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At this year’s Grammy Awards, Chance the Rapper became the first artist to win a Grammy without selling copies of his music. In fact, Chance rarely sells his music at all. Instead, he releases all of his songs online for free. This 23 year old artist won three Grammys (best new artist, best rap album,and best rap performance), defeating Kanye West, Drake, and DJ Khaled.
This young American singer, songwriter, record producer, and actor has made quite an impression, but his life hasn’t always been like this.
Chancelor Johnathan Bennett was born on April 16, 1993 in the West Chatham neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. He’s the eldest of his two siblings, born to Ken and Lisa Bennett. Chancelor’s father was an aide to former Chicago mayor Harold Washington, and worked for then-senator Barack Obama.
Ken Bennett had big dreams for Chance, dreams that his son would one day hold office. However, early on in Chance’s childhood, he began to hang with the wrong crowd.
At a young age, Chance became obsessed with music: soul, jazz, rap, R&B, and everything in between. You name it, and he probably listened to it. During his freshman year at Jones College Prep High School, he formed a hip-hop duo with a friend known as “Instrumentality.”
Chance believed he was “called” to change the world through music. When he was in high school he recorded two mixtapes: “Good Enough” and “The Back to School EP.” But his teachers caricatured his dreams and hard work, so he began to rebel.
During his senior year of high school, Chance was busted for marijuana and received 10 days of out of school suspension. During that time he hit a low, so he went to his escape route: music. That is when Chance recorded his first full length project, 10 day.
Two months after releasing 10 day, Chance was highlighted as one of Complex’s magazine “10 New Chicago rappers to watch out for.”
In 2013, Chance began to gain recognition for his music, following the release of his second mixtape, Acid Rap. After that release he earned opportunities to work with major record labels, but he was focused on all the wrong things at that age. He was addicted to drugs and if he didn’t get help soon, he wouldn’t live much longer.
Chance recalled the day God began to speak to him: “I was messing up as a kid. I went to community college for a week and a half and dropped out, but I was still living at my dad’s house and my dad’s not that type of man. He’s no nonsense. Basically, he was like, ‘you’re either gonna get a job or go to school or go to the service.’ I had a little bit of time to figure it out; I didn’t figure it out, so I had to leave the crib while I was getting my stuff together. Got caught up in some bad stuff, one of my friends got killed, and me and my dad afterwards got really, really close and got on the same page. I was able to really tell him how I felt about going after music, and he was like, ‘well if that’s what you want to do, I know life is short and we live in Chicago, I wanna support it’… He straight up campaign managed me.”
Chance left his grandmother’s house in astonishment, as he was shocked that his grandmother cursed his effort. Chance was the prodigal son in modern-day form; a druggie, a “Xan-Zombie.” But within six months of that conversation with his father, Chance rededicated his life to Christ and got clean. It was around that same time when Chance learned that everything would soon change forever; his girlfriend was pregnant. Chance would be a father. It wasn’t easy welcoming his daughter in the world. Very early in the pregnancy, Change and Kirsten (his girlfriend) found it that his daughter had a very dangerous heart condition.
Not long after Kinsley was born, Chance was inspired to create another album, but this time it would be different. Instead of rapping about your typical rap music, this album was based upon God, love, Chicago, and dance.
Last year, Chance received the upsetting news that his grandmother had passed away. But through every trial and heartbreak, Chance turns to Jesus Christ to get himself back on track.