Chancelor Jonathan Bennett (born April 16, 1993), known professionally as Chance the Rapper, is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, and record producer from the West Chatham neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. In 2013, he began to gain recognition following the release of his second mixtape, Acid Rap. Apart from his solo career, he is a member of the Chicago collective Save Money (along with frequent collaborator Vic Mensa). He has worked as the lead vocalist for the band The Social Experiment; they released the album Surf in May 2015.
In May 2016, Bennett released his third mixtape Coloring Book to critical acclaim. It earned him three Grammy Awards, including Best Rap Album. Coloring Book became the first streaming-only album to receive a nomination for, and win, a Grammy.
Chancelor Jonathan Bennett was born in Chicago, Illinois. His father, Ken Williams-Bennett, was an aide to former Chicago mayor Harold Washington and then-Senator Barack Obama. His mother, Lisa Bennett, is a secretary for the office of Illinois Attorney General. Bennett grew up in the middle-class neighborhood of West Chatham on Chicago's South Side. When Bennett was thirteen, his father began to work in the Department of Labor during President Barack Obama's first term. Bennett personally met President Obama in his youth and discussed his aspirations to be a rapper, to which Obama responded with "word". Bennett was originally going to move to Washington, D.C. following Obama's win in the 2008 presidential election though those plans eventually fell through. Bennett attended Jones College Prep High School where he was a member of the Jewish Student Union. During his time in high school, Bennett did not get good grades and was suspended often.
Bennett's interest in music began with Michael Jackson, who he exclusively listened to on cassettes until the fifth grade. Growing up, Bennett's parents were constantly playing music, including Billie Holiday and Sam Cooke and other artists in the jazz and gospel genres. Bennett began listening to hip-hop after hearing "Through the Wire" by Kanye West on the radio whilst walking through Hyde Park, Chicago. After finding out the song was on West's debut album The College Dropout, Bennett purchased the album, making it the first hip-hop album that Bennett listened to. Bennett considers West a huge influence on him and has said that he was inspired to begin rapping by West. Bennett and West met each other in August 2014 at Bonnaroo Music Festival.
Bennett began rapping in the sixth grade when his cousin let him start using his studio. In his freshman year at Jones College Prep High School, Bennett formed the hip-hop duo Instrumentality alongside a friend. Many of Chance's earliest performances took place at the YOUmedia Lyricist Loft at Harold Washington Library in Chicago. After placing second in a local songwriting contest, Bennett met then-Chicago Mayor, Richard M. Daley who enjoyed his music. Bennett spent most of his junior year and a small amount of his senior year writing a draft for his debut project, 10 Day, which was later released after Bennett was suspended for ten days after being caught smoking cannabis.
At Jones College Prep High School, some of his teachers ridiculed his aspirations to become a musician. Following a 10-day suspension in early 2011, during his senior year, for possessing marijuana on campus, Bennett recorded his first full-length project, a mixtape titled 10 Day (also known as #10Day). In December 2011, he released a song titled "Windows", and publicly announced his 10 Day project. In February 2012, Bennett was highlighted as one of Complex magazine's "10 New Chicago Rappers to Watch Out For". Bennett says he spent "about eight months recording, writing and making connections off of the hunger to put out something". Bennett released the mixtape on April 3, 2012, and it has since been downloaded over 500,000 times via mixtape-sharing site DatPiff. The mixtape was well-received locally and helped Bennett make connections with producers such as Chuck Inglish, Kenny Jame$ and Blended Babies. The mixtape also grabbed the attention of Forbes magazine, which featured it in the publication's Cheap Tunes column.
In July 2012, Bennett appeared on American rapper Childish Gambino's sixth mixtape, Royalty, on the track "They Don't Like Me". Gambino would go on to ask Bennett to join on his first concert tour of North America as his opening act.
On April 30, 2013, Bennett released his second mixtape, Acid Rap, on DatPiff. The record has been downloaded over 1.5 million times. Bennett enlisted guest appearances from Twista, Vic Mensa, Saba, BJ the Chicago Kid, Action Bronson, Childish Gambino and Ab-Soul. Acid Rap was well-received by critics. At Metacritic, the mixtape received an average score of 86, based on 21 critics, which indicates "universal acclaim". It was nominated for Best Mixtape at the 2013 BET Hip Hop Awards. On May 6, 2013, the song "Paranoia" (produced by Nosaj Thing), after initially being featured as a hidden track on Acid Rap, was released as a contribution to Yours Truly and Adidas originals' "Songs from Scratch" series.
