Is Chance The Rapper About to Make Believing in God Cool?
By: Alex Marcheschi
Rappers have always had a way of making things seem cool.
Saying “YOLO”? Cool.
Poppin’ molly? Cool.
Committing grand theft auto? Cool.
Believing in God? Cool?
I’ve been really into music since about 2005 and I can’t remember any artist, let alone a rapper, dropping an album largely centered around God only to have it met with universal praise. We made this meme a few weeks ago, it’s a joke, but there’s a little truth to it.
RUN DMC used to drop bangers about God, but I don’t think I had even gained consciousness at that point in time (1993). In the rap community, rhyming about Jesus, faith and positivity has been considered career suicide for a while now.
***Update: Some have commented that Kanye made “Jesus Walks.” While that is true, that was just one song, not an album. Also, in the song, Kanye talks about how making music about God is risky – “If I talk about God, my record won’t get played, huh!?!”***
LeCrae has been trying to put out Christian rap for years, and he’s seen some success (the video below has over five million views), but he’s still never even come close to going as mainstream as Chance.
So, how did he do it? How did “Lil Chano from 79th,” as the rapper calls himself, get America to buy into his faith-based music?
Because it’s 100% genuine.
79th Street in Chicago, where Chance grew up, is one of the most dangerous streets in America. From 2001 to 2012, there were more US deaths in Chicago than in Iraq. He’s seen some shit, as they say, and he’s not afraid to tell us about it. But, the real reason he can pull off rapping about God so frequently is because he refuses to sign with a label. He’s turned down Kendrick’s “TDE” label and even Kanye’s “G.O.O.D. Music.” Labels essentially tell rappers what they can and can’t say, because they fund the project. I’d venture a guess that if Chance tried pushing “Coloring Book” on an actual label, there would have been at least five songs that they would have refused to publish. It’s too risky to rap about faith in their eyes. Just listen to the first 2:45 of “How Great,” it’s basically an aggressive Gospel song.
If I was a parent, I’d buy my kid 14 copies of “Coloring Book.” It’s real. It works because he doesn’t have to answer to anyone, his music literally comes straight from the heart. Matthew 21:16 is a famous Bible verse that reads, “Do You hear what these children are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies You have prepared praise for Yourself’?” It basically means that children know what’s up. And here’s some proof that Chance brings the real:
That’s some hardcore proof that Chance’s music is real.
It also helps that he’s not afraid to curse and talk about experimenting with drugs and alcohol in the same song that he praises God in. There are real people who do drugs, drink, curse and believe in God. Chance is naturally making relatable music, it’s not forced, and people feel that. Nobody will ever mistake “No Problem” for a gospel song, but that’s OK because “Coloring Book” reflects life, there’s a time and a place for everything.
It’s been great to see Chance see this success. It speaks to how beneficial it is to truly be yourself. One of my favorite lines from the album comes off of the song “Mixtape,” where Chance raps, “How could they call they selves bosses? You gotta see what your boss says. I get it straight out the faucet.” In reality, I could’ve just pasted that lyric in here and it would have said everything I wanted to say. Whether your “boss” is your actual boss, a feeling of self-consciousness, the fear of being judged or just fear in general…very few of us are getting it “straight out the faucet.”
“Coloring Book” is the first critically acclaimed, widely-listened-to rap album about faith that has impacted society like this. It’s fun to see, and one would think Chance may be setting a trend. Hopefully we’ll be seeing more artists actually speak their minds now, following Chance’s lead of rejecting the money that comes along with signing a record deal. He’s proving that you can still become wildly influential and wealthy without sacrificing your soul, and that’s something we should all get behind.
p.s. I think’s important to mention that Chance makes a song like this every once and a while too…gotta blow out the pipes, it’s just natural.