Chance the Rapper is now in the process of selling out a stadium alongside some of the biggest corporations in America, but it was only four years ago that he was a barely-out-of-high school rapper who had yet to even play his first headlining local gig.
So how did he do it? What's his secret? The secret is that there's no secret. In a powerful interview with Sway that also touched on his own music plans, fatherhood, Chicago and an epic freestyle, Taylor Bennett (aka Chance's little brother) broke down how he helped jump start Chance's career simply by passing out CDs hand-to-hand at all the local high schools.
We went up to all the schools, passed out CDs, and all my friends went to his first listening party. It was raining, it was pouring outside, these kids waited to get in because it was packed. After that, we sold tickets and played Lincoln Hall - it was the first hip-hop show that Lincoln Hall has ever decided to throw.
All those kids who were in high school, they went to college and they brought that music with them, and they had hand to hand connections. That's the whole idea of the grass root complex. It's way easier for you to relate to somebody when, even if it's not you, you can say, "My homie is from Chicago and he said one day he went to Lincoln Park and Chance [gave him a free CD]. That means a lot more than any billboard because it's a personal connection with an artist. And it's not through social media, it's not through [hand to hand marketing]." - Taylor Bennett, Sway
Whether you're trying to make it as a rapper, a writer or an investment banker, we all want the secret, the shortcut, for that person to put us on because we made that one move; the amount of artists who chase me thinking one blog post will change their lives makes me deeply uncomfortable. But as Taylor broke down so powerfully, the foundation of all of Chance's success was the hard, proverbial grind of going hand to hand, making personal connections one fan at a time.
Good lesson, now let's all go out and get to work...
By Nathan S, the managing editor of DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.