It’s safe to say that until his unique performance at the Grammys, the greater majority of America had never heard the name “Chancelor Johnathan Bennett.”
Fast forward to today, and it seems as though Chance The Rapper is making headlines everywhere you look.
On Sunday night, Chance the Rapper became the first artist to win a Grammy without selling physical copies of his music. As a matter of fact, Chance has hardly sold any music at all– instead, he releases his songs online for free.
The young singer won three Grammys (best new artist, best rap album and best rap performance), defeating the likes of Kanye West, Drake and DJ Khaled.
The young American singer, songwriter, record producer and actor has made quite a life for himself. But it hasn’t always been that way and his rise to stardom was almost anything but easy.
After learning more about this young man’s powerful story, I must admit that my admiration for him has only grown all the more.
Chancelor Johnathan (Aka: “Chance The Rapper”) Bennett was born on April 16, 1993 in the West Chatham neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. The eldest of two boys born to Ken and Lisa Bennett; Chance’s father was an aide to former Chicago mayor Harold Washington, and worked for then-Senator Barack Obama.
Papa Bennett had big aspirations for Chance and dreamed that his son would one day hold office. But early on in his childhood, it the handsome young man began running with the wrong crowd.
At a young age, Chance became obsessed with music; soul, jazz, rap, music. If it was music, Chance was into it. His freshman year at Jones College Prep High School, Chance formed a hip-hop duo known simply as “Instrumentality” with a friend.
Deep down, Chance believed he was “called” to change the world through music. The young high schooler recorded two mixtapes, “Good Enough” and “The Back to School Pack EP.” But his teachers ridiculed his aspirations, so naturally, Chance rebelled.
His senior year of high school, Chance was busted for possession of marijuana on campus and was suspended for 10-days. Grounded at home, the young rapper hit a new low, so he turned the music. It was then that Chance recorded his first full-length project, a mixtape titled 10 Day (also known as #10Day).
Chance said that he spent “about eight months recording, writing and making connections off of the hunger to put out something.”
The underground project was riddled with drugs, sex, and innuendoes — a far cry from the music he’s producing these days.
Two months after releasing 10 Day, Chance was highlighted as one of Complex magazine’s “10 New Chicago Rappers to Watch Out For.”
At the ripe age of eighteen, Chance was turning heads in the music industry. On the outside, Chance appeared to be on top of the world. But on the inside, Chance’s life was disaster.
In 2013, Chance began to gain recognition following the release of his second mixtape, Acid Rap. The young artist had gotten the opportunity to turn down every major record label. But achieving so much at such a young age went to his head. He was addicted to drugs and if he didn’t get help soon, his life would undoubtedly be cut short.
Chance recalled the day God began to get his attention: “I was just doing a lot of drugs, just hanging out. I was gone all the time. When I was younger, my grandma said a prayer over me that sounded like a curse. And she looked me in the eyes and she said, ‘I don’t like what’s going on.’ She said, ‘I can see it in your eyes. I don’t like this.’ And she says, ‘We’re gonna pray.’ And she prayed for me all the time. Like, very positive things. But this time, she said, ‘Lord, I pray that all things that are not like You, You take away from Chance. Make sure that he fails at everything that is not like You. Take it away. Turn it into dust.’ ”
Chance left his grandmother’s house in disbelief, shocked that his grandmother would have the nerve to curse his efforts. But it wasn’t long before Chance’s father caught on too.
Chance recalled the day his father intervened on his behalf, “I was messing up as a kid. I went to community college for a week and a half and dropped out, but I was still living at my dad’s house and my dad’s not that type of [man]. He’s no nonsense. Basically, he was like, ‘you’re either gonna get a job or go to school or go to the service.’ I had a little bit of time to figure it out; I didn’t figure it out, so I had to leave the crib while I was getting my [stuff] together. Got caught up in some [bad stuff], one of my friends got killed, and me and my dad afterwards got really, really close and got on the same page. I was able to really tell him how I felt about going after music, and he was like, ‘well if that’s what you want to do, I know life is short and we live in Chicago, I wanna support it’… He straight up campaign managed me.”
By his own admission, Chance was the Prodigal son in modern-day form; a druggie, a “Xan-Zombie.” But within six months of that sobering conversation with his father, Chance rededicated his life to Christ and got clean. It was around that same time when Chance learned that everything would soon change forever; his girlfriend was pregnant. Chance would be a father.