In June 2013, Bennett was featured in a commercial for MySpace as part of their relaunch, alongside fellow American rappers Mac Miller, Pharrell Williams and Schoolboy Q, among others. In July 2013, Acid Rap debuted at number 63 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, due to downloads on iTunes and Amazon. In August 2013, Bennett performed at the Chicago music festival Lollapalooza. Acid Rap was listed on multiple 50 best albums of 2013 lists, including 26th for Rolling Stone, 12th on Pitchfork's list, and ranked 4th by Complex. It was also listed as one of NPR Music's 50 Favorite Albums of 2013. Bennett began his Social Experiment Tour in Champaign, Illinois on October 25, 2013, lasting until December 19, 2013.
In March 2014, Bennett appeared in a shoppable online video for Dockers, promoting the brand's spring line, in which Bennett talks his style, love for creating music, and how it feels to live in Los Angeles. On May 5, 2014, XXL revealed Bennett was included in their annual freshman class, alongside fellow up-and-comers Isaiah Rashad, Ty Dolla $ign, Rich Homie Quan, Vic Mensa, August Alsina, Troy Ave, Kevin Gates, Lil Bibby, Jon Connor, Lil Durk and Jarren Benton. During Fall 2014, Bennett and other artists participated in Verge Campus tour. In November 2014, Bennett was presented Chicago's "Outstanding Youth of the Year Award" by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
In January 2015, Bennett was listed number 7 on the "Forbes 30 Under 30" 2015 music list. In March 2015, Bennett released a short film called Mr. Happy, which was directed by Colin Tilley. Mr. Happy centers around the main character, named Victor, who is struggling from depression and was attempting to commit suicide. After many failed attempts to kill himself, he discovers Mr. Happy. On April 30, 2015, Bennett gave a lecture at Harvard University's Hiphop Archive & Research Institute.
Just before midnight on May 28, 2015, Surf was released for free on the American iTunes store as an iTunes Exclusive. The album received high acclaim from music critics, receiving an aggregate score of 86 on review site Metacritic, which indicates "universal acclaim", based on 17 reviews. In June 2015, Bennett performed at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in the superjam concert collection. He also made a guest performance with fellow rapper Kendrick Lamar, on stage with Earth, Wind & Fire. On July 19, 2015, Bennett and Lil B announced that they recorded a collaborative mixtape. The two rappers released it on August 5, titled Free (Based Freestyles Mixtape).
On October 13, 2015, Bennett released a video for a new song, titled "Family Matters", on his website. The song, which shares the same name as his fall 2015 tour with D.R.A.M., Metro Boomin, Towkio (and Hiatus Kaiyote on select dates), is a rework of the Kanye West song "Family Business" from his 2004 album The College Dropout. A few days before this, a video surfaced online of Bennett performing a new song live, ending the song by saying the words "third mixtape", leading many to believe the wait might be coming to a close for his next release. On October 27, 2015, Bennett premiered a new song, titled "Angels" featuring Saba, on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. On December 12, 2015, Bennett performed on Saturday Night Live, on a new song, titled "Somewhere in Paradise".
In 2016, Bennett was a prominent figure on Kanye West's album The Life of Pablo, co-writing and appearing on several tracks, including "Ultralight Beam", "Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1", "Famous", "Feedback", and "Waves". According to West, the album's release was delayed due to Bennett's desire for "Waves" to make the album's final cut. Bennett was also featured on a track titled "Need To Know" on Macklemore & Ryan Lewis's album This Unruly Mess I've Made. The following March, Bennett was featured on Skrillex's remix of Hundred Waters' "Show Me Love". On April 16, 2016, Chance and other musicians, including Alicia Keys, Busta Rhymes, Janelle Monáe, and J. Cole, met with President Obama at the White House to discuss the My Brother's Keeper Challenge initiative.
On May 12, 2016, Chance's third mixtape, Coloring Book (promoted as Chance 3), was released, streaming exclusively on Apple Music. In the first week, the mixtape was streamed over 57.3 million times, which was equivalent to 38,000 units sold, debuting at number eight on the US Billboard 200 chart. It became the first release to chart solely on streams. The mixtape was met with widespread acclaim from music critics, and on review aggregator site Metacritic, received an average score of 90, based on 20 critics, which indicates "universal acclaim".
On July 13, at the 2016 ESPY Awards show, along with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, he performed a tribute song titled "I Was A Rock" for the late Muhammad Ali. On August 16, 2016, Chance wrote the single "We the People" paired in a Nike commercial titled "Unlimited Together", a film directed by Hiro Murai. A second commercial was released on October 4 by Nestlé to promote the Kit Kat bar, starring Chance in costume remixing their jingle. On September 15, 2016, Chance began his Magnificent Coloring World Tour in San Diego.
