It was a little over a year ago that Chance the Rapper got suspended from school.
The self-professed troublemaker received a 10-day suspension from Jones College Prep after several run-ins with officials.
Viewing the suspension as an opportunity, Chance headed directly to the studio to work on his debut mixtape, “10 Day,” an ode to his suspension.
Because he had dreamed of becoming a performer someday, he joined the high school slam poetry team and released occasional mixtapes with a group of friends under the name Instrumentality. But it wasn’t until he was sent home from school during his senior year that he got really serious about his craft.
“I had a lot of time to think about my place in the world and what I was doing,” said Chance, 19, born Chancellor Bennett. (He will perform Nov. 23 on a “Black Friday” bill Sir Michael Rocks and Milo & Otis at Metro.) “I wasn’t as focused on my music as I should be, and I knew I needed to spend more time on it. That’s what those two weeks allowed.”
Released earlier this year, “10 Day,” is markedly different than what people may expect to come out of Chicago these days.
With “drill” music — characterized by frantic beats rife with gunshots and tales of gritty street life — dominating the scene, Chance is a breath of fresh air, even if he doesn’t see it that way.
He insists he’s not the antithesis of Chief Keef, the controversial 17-year-old local rapper who has garnered national attention for his pistol-laden music videos and songs.
“People always tell me I’m the complete opposite of Chief Keef and act like I’m supposed to stop him from making his music,” Chance said. “But I like Chief Keef, so it’s always super awkward. I just make music I like.”
Instead, the eclectic South Side artist favors soulful beats, produced by local products Peter CottonTale, Chuck Inglish and Blended Babies, among others. He tends to trade gunshots for Brenda Russell samples and Animorph references. His style is more Kanye West than 2 Chainz, more Drake than Young Jeezy.
Regardless of the comparison, Chance the Rapper is as Chicago as Derrick Rose at Giordano’s.
While he may draw comparisons to hometown predecessors, Chance represents a new generation of hip-hop in the Windy City.
In his recent single, “Clique,” the always-extravagant West rhymes: “I’d rather buy 80 gold chains and go ignorant.” In his verse on Childish Gambino’s “They Don’t Like Me,” Chance explains, “In turn I got some earnings/Could have spent it all on Tuesday but I saved it for my parents.”
The lyrics sum up the philosophy of his Save Money team. Chance and a group of friends advocate a more frugal, responsible way of living that breaks from the stereotypical norm of rap culture, which has long glamorized irrational spending.
Another distinct generational difference is the current bright spotlight on the local hip-hop scene, with the kind of media attention usually reserved for New York and Los Angeles artists.
“I think it’s so dope that I’m here in Chicago and contributing to the music scene that’s thriving,” Chance said. “People are so happy Chicago’s shining that everyone is willing to say ‘I represent Chicago.’ That wasn’t always the case.”
Another sort of spotlight has been cast on the city because of the rash of murders this year. With the attention has come a call for local artists to speak out about the violence.
“I feel like I definitely have a responsibility to at least speak on what’s going on,” Chance said. “As artists, we’re supposed to report and speak about what’s going on. But I don’t blame anyone musically for the violence.”
For now, he’s just excited to work on his follow-up project, titled “Acid Rap,” due in early 2013, and gear up for his “Black Friday” show, which will feature unreleased songs from the future project.
“There’s nothing like doing a show at home,” he said. “When you do a show in Chicago, there’s just a certain love that you don’t feel anywhere else; it’s like home base.”
Jake Krzeczowski is a locally based free-lance writer.