Chicago is a hotbed for today’s hip-hop talent. Of course, there are the already established acts like Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco, and Common. This year, though, there have been a number of new key players from the Windy City, whose movements have gained the attention of rap’s broader audience. In addition to major label signees like Chief Keef, King L and Rockie Fresh, some independent acts have been making waves—and 19-year-old Chance The Rapper has proven himself as one to look out for. The upstart dropped his debut mixtape, 10 Day, back in April, and had since aligned with rapper Childish Gambino and powerhouse booking agent Cara Lewis, of Creative Arts Agency (CAA). With a new mixtape, #AcidRap, due in November, Chance talks with XXLMag.com about what he’s building.
XXLMag.com: What are the origins of the 10 Day mixtape?
Chance The Rapper: I got suspended last year, from high school, for weed related activities. They kicked me out of school for a little while—I got ten days off. I started working on this tape April of last year, when I first got suspended. I spent about eight months recording and writing and making connections off of the hunger to put out something. After about a year’s time of working on the tape for so long, I dropped it. The tape did really well in Chicago. It was really well received. I made a lot of connections off of it. I worked with Chuck Inglish, Blended Babies—a bunch of people. It was my first album, [so] there weren’t that many features.
You hadn’t dropped anything prior?
This was my debut tape. First shit with visuals. First I’ve toured off of. I’m 19. So I just got out of high school last fall. This is really my first stab at it. After I got out of high school, I put out this tape called 5 Day, which I printed up 4,000 physical copies of. I was giving ’em out for free all over Chicago. That was basically my job. It got me a decent fanbase.
What’s it like to be a young MC coming out of Chicago, now that there’s a bit of a national spotlight on the city?
It’s awesome. Around the time I was working on my tape, Chief Keef was starting to come up. King Louie. And then also Rockie Fresh and Kids These Days. Everybody was starting to get the push that they deserved. Now it’s blowing out of proportion. Everybody’s got somebody looking at them. It’s a really good time to be making music in Chicago. It’s so dope and so organic. By next summer, it’ll be a historic movement and something really tangible. The fact that there’s so many different sounds coming out of Chicago makes it way easier for the city to thrive.
What part of Chicago are you from?
I’m from an area called West Chatham. It’s not that far from where Chief Keef stays. It’s 79th and Princeton. Right down the street from Simeon [High School], where Derrick Rose went to high school. I went to high school at a really nice school called Jones College Prep, which is a downtown school. It’s an accelerated gifted program. At my school, I was way different. A lot of muthafuckas that went to my school were super uncultured. Chicago’s super segregated, and socioeconomically the Southside is fucked. Just in terms of, all the low income housing is majority South and West in Chicago. The nicer areas are all North and downtown. So I went to school downtown with a bunch of more privileged White kids. The school didn’t fuck with my mentality. I don’t know if I came off as just a nigga from the Southside, or I was just a bad kid.
Tell me a little bit about the Childish Gambino connection and the spot on the Royalty mixtape and the tour.
I fuck with Donald Glover, he’s one of my favorite people I’ve worked with so far. He’s a super dope mentor. We met through my publicist, Dan Weiner, he also works for Childish. He wasn’t my publicist at the time, he works for the band Kids These Days out of Chicago. He saw me perform with them at SXSW and was super interested and told me he wanted to work. I sent him the 10 Day tape and I hadn’t really talked to him since South By. I didn’t get a response from him from him for a minute and then he hit me up randomly, like, “Yo, you wanna do a song with Childish Gambino?” I was like, “What?!”
When niggas send you beats, they send you some obscure name for the beat, ’cause producers don’t care. The name of the beat was “Saturday.” When I got the beat from Dan, he was like, “Give me 16, and write about Saturday.” I was super stressed writing it. I didn’t really like the verse, but I sent it off. I got a text from Childish Gambino saying it was dope, and then I got an e-mail later like, “Yo, the beat is super hot, we’re throwing it on the tape. Donald really fucks with you, he wants to throw you on the tour.” So I’m super excited about that, and then the tape comes out and I find out Childish is rapping a total of like eight bars around my 16 bars. It’s not even a feature on a track. It’s kind of like a dope ass cosign where he just let me have the track.
He threw me on the tour, we performed it live in Toronto in front of 5,000 people. I did it in Chicago. We connected really well after doing the song. The song came out and it wasn’t even called “Saturday,” it was called “They Don’t Like Me.”
It was super dope workin’ with the nigga. He’s definitely like a big brother. I fuck with him tough. He showed me a lot of shit. We’ve been working together since we did the tour.
And you signed with CAA, right?
Yeah, Cara Lewis, who’s amazing. She’s Kanye’s agent for eight years, Eminem’s agent forever. I got turned on her the same way, through my guy Dan, and she’s working out some super dope stuff. I’m excited for all the shit that’s coming. We wanna do Warped Tour. Movies. Everything. CAA is definitely the place to be, just in that the agency focuses on so many other aspects of entertainment. It’s a dope place for me because I love music and I’m an artist first, but I definitely want to venture off eventually.
Have any major labels reached out?
Yeah, man. I’ve been approached by a lot of different people, and I’m kind of figuring it all out right now. I definitely want people to know there’s gonna be a major label album coming soon. I can’t say with who yet.
What can we expect for the end of the year?
Look out for this #AcidRap tape. Production from Nate Fox, Chuck Inglish, dope ass features. It’s probably going to be a seven to eight song EP for free. It’s like Acid jazz. It’s going to be the follow up to 10 Day and a precursor to the album. —Adam Fleischer (@AdamXXL)