Bennett announced the Magnificent Coloring Tour with an event called Magnificent Coloring Day Festival at Chicago's U.S. Cellular Field, with a line up including Lil Wayne, Skrillex, and Lil Uzi Vert, taking place on September 24, 2016, being the first-ever music festival at U.S. Cellular Field. Bennett launched a campaign in conjunction with rapperradio.com to get his music on the radio on August 17, 2016.
In September 2016, H&M solicited Bennett to headline their new campaign. In November 2016, he continued on the Magnificent Coloring World Tour, but cancelled the rest of his shows on the European leg due to personal reasons. In November 2016, Bennett announced during an interview with DJ Semtex that he was working on his debut album. Bennett was offered a chance to sign with Kanye West's GOOD Music in December 2016, though he refused due to his popularity as an independent artist and the freedom of not being attached to a label. In an August interview about his debut album, Bennett said he may sell the album, a departure from his previous projects' free distribution format. After a report was leaked claiming that audio distribution platform SoundCloud was close to bankruptcy and had laid off most of its workers, Bennett had a phone call with SoundCloud CEO Alex Ljung. Following the phone call, Bennett went onto Twitter, posting that SoundCloud is "here to stay". It was later reported that Bennett was just reflecting on what Ljung had previously published in a press release following the leak. Soon after, Bennett released a SoundCloud exclusive track with Young Thug called "Big B's" to benefit the platform, a surprise move that was planned in response to the SoundCloud bankruptcy leak.
In July 2017, Bennett was nominated for an Emmy Award for his song "Last Christmas" that was performed on Saturday Night Live. He shares the nomination with Kenan Thompson, Eli Brueggemann, and Will Stephen in the category for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics. In August 2017, Bennett headlined day three of Lollapalooza at Grant Park in his hometown of Chicago. His performance drew record crowds with some estimates making it the largest attended performance in event history.
In November 2017, Bennett curated and headlined the Obama Foundation community event at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago. The event capstoned the inaugural Obama Summit event which featured special guests including former President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Andra Day, Gloria Estefan, Aziz Ansari, Lena Waithe, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and more.
In 2018, he featured on "Logout", a song from Saba's album Care for Me.
Bennett has stated in interviews with XXL and Complex that Kanye West, James Brown, MC Hammer, Prince, Lupe Fiasco, Common, Young Thug, Lil Wayne, Esham, Eminem, Souls of Mischief and Freestyle Fellowship have influenced him. When asked about the gospel influences in his music, he also has stated that Kirk Franklin is one of his favorite artists, and his favorite composer.
Bennett's music has been described as versatile and uplifting. His music generally contains jazz-inspired melodies and gospel influences. Bennett's lyrics usually have references to Christian theology, his struggles with his faith and his upbringing. Chance incorporates choirs into his music to attempt to maximize the gospel undertones. Sharde' Chapman at HuffPost has described Bennett's lyrics as "creative" and "colorful".
Bennett's fashion style is a large part of his public image, and he has taken interest in the industry. Bennett has designed hats for the Chicago White Sox. The Hollywood Reporter has said that Bennett is "redefining fashion" with his style of generally wearing overalls and contesting traditional hip-hop fashion norms. Bennett wore a suit that was meant to imitate Michael Jackson at the 2017 BET Awards. Bennett was seen wearing Thom Browne clothing at the 2017 Grammys.
Bennett lives in his hometown, Chicago, Illinois. Bennett once shared a house in North Hollywood with James Blake. Describing his time in North Hollywood, Bennett called it "ungodly". After graduating high school, Bennett attended a community college for a week before dropping out. Bennett has taken numerous recreational drugs during his lifetime, including LSD and Xanax, but has since stepped away from them.
His younger brother, Taylor Bennett, is also a rapper. Both brothers began rapping at the same time and have a similar style. Both the rappers also draw inspiration from Chicago native Kanye West.
In July 2015, Bennett announced that he was expecting his first child with his girlfriend Kirsten Corley, whom he began to date in 2013. In September 2015, Corley gave birth to their daughter, Kensli. Kensli was kept out of social media until December 31, 2016, when Bennett posted a picture of her on Instagram. In May 2016, after they had stopped living together, Corley wanted the courts to declare Bennett as the father of their daughter, requiring him to pay child support.
