Words by Izzy Furlan
He’s not your typical Grammy nominee; he’s never signed a record deal or even sold a physical album of his music. And yet, this year at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards, Chicago native Chance the Rapper will not only perform at the ceremony, alongside the likes of Beyoncé, Adele, The Weeknd, Anderson .Paak, Alicia Keys, John Legend, Metallica, A Tribe Called Quest, and Bruno Mars, among others, but he will also be up for 7 total Grammy awards himself. When Billboard magazine interviewed Chance’s manager Pat Corcoran back in December, he even stated, “I had no idea. I was so nervous that we were going to be overlooked. I just don’t know how those types of things work.”
This sense of surprise was inevitable, for Chance himself and for his fans. Until this year, Chance’s 2016 release Coloring Book would not have even been considered for a Grammy. At that time, the Grammy eligibility requirements stated that, “For the 58th Annual Grammy Awards...Recordings must be commercially released in general distribution in the United Stated, i.e. sales by label to a branch or recognized independent distributor, via the Internet, or mail order / retail sales for a nationally marketed product. Recordings must be available for sale from any date within the eligibility period through at least the date of the current year’s voting deadline.” Chance even referenced this in his verse on Kanye West’s “Ultralight Beam,” which, coincidentally, is also up for the Grammy for Best Song of the Year, against Chance’s own “No Problem.” The song was released on February 14th ; quite a few months before the Recording Academy made their decision:
“I met Kanye West, I’m never going to fail
He said let’s do a good ass 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”
Then, after a little push from Pharrell and of course an outburst of support from his fans, Chance was inspired to create a petition to change that rule:
The change would allow Chance’s newest album, Coloring Book, to be in contention for a Grammy award, despite the fact that it was solely released for free streaming and purchase on Apple Music. The petition was more than successful; Chance collected over 40,000 signatures on his petition, a feat thats not all that shocking considering the popularity he has gained over the past few years and the influence that he has had on the lives of so many. After submitting the petition, the Academy Recording Committee amended their rules and on June 16, 2016, when the news came that for the 59th Annual Grammy Awards, they would allow the, “previously ineligible streaming-only works into the process.” The change went into effect immediately, leading to Chance receiving a total of seven Grammy nominations. This Sunday Chance is in the running for: Best New Artist; Best Rap Performance and for “No Problem;” Best Rap/Sung Performance for Kanye’s “Ultralight Beam” and "Famous;" Best Rap Song for his writing credits on Kanye’s "Ultralight Beam", “Famous” and his own "No Problem;" and the big one, Best Rap Album with “Coloring Book.”
It's not just Chance (and daughter Kensli) packing for their first Grammy weekend, Chance's Coloring Book nominations bring a gang of local talent along for the ride including Noname, Carter Lang, Knox Fortune, Cam O'bi, Eryn Allen Kane, Jack Red, Jamila Woods and more. Of course The Social Experiment band is all over the record and just as involved in the creation and performance of the project as Chance was. Aside from the direct benefactors of this new change to the way the Recording Academy recognizes accomplishments in music, there are also countless other independent artists that could potentially be in the running in future years. At the very least, the debates of what should or should not receive nominations just got a little more complicated.
Creating change in such an establishment is no small feat, a combination of his strong fan base, and the respect that they all have for him as a person and artist that will continue propel Chance to the top. That combined with his own honest humility, which can be seen every time he tenderly references his daughter on social media, or in his unbreakable cheery public attitude, as seen in almost every interview with this rising superstar, makes Chance not only a fan favorite, but also an inspiration to countless other musicians and hip-hop artists. While his influence has always most directly influenced the Chicago music scene, it is has also started to cross national borders, giving hope to every artist who values their independence that may not have the resources or desire to sign to a major record label.
Of course, Chance has never been shy about where he comes from, and Chicago has continuously responded by giving that love right back to him. Diehard fans are hoping for the best; seven Grammy awards in one night would put Chance in the same category as Michael Jackson, Santana, Roger Miller, Quincy Jones, Eric Clapton, Beyoncé, and Adele for the most Grammys won in one night. However, because a couple of his nominations fall within the same category, Chance only has the opportunity to take home five at best this year. Still too many gramophones to fit into one suitcase.
The 59th Annual Grammy Awards will air this Sunday, February 12th, so be sure to tune in as we watch history being made. I am betting on Chance bringing out some friends for his performance. Whether you’re a diehard Chance fan or not, this year’s ceremony is chock full of performances that should not be missed. Tune in to CBS this Sunday at 7pm CST, or stream the ceremony online.