‘I Guess’ is Kathy Iandoli’s battle cry of #shruglife. It’s everything that impresses us and unimpresses us—which could be one in the same given the day.
I’m really not an expert on Chance The Rapper at all. The only thing I know is that if Apple Music admitted to behaving like a record label, then Chance would be their flagship artist. That’s about it. That and he’s pretty fucking talented. 2013’s Acid Rap was one of those projects geared to shape-shift the next five years of hip-hop had mumble rap not taken over like, “Just kidding!” However, it did solidify Chance as a force; the “indie rapper” tag not withstanding.
When he dropped his mixtape Coloring Book in 2016, it quickly became an “album” in the Grammy world, as he took home three awards that following year, including Best Rap Album. Funnily enough, other rappers like Drake would challenge the Grammys for their stiff categories, though Coloring Book would somehow bypass that categorization glitch and fit perfectly into that fantasy ambiguity. Performances on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Harvard talks, hanging out with Obama, and doing a Kit Kat commercial all propelled the Chicago native to the next level. And of course, every new level comes with a whole new set of haters.
So here we are, five years following Acid Rap, and Chance drops off four new songs this week (“I Might Need Security,” “Work Out,” “Wala Cam,” and “65th & Ingleside”). These all drop in the midst of a self-concocted new album rumor that he’s since squashed, yet he’s “def been in the stu tho.” Apparently the elusive project was supposed to arrive timed with the Special Olympics on July 21. (If that still happens before this column posts, then whoops! I don’t write in real-time.) Anyway, the four songs he did offer up were in the signature style of the man we now casually call “Chano.” Chance has kind of made his music this podium of bars where each line is a carefully constructed quotable. As soon as these tracks dropped, we got the Twitter storm of: “When Chance said [insert line from song], I felt that.”
The one song of the four that’s been getting the most social media burn is “I Might Need Security.” The cover art is an abstract embodiment of the Arthur meme, the song and title are inspired by Jamie Foxx’s “I Might Need Security” standup bit, Chance admits to buying the Chicagoist on the song, and he gets political as fuck, but then also says things like, “Still in my bag like the fries at the bottom.” So yeah, it’s a nice cross-section of the internets, nostalgia, current topics, and internet-quality #bars.
However, half of the web hates everything Chance-related.
Scanning both Twitter and Facebook, it’s really a mixed bag of superlatives used to describe Chance the Rapper and his music. Tweets like, “I will listen to anything Chance drops” are chased with tweets like, “I will never listen to anything Chance drops.” This is due largely to his flimsy social media politics back in the Spring, where he expressed that not all Black people have to be democrats but then turned around and slammed Donald Trump arguably for effect). This was all during Kanye West’s weird MAGA spasms. And while Chance was one of the major players on Kanye’s 2016 The Life of Pablo, we also learned earlier this month that he too is joining the full-Kanye-produced project bandwagon and working with his Chicagoan elder on an effort as well. This did nothing to Nas in the way of criticism, but it may do everything to Chance since he has a whole cannon full of naysayers ready to blast off.
The critiques delve deeper into his catalog beyond the ‘Ye stigma. Some feel that Acid Rap was his last quality project. Others feel like his lyrical content has drastically shifted ever since the fame trickled in. The retorts from fans are more regional, on these new releases in particular. Apparently, if you’re not from Chicago then you can’t appreciate “Wala Cam” (I like the song and I’ve only been to Chicago once, so…I guess). But there’s no denying that Chance is a philanthropist, especially for the Windy City, so that loyalty runs deep.
The problem with this whole debate is not in the now-polarizing opinions of Chance, but with the temporary pedestals that artists are placed upon whenever they do something against the grain. That will only result in disappointment. Every time.
We saw that many moons ago with Lupe Fiasco, when he “Kick Pushed” his way into our hearts and everyone deemed him the messiah. Shit, rewind back a little earlier to 20 years ago next month when Lauryn Hill dropped The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill; Lauryn forecasts it herself on the album: “They hail you, then they nail you. No matter who you are.”
You have every right to love an artist, just as much as you have every right to dislike them. You don’t have a right to determine their fate in music based upon one isolated project, song, tweet, comment, Instagram post, charitable offering, engagement, etc. — mainly because it’s futile. And the reason why is because nothing is fixed. There is nothing so monumentally grandiose that an artist can do that will forever keep them in the public’s favor. This also plays in reverse, unfortunately, as there’s nothing ever too heinous that an artist can do that will stop their continued success with their loyal core. We can look to another Chicago native R. Kelly for further proof of that. But for the record, Chance has neither done something so amazing to keep him permanently lifted nor something so awful to stage a protest. He’s just out here flourishing, with some evident mistakes sprinkled in.
So devour these new Chance the Rapper songs or hit unsubscribe. It really doesn’t matter. For better or worse. *Kanye shrug.*
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