In February 2017, Bennett's child support case reopened in an attempt to work out child support terms and a parenting schedule as Bennett and Corley moved to separate residences. The Chicago Sun-Times published an article about a dispute between the two in March 2017. Bennett replied to the article saying "Y'all better do y'all jobs and stop worrying about how good my family is. Just a friendly reminder. Don't let anybody get between you and your family." On March 21, 2017, the dispute was settled out of court.
Bennett spends much of his free time with his daughter, and frequently takes her on outings. These have included a Chicago Bulls basketball game, meeting the Obamas and working out.
Bennett is an avid activist for the south side of Chicago. This is showcased in his music, philanthropy and political works. By the age of 24 he has already won 3 Grammys without being signed to a record label, breaking Billboard records, commercial deals, joined note-worthy Boards, raised thousands of dollars for homelessness, and donated $1 million dollars to the South Side of Chicago’s schools through his non-profit SocialWorks. Mr. Bennett lives in Chicago; In an interview recently he stated, "But I’m here, I’m posted. I’m not going anywhere. I’m gonna live in Chicago until the day I die. I’m gonna leave every once in a while, I’m gonna travel, I’m gonna do some tours — get that bag. Then I’m gonna lobby for y’all.” Through Bennett’s words whether it be through his music or him speaking you can hear the tenacity that he has for the city, specifically, South Side Chicago. This may be attributed to his beliefs as a Christian. In an interview Gayle King asked, “They’ve described your music as hip hop, soul, R&B, with a little bit of gospel, what do you see?” Mr. Bennett replied, “I would never say that I’m making gospel music, but I love God. I love Jesus. And I’m super cool with saying that. Glory be to God.” Bennett was raised as a Christian by his grandmother but later fell out of the faith. He rediscovered his faith when his daughter was born with atrial flutter. Speaking of which, Bennett said "[I just] pray a whole lot, you know, and need a lot of angels and just see shit in a very, like, direct way. And…you know, God bless everything, it worked out well." Bennett wrote on Twitter following the situation on January 31, 2016, "Today's the last day my old life, last day smoking cigs. Headed to church for help. All things are possible thru Christ who strengthens me."
Bennett is an independent voter who leans left. His father worked for Barack Obama as a presidential appointee and as an aide. His father also worked on the Barack Obama presidential campaign in 2008 and is an aide to Rahm Emanuel. Despite his family's ties to the Democratic Party, Bennett is an independent voter, though he has a history of supporting Democrats. Bennett volunteered with Barack Obama's reelection campaign by phonebanking in Hyde Park, Chicago.
In November 2014, Bennett was named Chicago's Outstanding Youth of the Year by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Bennett has actively fought to combat gun violence in his hometown of Chicago and in 2014, along with his father, promoted the "#SaveChicago" campaign. The campaign sought to stop gun violence over Memorial Day Weekend, and saw Chicago go 42 straight hours without a shooting. Bennett met with President Obama at the White House on April 16, 2016, to discuss My Brother's Keeper Challenge, an initiative of the United States Federal Government to promote intervention by civic leaders in the lives of young men of color to address their unique challenges and to promote racial justice, with other musicians, including Alicia Keys, Busta Rhymes, Janelle Monáe, J. Cole and others. Bennett started a Twitter campaign for May 23, 2016 using #May23 to stop gun violence for 42 hours.
On March 6, 2017, after a meeting with Governor Bruce Rauner that did not go well only days before, Bennett announced his intention to donate $1,000,000 to Chicago Public Schools in order to help offset the lack of government funding provided. Following this, a movement arose to try and inspire Bennett to run for mayor of Chicago. This was backed by fellow media personalities including musician Drake.
Bennett is an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, having criticised him numerous times and drawn comparisons to former President Barack Obama. During the 2016 Presidential election, Bennett said he was not scared of a Trump presidency. When asked why by GQ, Bennett said "You gotta just understand, like, shit has been fucked-up, right? Like, "Make America Great Again", that's not a real thing because shit ain't really switched up for [white middle class]". Bennett endorsed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton on October 6, 2016, expressing concerns about the way she was treated in the media and also expressing that she could "fix Chicago." Following the victory of Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, Bennett said "Trump was going to win, anybody in the world who's surprised by the election of Donald Trump has been ignorant of racism, and the tides and patterns of American history and world history."
In February 2017, Bennett posted publicly on Twitter that he was worried President Trump was going to change constitutional term limits. Bennett has compared Trump's fascination with Chicago to "going to war". In August 2017, Bennett claimed to have a "bigger voice than Donald Trump".
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