Why Chance the Rapper Makes Music for Free (and How He Actually Makes Money) – Vanity Fair

‘I never wanted to sell my music,” says Chance the Rapper, “because I
thought putting a price on it put a limit on it and inhibited me from
making a connection.” Chance (whose real name is Chancellor Johnathan
Bennett) has been nominated for seven Grammys this year for Coloring
Book
—the first album to top the Billboard chart solely from streaming.
Here, the politically active, 23-year-old Chicago native talks with Lisa
Robinson about politics, rap, and free music.

LISA ROBINSON: You campaigned for Hillary Clinton and you helped get out
the vote in Illinois. Do you think performers have an obligation to be
politically involved?

CHANCE THE RAPPER: I think our duty as American citizens is to be
involved and engaged in anything that affects us. As an artist, I have
to use my platform, and as a dad, a brother, and a black man, I have to
be as socially woke and present as possible. I don’t feel great about
[the results of the election], but in all honesty, I wasn’t that
surprised that Trump won. I’m not a pessimist . . . but I’m always
woke and waiting to find something fishy going on so I can let
motherfuckers know.

L.R.: You rap but you sing too—how would you describe yourself?

CHANCE: I love to sing, but I always considered myself first and
foremost a rapper, and I put it in my name on purpose. Rap music is a
combination of many different arts to make something new. There’s always
been a stigma that its existence would be short and only appeal to a
certain group—but it’s the biggest music in the world.

L.R.: Are you still living in Chicago?

CHANCE: In 2014, after my Acid Rap mixtape, I moved to L.A. for six
months, but I couldn’t really do it—I moved right back. I’ve lived
here my whole life; Chicago is a beautiful city—the architecture, the
food, everything in the city is awesome.

L.R.: Your father, Ken Williams-Bennett, ran early Senate campaigns for
Barack Obama and was a head of personnel in President Obama’s first term
in the White House. Is he proud of your success?

CHANCE: My dad is probably the most proud person when it comes to me,
and we have a great relationship. If people have a compliment about my
character, they usually say they can tell I was raised right, and that’s
the truth.

L.R.: How did you turn a school suspension into a successful mixtape?

CHANCE: All through high school I made mixtapes, passed them out for
free, and performed in open-mike and talent shows. I showed up . . .
but I didn’t really care about school. In my senior year I managed to
not get suspended until midway through the school year, when a police
officer found me smoking weed in an alley. I got suspended, I made the
10 Day mixtape . . . it was the first time I called myself Chance the
Rapper, and it created a buzz for me in Chicago like I’d never seen.

L.R.: How and why do you still give your music away for free? And how do
you make money?

CHANCE: After I made my second mixtape and gave it away online, my plan
was to sign with a label and figure out my music from there. But after
meeting with the three major labels, I realized my strength was being
able to offer my best work to people without any limit on it. My first
two projects are on places where you can get music for free. With
Coloring Book, Apple had it on their streaming service exclusively for
two weeks for free—and then it was available on all the places my
earlier work is still available on. I make money from touring and
selling merchandise, and I honestly believe if you put effort into
something and you execute properly, you don’t necessarily have to go
through the traditional ways.

L.R.: How do you feel about the Grammys?

CHANCE: I feel like God puts everything in place.

The Weeknd.

The Weeknd.

Frank Ocean

Frank Ocean

Björk

Björk

Daft Punk

Daft Punk

FKA twigs

FKA twigs

D'Angelo

D’Angelo

Fiona Apple

Fiona Apple

Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan

The Knife

The Knife

André 3000

André 3000

Enya

Enya

Death Grips

Death Grips

Jeff Mangum

Jeff Mangum

Kate Bush

Kate Bush

Aphex Twin

Aphex Twin

The Residents

The Residents

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