WPGM Commentary: Has Chance The Rapper Sold Out Before He Has Even Made It?

(Photo: Courtesy of BWR-LA)

It’s always difficult to agree with every choice your favourite artist makes. Sometimes they make tracks that don’t make every hair on your body tingle but hat’s the kind of ride we share with them – their ups, downs and their come backs. However some choices leave you completely gobsmacked, unable to listen to them in the same way and your utter faith in them shaken. This happened to me for the first time last week. when Chance the Rapper, who has been my favourite rapper to listen to after the release of his EP Acid Rap, teamed up with entertainment’s latest laughing stock, Justin Bieber. Sorry Beliebers but they are just not in the same league.

At first I thought my brother was winding me up. My mind couldn’t fathom such a thing happening. In the last year, Chance has debuted one of the best mixtapes in recent time and broken through out of nowhere to be charted on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums Chart, and that’s even without his project having a retail release – Acid Rap was illegally sold via bootlegged versions on iTunes and Amazon. Despite receiving a penny from his chart success, the steady rise of Chance The Rapper has been undeniable and unstoppable.

However I find it incomprehensible that someone with talent oozing out their skin has been shoved in the shadow of a manufactured phenomenon. Why does Chance feel the need to spend thirty seconds in the back of a Bieber track? It’s not a very good one either and I can say that largely impartially. Being completely honest, I have enjoyed a few of Bieber’s tracks as his style morphed from Pop to more Hip-Hop leaning songs but “Confident” feels generic and mainstream. The complete opposite to what I have come to expect from Chance, who has so far teamed up with Mercury Prize winner James Blake, Twista and Lil Wayne. Somehow the name Justin Bieber just doesn’t fit in with that list, after his recent rebellious behaviour.

I wouldn’t mind so much if I felt that Bieber had some musical talent and wasn’t just a puppet for the people who control his ‘image’ from behind the scenes. Stars like him are engineered to spew top 10 hits down our throats and make little girls faint all around the world. Chance, on the other hand, is organic, his distinct music teaming with witty lyrics and observations plastered over great beats, twisting away from tradition without ignoring it, and his partnering with James Blake on “Life Round Here” provided an unexpected kaleidoscope of talent upon talent.

Some would argue, the same could be said for Will.I.Am or Wiz Khalifa teaming up with the equally controversial Miley Cyrus, but it is not. This goes deeper. All of those parties were established within the industry before coming together and usually, artists make it before they decide to commercialise themselves. Chance, despite his rising fame, isn’t quite there yet, especially in the UK where he has only performed once. This feels like a manipulation of Chance’s clear early success and appeal in order to give credibility to Bieber’s attempt at being taken seriously as an artist.

Perhaps Chance saw this as a way to get more exposure as it was his first debut on VEVO, and the stats – which are what the men with money go by – are clear. In fourteen days, “Confident” has had over 21 million views on Youtube, while Chance’s Acid Rap EP has yet to reach 2.5 million streams on the same platform since
last May. It’s easy to see the lure, but real talent should not be used as a way to prop up someone else.

Over the years there have been many talented rappers who have hit the mainstream and then heard the jeering crowd shout “sell out” at them. A few names which spring to mind are Dizzee Rascal, Snoop Lion/Dogg and Nicki Minaj. I’m not quite there yet with Chance the Rapper, I know he has more to give and I shall be eagerly waiting for it. However I won’t be looking fondly upon Bieber fans who will barely notice Chance’s verse on “Confident” – which just about gets across his style.

Like I said, I’m not giving up on Chance, I’ve already chosen to attend the Wireless Festival this year just to see him perform. My fear is that Acid Rap could be the first and last time we get a feel for him as an artistic individual. I’m shocked and a little saddened that his first major mainstream song had to include a young man, whose musical reputation is barely that of his own equal footing. Hopefully the Beliebers will barely notice, the true fans will be forgiving and a few more people will go out and listen to what Chance the Rapper has to offer.

Words by Rajdeep Sandhu // Edited by Ayo Adepoju

1 comment

  1. HIGHLY disagree with this. chance is far too weird to sell out. justin bieber wanted to collab with chance, he said that a while before the song dropped, so I doubt it was chance’s idea. it was probably something his manager convinced him to do as a publicity stunt, and it did wonders for his name recognition.

    and listing james blake amongst lil wayne and twista is just bizarre. blake is nowhere near as lil wayne, at least stateside. plus that collab is not just a one-off feature like the bieber track, they’re apparently working on a full album together. I could think of a TON of other underground artists who are actually in danger of “selling out”, whatever that means these days, but chance is probably one of the last ones i would name.

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