Chance the Rapper is Now Chance the Protagonist

On October 4th, Chance the Rapper made a large announcement. No, it wasn’t the release of a new album; rather, it was a one million dollar donation to mental health services in Chicago.

The twenty-five-year-old Windy City native took the stage at the second annual meeting of his non-profit SocialWorks to detail the plan. Six mental health providers in the city will receive $100,000 from the charity and the remaining $400,000 is yet to be allocated. The donation is part of “My State of Mind,” a new initiative at SocialWorks that aims to connect individuals in need with mental health treatment. “We want to change the way that mental health resources are being accessed,” Chance said.

This commitment comes in conjunction with an additional donation of $100,000 to twenty different Chicago public schools. Chance, himself a former student of the city’s public schools, pledged to a crowd of supporters, “We will be upping the game in terms of equity, in terms of what is rightfully yours. Principals, teachers, we got your back.” In just two years, Chance, born Chancellor Bennett, has donated $4.2 million to Chicago Public Schools through SocialWorks.

Since finding his way into the mainstream after the hugely successful release of his mixtape Coloring Book in 2016, Chance the Rapper has become known as much for his charitable work as he is for the colorful beats and truthful lyrics that distinguish his music. Though individuality is part of his identity, Chance is part of a new group of stars who are dedicated to using their status to benefit their communities. In his hometown of Akron, Ohio, NBA superstar Lebron James opened the I Promise School, which guarantees a scholarship to the University of Akron for all graduates. Kylian Mbappé, the nineteen-year-old face of French soccer, donated his World Cup winnings to a sports-based charity in the depressed suburbs of Paris where he grew up.

While we’ve seen celebrities, musicians, and athletes make prominent donations to voice their support before, this era has brought upon a new wave of influencers who seem to be genuinely serious in intention. Sure, Chance is still out there writing massive checks and getting fabulous press, but he is also making concrete contributions at ground zero. He attended a city council meeting last November to voice his opposition to a proposed $95 million police academy, and every month, he personally hosts an open-mic night at the Harold Washington Library in Chicago’s South Loop. Chance provides kids with a platform he wished he had in high school. He isn’t just in touch with the community; he is a part of it.

In 2017, Chance became the first artist to win a Grammy for a streaming-only album and gained recognition for his anti-establishment aplomb. In his music, too, it’s obvious that Chance the Rapper is committed to making a difference and getting things done. He called for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to resign and announced his purchase of a failing local news website in one of his songs.

On a recent track, Chance perfectly sums up his role as a musician and a Chicagoan, rapping, “I ain’t no activist, I’m the protagonist.”