Chancellor Johnathan Bennett (born April 16, 1993), known professionally as Chance the Rapper, is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer, and actor from the West Chatham neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. In 2013, he began to gain recognition following the release of his second mixtape, Acid Rap. Apart from his solo career, he is a member of the Chicago collective Save Money (along with frequent collaborator Vic Mensa). He has worked as the lead vocalist for the band The Social Experiment; they released the album Surf in May 2015.
In May 2016, Bennett released his third mixtape Coloring Book to critical acclaim. It earned him three Grammy awards, including for Best Rap Album. Coloring Book became the first streaming-only album to receive and win a Grammy nomination. In July 2017, Bennett was nominated for an Emmy Award for his song “Last Christmas” that was performed on Saturday Night Live. He shares the nomination with Kenan Thompson, Eli Brueggemann, and Will Stephen in the category for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics.
Chancellor Johnathan Bennett was born in Chicago, Illinois to Ken Williams-Bennett, an aide to former Chicago mayor Harold Washington and then-Senator Barack Obama, and Lisa Bennett, a secretary for the office of Illinois Attorney General. Bennett grew up in the middle-class neighborhood of West Chatham on Chicago’s South Side. When Bennett was thirteen, his father began to work for President Barack Obama during his first term in the Department of Labor. Bennett personally met President Obama in his youth and discussed his aspirations to be a rapper, which Obama responded with “word”. Bennett was originally going to move to Washington, D.C. following Obama’s win in the 2008 presidential election though eventually it fell through and was canceled. Bennett attended Jones College Prep High School where he was a member of the Jewish Student Union. During his time in high school, Bennett was not academic, did not get good grades and was suspended often.
Bennett’s interest in music began with Michael Jackson, who he exclusively listened to on cassettes until the fifth grade. Growing up, Bennett’s parents’ music was constantly played, this included Billie Holiday and Sam Cooke and other artists in the jazz and gospel genres. Bennett began listening to hip-hop after hearing “Through the Wire” by Kanye West on the radio whilst walking through Hyde Park, Chicago. After finding out the song was on West’s debut album The College Dropout, Bennett purchased the album, making it the first hip-hop album that Bennett listened to. Bennett considers West a huge influence on him and has said that he was inspired to begin rapping by West. Bennett and West met each other in August 2014 at Bonaroo.
Bennett began rapping in the sixth grade when his cousin let him start using his studio. In his freshman year at Jones College Prep High School, Bennett formed the hip-hop duo Instrumentality alongside a friend. Many of Chance’s earliest performances took place at the YOUmedia Lyricist Loft at Harold Washington Library in Chicago. After placing second in a local songwriting contest, Bennett met then-Chicago Mayor, Richard Daley who enjoyed his music. Bennett spent most of his junior year and a small amount of his senior year writing a draft for his debut project, 10 Day which was later released after Bennett was suspended for ten days after being caught smoking cannabis.
In 2016, Bennett was a prominent figure on Kanye West’s album The Life of Pablo, co-writing and appearing on several tracks, namely “Ultralight Beam”, “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1”, “Famous”, “Feedback”, and “Waves”. According to West, the album’s release was delayed because Bennett wanted “Waves” to be on the album. Bennett was also featured on a track titled “Need To Know” on Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s album This Unruly Mess I’ve Made. The following March, Bennett was featured on Skrillex’s remix of Hundred Waters’ “Show Me Love”. On April 16, 2016, Chance and other musicians, including Alicia Keys, Busta Rhymes, Janelle Monáe, and J. Cole, met with President Obama at the White House to discuss the My Brother’s Keeper Challenge initiative.
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