Appearing on the cover of Billboard is just the latest in a string of amazing feats for Chance The Rapper. Following his every accomplishment this year has been like watching a prince slowly ascend to the place of a king. His face and music have appeared multiple times on late-night television, he graced the stage at the ESPYs paying tribute to Muhammad Ali, he was asked by the Olympic committee to compose “Unlimited Together” in support of USA Basketball, and the cherry on top came today as President Obama revealed his 2016 “Summer Playlist” and Chance’s “Acid Rap” was featured on the “Nighttime” edition.
Chance’s face on a Billboard cover is just another reminder that, while we might not hear him on the radio, he’s been in front of our very eyes all of 2016. Chance has become a giant impossible to overlook.
Chance is adored and admired for his music, as well as his humble and thoughtful behavior when he isn’t touring or recording. Throughout the Billboard profile, there are quotes from his peers that speak very highly of the Chicago native. Chance simply isn’t Chris, everybody loves him. That said, I wasn't surprised by his comments about rap and competition. He admits in the profile, “I never really liked the idea of rap being a competitive thing. It’s not. I can’t gain anything off of anyone else not succeeding.”
He speaks like a benevolent king who’d rather see prosperity and love than hate and war. Instead of wielding a sword, Chance is more of a shield; he has no urge to behead rivals and trample over other kingdoms. The comment seems fitting of Chance, his personality exudes positivity, but I wonder how long his views will last? To wear the crown attracts both love and hate, making him more of a target today than ever before.
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It wasn’t long ago that the internet believed a beef was brewing between Chance and Vic Mensa. From blacking out his image in an Instagram post to rapping lyrics that can easily be perceived as bullets sent in Chance’s direction, it seemed that something had happened between the longtime friends. No one truly knows what pushed Vic to do what he did, but Chance never responded—no subtweets, no shady Instagram posts, not a single word uttered that would make you believe he was preparing for battle. It's likely their issues were a personal matter, but Vic’s actions represented a glimpse into a future where rappers are coming at the neck of Chance. No matter how much they love you today, it doesn’t take much to trigger a change in direction.
Assuming Chance continues to climb the industry’s ladder, turning him into a bigger, more notarized figure, there will most certainly be challenges lying in wait. Jay Z, Kanye, Lil Wayne and Drake have all reached the pinnacle of rap stardom and on that path, they all have had to face adversaries.
I loosely relate Chance’s views on competition to Drake’s, “Diss me and you'll never hear a reply for it” lyric. In context, both represent a mindset that they aren’t here to be rappers caught up in the heat of battle. As history has shown us, Drake didn’t stay true to what he rapped in ‘09, he has been entangled in various beef and battles, but he’s strategic, a dog that only barks at puppies, and not any real monsters. There have always been mixed views on Drake’s approach to these situations, what he should do in the name of being an emcee, versus his real-life actions, but avoiding battles isn’t the first hip-hop rule that he broke. How would Chance handle a situation if confronted by a Pusha T or Joe Budden—would he react like a Common or a Meek?
Battling is embedded in the DNA of hip-hop. Competition and the yearning to be on top inspires rappers to be the very best every time a pen touches the pad. I commend Chance for having a mature outlook, knowing that bringing another man down isn’t the best way to bring yourself up. He doesn’t want to be another crab in rap’s barrel. Except, Chance has been outside the barrel for quite some time. He’s a top dog, sitting on a throne near the top of a mountain that other rappers are currently climbing. People are looking at him and they want his spot. It drives them to climb higher. That spirit of competition is very much alive. Crowns can be given, and crowns can be taken.
I look forward to seeing how Chance reacts the day someone gets close enough to reach for what currently sits on his head.
By Yoh, aka Yoh The Passive, aka @Yoh31