By Michael Million
With the ending of the Grammy Awards on Feb. 12, 2017, Chance the Rapper, born Chancelor Johnathon Bennet, established himself as a prominent figure in music for the millennial generation. The melodies of tracks like “Juke Jam” and his powerhouse features on notable well-known tracks such as “Ultralight Beam” on Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo” have helped the young Chicago-born MC to become a fan-favorite. So much so that shows such as Jimmy Kimmel and Saturday Night Live booked him as musical talent. He even became the first-ever unsigned musical guest on Saturday Night Live due to popular demand.
For an artist’s music to qualify for a Grammy, it must be commercially released to the public. Chance the Rapper does not believe in the commercial sale of his music and allows it to be downloaded freely. On May 13, 2016, Apple Music sponsored the release of his mixtape “Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book,” which was met with great admiration from his fans. He was notched at number eight on the Billboard 200 with 38,000 equivalent album units. Since Chance did not sell a single album, it needed to be streamed a total of fifteen hundred times for it to equal one album sold. He became the first artist reaching this high on the list without selling units to boost his numbers.
After the release, fans flooded social media to support Chance to make his music Grammy-eligible. “I think it’s great that we as fans have a voice in the matter,” Dioyonte Alleyne, a senior broadcasting major, said. “Allowing the consumers to recognize who they feel is deserving of an honor for a product they made is the whole point of the award show.”
This surge of support from fans and backing from other artists, including Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Beyonce, helped pushed The Recording Academy to make changes to its rules regarding eligibility for the first time. The new rule allowed for music, that is available for free to the public, to be eligible for nomination as long as it’s available on a music streaming service that has a paid subscription option. This is a big change from the old format allowing for a wider range of music to be nominated, free or not.
Chance the Rapper made history at the Grammys, becoming the first artist to win a Grammy without registering a single record sold. He ended the night winning awards for Best New Artist, Best Performance, and most notably for Best Rap Album, a category in which he went head to head with Drake’s “Views” and Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo”.
Chance opened his speech with a gentle lighthearted laugh: the one of a young 23-year old that accomplished something that had never been done in the history of the music industry. “Glory be to God! I claim this victory in the name of the Lord,” yelled the Chicago-native, expressing thanks and love to the many people that supported him. As the music started to drown Chance out during his time on the mic, one thing was made clear. Chance the Rapper had arrived and there was no denying his claim to the music industry any further.