Chance The Rapper Represents a Redistribution of Power in Hip-Hop

We’re seeing a major transition in how power is distributed in music. Is Chance the indie messiah?

During the past two years, fans and critics alike have watched awe-struck as Chance The Rapper has steadily outgrown his underground buzz and ascended to the rank of a next generational hip-hop icon. Regardless of how you feel about his music, Chance is making good on his long-uttered promise to restrict himself from the major label system, a system that dominated for decades but has started to become obsolete.

This year alone, Chance became the first artist to have a streaming-only project reach the Billboard Top 10, as well as spearheading a massively successful campaign to change the criteria used to consider GRAMMY nominations, allowing Coloring Book to potentially reach the dizzying heights of success it so greatly deserves. A friendly reminder: all of this was done without a single traditional album sale.

Chance’s strategy isn’t new by any means. Artists have been giving away music for free for years, even before Radiohead made it cool to do so. The difference lies equally in the staggering quality of his freely-released music, and the incredibly successful and well-organized execution by Chano and his team, which is most recently apparent by his new radio-play campaign.

The idea behind Chance’s most recent campaign is simple -- "You like my music? Tweet your local radio stations to play!" Grassroots campaigns seeking to avoid the pay-to-play paradigm are a dime a dozen these days, but not only did Chance provide fans with a caliber of music that deserves air time regardless of the systems at play, he provided a perfectly streamlined website to make supporting his cause incredibly easy and efficient.

Also well-documented is Chance’s ability to snag high-profile sponsors like Bud Light and the Chicago White Sox to support both quality products and events that are not only entertaining, but have a positive effect on his local Chicago community. He does all of this without the help of, and while shunning, a major label system that’s becoming increasingly inefficient at garnering and maintaining supportive fan bases for under-developed artists. (Yes, Chance is represented by superstar hip-hop booking agent Cara Lewis, but she isn't creating his viral campaigns and helping him land a beer company sponsorship.)

Maybe you don’t like a healthy dose of gospel in your hip-hop (the mind-boggling success of which deserves it's own entire article), or maybe, after three projects, you’re sick of his “ahhk!” ad-lib that adorns nearly every track, but don’t for one second refuse to give Chance The Rapper credit for actually doing what other artists have been trying to accomplish for years.

At this point, every astonishing win for Chance is a win for all of us.

By Brent Bradley. Follow him on Twitter.

Photo Credit: Instagram