When I speak about Chance The Rapper, I almost exclusively just say Chance. I didn’t realise that was weird or unusual until I started writing this. Maybe it isn’t. Maybe you all do it. Who cares. This, is not, about, you. It’s about me. And Chance, a bit, I guess. As if that guy doesn’t get enough attention.
It’s an affectionate term, but it’s not borne from choice – it’s habit. I was 18 when I first heard Chance, back when his name still needed the suffix to tell people what he was. I’m not a day-1 er, or, a 10 Day-er, precisely – my life changed whilst listening to a Childish Gambino cut, and that wasn’t the first, or the last time that’s happened. I’ll spare you the complete story of where I was and what I was doing because it is only special to me – though I will say I’ve never felt happier standing in a cold flat with a friend.
The song is called ‘They Don’t Like Me’, and it’s an early, raw Chance verse bookended by two short Gambino passages. Incidentally, it’s also one of the pivotal moments in modern hip hop. I see it personally as the artistic genesis of Chance The Rapper, because it contains everything that makes him the superlative, upper echelon artist that he is today. If we’re talking guest verses of the last ten years, this is nestled right up there. It’s below this right now so make my life easier (and yours better) by listening to it now.
I have to assume it’s lost just a bit of its power, because we all know that Chance can rap god-level at this point, we all know about his inimitable energy, we all know how he can make you feel like the world isn’t just OK, but beautiful, and worth saving, to borrow a line. To hear all that for the first time without having a scooby who you were listening to is a memory I hold very close to my heart, and it hasn’t happened again in the 4 years since, as much as I’ve willed it to. Cue:
“Eddie Scissorhands is working on my liningggg”
Bear in mind I had completely glossed over the fact there was a feature on the song. It was an unadulterated shock to the system. Screwface to this day when I hear that.
“In school I got suspended, but in turn I got some earnings
Could’ve spent it all on Thursday, but I saved it for my parents”
Is a window into Chance’s approach to family, which objectively, for all I like to hear him beat on a track, is probably his greatest strength.
“I’m tired of McDonalds, want a chick that cook chicano
That can’t speak a lick of English, and pronounce my name like Chano”
I’m not going to go into the haughty shit they tried to teach us at university in Poetry classes but my god is that a tasty morsel of genius.
“Tonigggggghhht I’mma make decisions for liiifffeeeee”
As enduring as his writing is in this verse, the real shock came from the timbre of his voice. Chance’s voice is his god given gift. It glows, somehow, even though it’s audio and it’s a silly, illogical description – but you try and find a better way to describe it.
To me it’s the sound of what it is to be young, to be hopeful, to be alive – and I hate to get so pretentious when discussing a thing that is so pure and uncluttered in its brilliance but Chance has got me a little fucked up trying to put words to his talent. This verse reminded me of the idea that anything’s possible, and never more than while we’re young, dumb, and unsure of where our life is headed.
So I’ll keep it simple. So simple that I’ll even be using Chance’s own words to describe what he has given me, us, the culture, the world – he made us remember how to smile good. You can’t put a price on that, and the beautiful thing about it is: Chance has never tried to.