How a 23-year-old rapper who refuses to sign a record deal made Grammys history

Chance the Rapper (m). Photo: Getty

Chance the Rapper is the most talented rapper of his generation and a pioneer in the music industry. His latest album, “Colouring Book,” won him a 2017 Grammy for best new artist.

He also won his first Grammy for best rap performance, for his song “No Problem,” featuring Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz.

This year, the Grammys made streaming-only albums available for awards consideration for the first time, which allowed “Colouring Book” to be nominated. Because of the new rule, Chance, whose real name is Chancellor Bennett, made history as the first artist to win a Grammy based on a streaming-only album. 

“Colouring Book” is so popular that it’s the first streaming-only album to chart on Billboard’s ranking.

Miraculously, Chance has done all of this without a label supporting him. He’s turned down record deals from numerous labels, and depends on word-of-mouth and his SoundCloud account for distribution.

Meet the most successful fully independent musician of our era:

Chance the Rapper calls his albums 'mixtapes.' He recorded his first one in his senior year of high school.

Chancelor Bennett Aka Chance The Rapper in 2013. Photo: Matthew Eisman/Getty Images

He formally kicked off his career with the song 'Windows.' It got him some attention in Chicago's hip hop scene, and Chance spent another eight months tinkering with the rest of the album.

His first album — '10 Day '— gave Chance a cult following.

US radio and TV personality Peter Rosenberg (L) and Chance The Rapper (R). Photo: Johnny Nunez/WireImage./Getty

The album was released in 2012 and received over 400,000 downloads on the music-sharing site DatPiff and got Chance a cult following.

It's called '10 Day' because he wrote it during a 10-day suspension from high school.

A few months later, Childish Gambino (Donald Glover) featured him on his song 'They Don't Like Me.'

Paul Butterfield/Getty

Listen to it here.

A year later, Chance instantly became a star with his album 'Acid Rap,' which was downloaded over a million times.

Chance the Rapper

'Acid Rap' got on a bunch of best-of-2013 lists. The most popular song on the album on SoundCloud, 'Favourite Song,' features Childish Gambino.

Chance also collaborated with Vic Mensa on the hit song 'Cocoa Butter Kisses.'

LEFT: Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for 100,000 Opportunities Initiative. RIGHT: Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images
Vic Mensa (left) and Chance the Rapper (right).

The song was a hit, and Mensa is having a similar career trajectory on his own.

But Chance didn't keep doing the same thing over and over again. He joined a band and made uplifting Christian rock.

In 2015, Chance joined a band called Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment, a collective of Chicago-based musicians, for a quirky album called 'Surf.'

The music was a stylistic departure for Chance. His vocal performance was still rap, but it's not really a rap album. The whole thing takes a jazzy and explicitly Christian tone. The highlight is a track called 'Sunday Candy.' Chance co-directed the music video.

Performing on 'Saturday Night Live' was a career landmark.


Chance performed 'Sunday Candy' and 'Paradise' from 'Surf' on 'Saturday Night Live' on December 15, 2015. He was the first unsigned artist to do so.

Then he made five tracks with Kanye West.

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

In 2014, Chance worked on five songs for Kanye West's 2016 album 'The Life of Pablo.'

He provided guest vocals for 'Ultralight Beam,' rapping 'I met Kanye West, I'm never going to fail/He said let's do a good arse job with Chance three/I hear you gotta sell it to snatch the Grammy/Let's make it so free and the bars so hard/That there ain't one gosh darn part you can't tweet.'

He and Kanye appeared together on 'SNL' the night 'The Life of Pablo' dropped.


The two performed 'Ultralight Beam' together.

In 2016, Chance released the album 'Colouring Book' and rapped about how much he hates record labels.

Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images

His song 'No Problem' is about how much Chance wants to keep record labels far, far away from his music. The album is widely considered to be one of the best of the year.

Kanye also appears on the upbeat opening track, 'All We Got,' and Lil Wayne, T-Pain, Justin Bieber, and Future drop verses on other songs on the album.

Despite being streaming-only, it became a top-10 Billboard hit.

Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for vitaminwater

It hit #8 in its peak position, the first streaming-exclusive album to get on the chart.

He briefly became a meme at the MTV Video Music Awards.

In the middle of a backstage interview with MTV, Chance was interrupted by Beyoncé sneaking up behind him. He, quite understandably, freaked out.

Then the Grammys changed their rules for him.

Photo: Getty

Now that he's BFFs with Kanye and 'Coloring Book' is a success, the music industry has to accept Chance whether they want to or not. Given the success of 'Coloring Book,' the Grammys changed their rules in June to allow streaming-only titles to be nominated.

Chance got seven nominations for the 2017 Grammys.

Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Anheuser-Busch

CBS unveiled its 2017 Grammy nominations on December 6, and Chance was nominated for seven of them.

'Colouring Book' was nominated in the best rap album category, up against albums from Drake, DJ Khaled, De La Soul, Schoolboy Q, and his mentor Kanye West.

He was also nominated for best new artist, for best rap performance, and best rap song with his single 'No Problem,' and for performing on Kanye's 'Ultralight Beam.'

He's already won two awards -- including the Grammy for best new artist.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

At 23 years old, Chance won the coveted best new artist award at the 2017 Grammys.

He also nabbed the Grammy for best rap performance, which was given out before the ceremony. It was for his song 'No Problem,' featuring Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz, off his album 'Colouring Book.'

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