By Jose Castillo, Arts and Entertainment Columnist
This year, hip-hop artist Chance the Rapper will be headlining Springfest, much to the approval of many Northeastern students. However, students not too familiar with alternative hip-hop may ask, “Who is Chance the Rapper?”
“Has he ever collaborated with PaRappa the Rapper?” No.
“Has he released any albums yet?” Well, not necessarily.
“Isn’t he that one guy from the sitcom ‘Community’?” No!
Chancelor Bennett hails from Chicago’s South Side neighborhood of West Chatham. His interest in music emerged at a young age, dating back to when he won a Michael Jackson talent show in fourth grade. In sixth grade, Chance decided he would become a rapper. This decisive moment came after copping Kanye West’s 2004 debut album “The College Dropout.” Chance now cites its soul music sampling as something that caught his attention.
Chance attended the selective Jones College Prep High School, where he became known as a class clown among peers and as a troublemaker among teachers. Chance has stated that his instructors were very dismissive of his musical aspirations, while his principal banned him from performing at school functions. During his senior year, Chance was suspended for two weeks after being caught in possession of marijuana on school campus, which is clear from the lyrics “chiefin’ a hunnid blunts.”
During his 10 days of suspension, Chance recorded his first notable mixtape, “10 Day.” On the mixtape’s first track, “14,400 Minutes,” the rapper delivers a forceful retort to his school’s repudiation and establishes lore for the rest of the tape. The track sets the tone lyrically and musically – Chance’s raspy, high-pitched voice and signature screeches add to a beat sampled from a funk band Black Heat’s song “Zimba Ku.”
“Windows,” a featured single released before Chance’s mixtape debut, is perhaps the tape’s funkiest track that foreshadows the trippy synth beats present in his future works. “10 Day” was released in April of 2012 and has been downloaded over 1.3 million times from the music website DatPiff. Moreover, “10 Day” garnered Chance’s recognition among the alternative hip-hop community. With his newfound fame, Chance would go on to open for Childish Gambino (that one guy from “Community”) during his 2012 concert tour.
However, it was Chance’s second mixtape, “Acid Rap,” that helped him break into the mainstream spotlight. The tape opens with soulful singing, “even better than I was the last time, baby” – an appropriate statement for a tape that featured a stacked guest list, cleaner production and much more innovation.
Notable moments in the tape include the bumpin’ first track “Good A** Intro,” the 30-second silence that leads into the dreamy, yet depressing track “Paranoia,” Action Bronson’s hilarious feature on “NaNa” and Chance’s touching phone conversation with his father on the last track, “Everything’s Good.” The tape was recognized as one of the best albums of 2013 by many music outlets, including Rolling Stone, Pitchfork and Complex. On Metacritic, the tape has been recognized as attaining “universal acclaim,” gaining an average score of 86 out of 100.
Post “Acid Rap,” Chance’s fans have been waiting for a third solo release from the artist, but they have plenty of other materials to listen to from the 22-year-old. In May 2015, Chance released “Surf” as part of the band Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment. The album was celebrated for its fusion of hip-hop with elements of jazz and neo-soul. Chance also released a collaborative mixtape with Lil B (the Based God) later that year and performed on both Saturday Night Live and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Most recently, Chance appeared on Kanye West’s latest album, “The Life of Pablo,” during the opening track, “Ultralight Beam.”
Students attending Springfest should expect a performance full of energy, psychedelic beats and soulful bars. This year’s headliner will definitely leave next year’s entering class saying “damn, I wish I could have enrolled last year.”