The funniest thing about this Chance The Rapper “backlash” is while it may feel new, there are actually references to it on the internet dating two years back, coming on the heels of his critically acclaimed collaborative project with Donnie Trumpet, Surf. Even in 2015, there were cries of “Chance The Rapper is an industry plant,” even though, at the time, no one had any evidence of this. There is just as little evidence now, but apparently, it’s easier for people to see Chance’s recent success as the result of conspiracy than of his clear talent, luck, business savvy, and genuinely engaged fan base that legitimately loves his music and wants to support him.
The thing is, it seems that this silly, unnecessary rumor is one of the driving forces behind a brief period of backlash against Chance. Any wildly successful artist can you tell you about this process — it’s practically a given. With production group J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League going ham on Twitter following the news that Chance may have had a hand in the reversal of Soundcloud’s fortune, it seemed as though the tide might be turning on the incessantly upbeat, squeaky clean rapper from Chicago’s South Side. Never mind the donations, the humanitarian efforts, and his genuinely fun new album Coloring Book you can play with your mom in the car, Chance The Rapper is now being painted — in some obscure corners of the internet — as a terrible, terrible major label double agent, quietly COINTELPro-ing the profits away from all those poor, poor Soundcloud rappers like Famous Dex, XXXTentacion, and Kodak Black. Come on.
Because, wait… in fact, that sounds insane. Yes, Chance may have used contacts within various corporate entities to extend his brand, as many, many, many artists, actors, and creatives have before him. No rapper, I don’t care how indie or underground or street or real you think they might be, can survive in this industry without cash on hand, and lots of it. Street teams cost money. Tours cost money. Ads cost money. The reason so many rappers were ex-drug dealers in the ’90s isn’t because that was the best hip-hop to be made, it’s because they had more money than the super rapper kid on the block with the best bars but no money for studio time (and because of major label marketing departments, but that’s a whole other essay).