Chance the Rapper is only 23, and he’s already tearing apart the hip hop world. He’s so young that he wrote his first album while he was still in high school.
The title of “10 Day,” his first mixtape, refers to the ten days of suspension he got in his senior year of Jones College Prep in 2011 for smoking weed. During that suspension period, the rapper wrote the first draft of that album, according to Rolling Stone.
He released a few singles after that. “Windows” got some attention in Chicago’s music scene. Chance tinkered with the rest of the album for another year, finally releasing it on April 3, 2012. It quickly went viral in the hip hop world, getting over 400,000 downloads on the music-sharing site DatPiff and winning Chance a cult following.
“My parents always wanted me to go to college,” Chance told Pitchfork.
“…I got suspended a lot, but senior year I got suspended for smoking weed right before spring break, which was sick because I had three weeks in a row off. I wasn’t really good at high school or getting good grades and shit, and at that point, I wasn’t going to graduate. I was looking at my life and just like, ‘Who am I supposed to be?'”
As a high-schooler, Chance recorded his music in a studio run by YOUmedia, a space run by the Digital Youth Network and Chicago Public Libraries and available to Chicago high school students. It has computers available to be used by students who don’t have one, and a performance space where Chance honed his skills as a rapper.
And after he won a second place prize for a local songwriting contest, he met Chicago’s then-mayor Richard Daley. Daley came into the studio and listened to some of his music. By then, Chance was YOUmedia’s star artist.
Chance spent the year between his first draft of “10 Day” and its release learning everything about the music industry. He learned how to run concerts, record music, and market his album all on his own. As he told Fader:
It’s so dope that I was able to be the age that I was when I was coming up… People were just realising how to use YouTube on a DIY level. Twitter, SoundCloud — all that shit was just starting to pop when I was making 10 Day. A lot of people out of Chicago were able to flourish because it was so new.
In this new digital age, Chance doesn’t need record labels. He’s striking it out on his own. And it’s working.
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