance is nominated for seven Grammy's at next Sunday's show, and would you believe me if I told you he's the first ever streaming-only artist to do so? He debuted 10 Day as a free digital download in 2012, and continued to do the same for Acid Rap (2013) and Coloring Book, aka the mixtape that stole my heart, late last year.
So why does that matter? Well frankly, he could have made a lot of money off of those releases, and he chose to do something different. Don't get me wrong; releasing music for free isn't a totally selfless act. Sure, that's a part of it, but it's also a brand-building, self-preserving way to do things, and it's working for him and his art. For creatives, it's easy to get burnt out and stressed out when creation becomes more about money and marketing and bullshit than just... you know, doing what you love (believe me, I've been there.) Besides, the future of record sales seems pretty bleak, doesn't it? By skipping that part of the process, he's avoiding the eventual letdown while maintaining independence and creative freedom. It's pretty genius, really.
Let me tell you about #BlackBoyJoy...
Lil Chano from 79th could have branded himself a lot of different ways. It's no secret that the expectation and assumption for black men, especially for "inner city" Chicago rappers is not always bright, smiling, innovative, stylish... you get it. Well, THANK GOD for Chance, who's helping to show the world a softer side; the normal side - the side that is probably (definitely) closer to reality, "Man my daughter couldn't have a better mother / If she ever find another, he better love her..."
Somewhere between Acid Rap and Coloring Book, Chance became a dad... and his fans participated in one collective, "awww"... Because it's a part of his story. Coloring Book wouldn't be what it is without her (yes, that's who he's gazing at.) And listen, I'm not religious but I respect him for praising Jesus on national TV... that's his thing. I don't care what you believe in, watch this and tell me you didn't get taken to church:
Do it for the kids, Chance.
But really. I hope Chance is the kind of guy my nephews and future children look up to. He's firm in his convictions, true to who he is, and a real master of his craft. But besides just leading by example, he also puts his money and time where his mouth is. And if you know me as a business person at all, you know how important that is to me.
Plus, doesn't he just seem so... normal? I'm only two years older than him, have never met him, and am in a city four hours away from his hometown, and I feel like a proud auntie... Yet he still fanboys over Beyonce, reps for his city, and praises his God.
...And does the wiggly arm carwash thing on red carpets.