Why the 23-year-old who is dominating the hip-hop world refuses to sign a record label

Chance the RapperPhoto by Jason Merritt/Getty ImagesMANCHESTER, TN – JUNE 13: Artist Chance The Rapper performs at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival on June 13, 2014 in Manchester, Tennessee.

With the release of his latest album, “Colouring Book,” Chance the Rapper is taking over the hip hop world. And while most 23-year-olds in his position might rush to sign a multimillion dollar record label deal, Chance is holding out.

He’s staying an independent artist — and he’s excited about it.

“I’ve met with every A&R, VP of A&R, president of the labels, CEOs. I know all these people,” Chance told Fader last year.

“I’ve had a lot of advice from people [in the industry] who wouldn’t give me that same advice today. It’s not even that they have any ill will towards me because I didn’t take their advice at the time. They’re almost like, ‘Keep going. You’re in uncharted territory, and you’re helping to shed light on what [the future of the business] will look like, and we’re all curious.'”

By staying independent, Chance can keep pushing the music industry to the limit. He’s released all three of his albums (which he calls “mixtapes”) for free, along with a collaborative album he worked on. Instead of making money by selling his music, he gets his income from concert performances and merchandise sales.

The strategy is working so far. Chance’s first album, “10 Day,” went viral in the hip hop world with more than 400,000 downloads on the music-sharing site DatPiff. He was just a year out of high school. It got him enough attention to work with other artists — like Childish Gambino and, eventually, Kanye West — which raised his profile even more.

Because he didn’t have a record label, he didn’t need to do very much negotiating to collaborate with other musicians. And with those collaborations, he learned how to make better music. As he became more famous, more people listened to his music.

In the song “No Problem” on “Colouring Book,” Chance rapped about how much he hates record labels. The album is a hit, and Chance might be one of the few independent artists to snatch a Grammy nomination. He’s clearly succeeding without a record label behind him, so why sign on to one and lose his creative freedom?

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