But the road to welcoming his daughter into the world wasn’t easy. Early on in the pregnancy, Chance and his girlfriend, Kirsten Corley, were told that their daughter had a dangerous heart condition.
Chance told GQ, “I think it was the baby that, you know, brought my faith back. My daughter, when she was still in utero, she had, they call it atrial flutters. It’s kind of like an irregular heartbeat. But when you’re in utero, it’s real hard to detect and also to treat. Sometimes you have to get a C-section so they can operate on the baby. And it made me pray a whole lot, you know, and need a lot of angels and just see [everything] in a very, like, direct way.”
After months of tears and desperate prayers, Chance and Kirsten’s beautiful baby girl, Kinsley Bennett, was born on September 21st of 2015. And since her birth, Chance frequently praises God for answering his prayers.
Not long after his daughter’s birth, Chance was inspired to make a new album. But this time, it would be a different kind of album. Chance set out to make “Coloring Book.” And instead of rapping about sex and drugs, his new project would be based around a set of themes: God, love, Chicago, and dance. His newfound faith had begun influencing his music.
Chance rented out a small room in a Chicago studio, and then a second room. “And then we started bringing in more producers and more vocalists and a choir and an orchestra, and at a certain point we were like, ‘Okay, now we need three rooms.’ And eventually we decided to rent out the whole studio, and we just put mattresses in all the rooms and it became a camp.”
Everything about this project was different, because Chance was different. Chance finished the record in two months, his first album without “no smoke or foolishness.” The lyrics; jam-packed full of scriptures and boasting of God’s “Blessings” and goodness just overflowed from his soul. The project released on May 13, 2016. And it wasn’t long before Kanye and every other big name was calling.
Chance’s hit song, “Blessings” expressed the young artist’s unashamed faith in Jesus Christ, as he proclaimed, “I’m gonna’ praise Him, praise him until I’m gone.”
And through every trial and heartbreak, Chance turns to Jesus Christ. Last year, Chance The Rapper received the devastating news that his grandmother had gone to be with their Savior. But even in the midst of heartache, Chance used the opportunity to point others to Christ.
Chance posted an emotional tribute to his grandmother and the first person who pointed him to Jesus Christ; “My grandma, MamaCharlie passed away. thanks everyone for your thoughts and prayers, She is much better and free from all pain in heaven. It hurts at times but at the same time, it makes me excited for Heaven, because I know when we see Him, we shall be like Him. At this time our family needs prayer and privacy most.”
She lived just long enough to watch her grandson find his True Purpose, and there’s no doubt that she’s smiling from heaven today.
Now, less than one year after the release of his new and reformed sound, the blessings continue to come down on Chance The Rapper’s life.
On Sunday, February 12th, 2017, Chance The Rapper became the first independent, “unsigned” artist in America to take not only one, but THREE Grammys. And the unashamed Christian was quick to give all glory to his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Chance humbly took the stage and declared, “Glory be to God, I claim the victory in the name of the Lord! I want to thank God for my mother and my father for supporting me since I was young… I want to thank God for putting amazing people in my life who have carried me through… I claim the victory in the name of Jesus Christ!”
Following his acceptance speech, Chance seized the opportunity to take the 59th annual Grammy Awards to CHURCH.
The young artist worshiped with reckless abandon as he sang “How Great” backed by a choir dressed in white, accompanied by two of gospel music’s biggest stars, Kirk Franklin and Tamela Mann.
Watch Chance’s unashamed and powerful performance as he gives all the glory to Jesus Christ:
“I never really set out to make anything that could pretend to be new gospel or pretend to be the gospel. It’s just music from me as a Christian man because I think before I was making music as a Christian child. And in both cases I have imperfections, but there was a declaration that can be made through going all the [stuff] I’ve been through the last few years. I still think that God means everything to everyone whether they understand it or not — or can really see it for themselves or they find God. I know for a fact we’re not pushed or promoted to speak about God with fervor. I don’t think there’s anything that really allows us to do it as so. But I think the new generation and the forward is all about freedom and all about the ability to do what we want. We’re not free unless we can talk about God.” – Chance The Rapper
Praise God for His redeeming love and grace! While listening to Chance’s inspiring story, I just couldn’t help but think of Colossians 1:13-14 which reads,
“God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son He loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating.”
Thank you, Chance, for sharing your inspiring message of Grace and unashamed faith in Jesus Christ! America needs more Christian rappers and men of Faith like you! Please share if you agree!