Chance the Rapper spearheads #SaveChicago campaign

Photo by Allen Daniels

On Chancelor Bennett’s sophomore mixtape, “Acid Rap,” he rhymes on “Paranoia”: “It just got warm out/this the s— I been warned about/I hope it storm in the morning/I hope it’s pouring out.” For those in-the-know about Chicago summers, it’s a nod to the dramatic uptick in gun violence that tends to follow the rising temperatures.

Last week, Bennett, better known as Chance The Rapper, tweeted cryptic messages: “#May23”, “Save Chicago this Friday” that had the Internet buzzing: debating if he was dropping a new album or playing a surprise show.

In fact, it was neither. Chance joined a project spearheaded by his father, Ken Bennett, who is deputy chief of staff and director of the Mayor’s Office of Public Engagement. The goal was to have zero victims of gunfire on the first day of the holiday weekend through joint promotions with local radio stations and community leaders. The city went 42 hours without a gun-related incident.

“It was a huge thing. I’ve never been a part of something that impactful in my life. Because it was Memorial Day and because it’s summertime and because it’s Chicago, you never now what’s going happen; we don’t know how many lives we saved,” Chance The Rapper said. “Two hours without a shooting isn’t a big deal in a lot of cities, but in Chicago it’s a lot. The next goal is we’re going to make sure there’s not a single body for Fourth of July weekend.”

Chicago radio stations unite Sunday, saying “Put the guns down”
Chance the Rapper calls attention to Chicago violence

The correlation between the weather and gunshot victims is documented. The temperature hit 80 degrees April 12, and that brought 16 shootings across the city that left two dead, including 17-year-old Gakirah Barnes.

The Bennetts employed a three-pronged approach, with Chance’s younger brother and local rising artist Taylor Bennett taking a moment out of his set at Lincoln Hall Saturday to address the violence and mention the #SaveChicago campaign.

“As a South Side Chicago kid I felt the need to get involved with my community and decrease the violence that exists here,” said Taylor Bennett. “We’ve been tweeting about it for weeks so it was a proud moment to see our efforts pay off.”

Several radio stations city-wide are also banding together June 1 for recognition of the violence.

In a statement, On-Air Morning Show Host at 107.5-WGCI FM, Tony Sculfield said, “Radio stations citywide have joined forces to get ‘The Put the Guns Down’ message out to our listeners. The on-air urban radio group simulcast event on June 1 is a continuance of this effort. We are encouraged by the community involvement so far and look forward to increased awareness.”

Chance the Rapper, who is set to perform at Lollapalooza in August, is scheduled to throw out the first pitch before the White Sox take on the San Diego Padres on Friday, with reduced priced tickets for his fans. He also is scheduled to headline Northwestern’s annual Dillo Day with rapper 2 Chainz.

In the lead up to the performance, the Jones College Prep alum also has teamed with several Chicago Public School Principals to select thirty high school seniors to attend the show based on criteria such as “perfect attendance” and “noticeable positive improvement.”

Earlier this year, at a private concert for DePaul students, Chance the Rapper unveiled an unreleased song that opened, “They say I’m saving my city/say I’m staying for good/they screaming Chano for Mayor/I thinking’ maybe I should”. While there may not be a mayoral campaign in his near future, it’s safe to say Chance wears his hometown on his sleeve.

“I want people to be proud of me — period,” said Chance. “I want people to think about my music when they think of Chicago.”

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