It’s not fun to admit your own ignorance.

BUT! After seeing my photo printed on a two-page spread in the most recent Tallahassee Magazine, I figured that I would come out and say it: When I photographed Chance the Rapper at the concert he put on during FSU’s 2016 Homecoming Week, I had literally never heard of him, or listened to ANY of his music.

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Two-page spread using one of my photos

Fast forward to the present.

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The original image used in the magazine spread

Chance the Rapper—Chancelor Johnathan Bennett—is making history on a semi-regular basis. Since I photographed him, Chance has won three Grammy Awards: for Best New Artist, Best Rap Performance, and Best Rap Album; has been announced by Fortune Magazine as one of the top-50 greatest leaders in the world; and has left a permanent and positive mark on the Chicago area after a campaign to reduce gun violence, and an announcement that he will donate a million dollars to the Chicago School System.

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It’s very likely, that if you are a high school or college student, or a “hip,” relatively-current Millennial, that you’ve heard of Chance. It’s also very likely you’ve taken the time to listen to some of his music.

After hearing about his Grammys this year, I decided that it was time to educate myself on this guy, and that to do it thoroughly, I needed to listen to his music.

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Chance the Rapper performs during FSU’s 2016 Homecoming celebrations, at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center

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One of Chance’s “selling points” (if you will) right now, is that he is not affiliated with a record label, and chooses to make his music available online for FREE, for any and everyone to stream or download. This is an interesting approach, and one that tends to polarize critics. He still charges for tickets to concerts, and sells merchandise online and at shows—not everything is free. But anyone, including yours truly, has access to his music.

After perusing his discography on a couple different websites (it’s not all available on any single site), I picked out a few “favorites.” (I say “favorites” in quotes because the songs aren’t my favorite music, but favorites out of his work) You can click the song names for Spotify links.

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I was very honestly, pleasantly surprised when I sat down and actually listened to his music—REALLY listened. His music is rife with beats and rhythm to bob your head to, but it’s also filled with lyrically smooth and intelligent riffs and hooks. He comments on current politics, the sad state of an education system that frequently fails its students, and occasionally touches on gang issues.

“…Is he illiterate, literal syndicate
Illegitimate, idiot, gangbanger affiliate
Sick twisted prick, sick sadistic
Son of a biscuit, man fuck this shit…”

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No—his music isn’t necessarily appropriate for all ages. BUT, it’s often thought-provoking, lyrical intense, and not mind-numbing brain fluff. It’s rap you can appreciate: that you can sit down and listen to as a political statement, or appreciate for its inherent artistic quality, or think about the sheer intelligence required to pen such poetry.

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One of the trumpet acts that frequently collaborates and tours with Chance

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Hell—the man is becoming a modern day legend. He was recognized by both the mayor of Chicago, AND former President Barack Obama (and he met in person with the latter)! He is a huge proponent of public education, but acknowledges that it frequently fails its pupils, and he has both volunteered, and donated to some Chicago-area schools. He has also publicly denounced gun violence, and is an activist there as well—he helped create and distribute a campaign that saw Chicago go 42 hours without a gun-related violent crime. That had basically been unheard of prior to his social media campaign.

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He is also one of the key figures in the “My Brother’s Keeper Challenge.”

The man is only a year older than I am. He’s 23.

If you haven’t taken the time to yet, I urge you to take a few minutes of your time, and listen to a bit of his music, and keep your eyes and ears open to see what this brilliant young activist does next. He’s still on the way up, and a worthy figure to pay attention to; I’m only moderately ashamed I hadn’t heard of him six months ago.

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