Chance The Rapper May Finally Have A Shot At Grammy Consideration After Years Of Being Denied
For years, Chance The Rapper has defied conventions and conducted his career his way. Despite being one of the most successful artists of this decade, Chance has refused to sign to a major record label and he has yet to even release an album for sale. Instead, he has chosen to deliver all of his music for free to fans. Indeed, Chance may be the only artist of his stature with this distinction, as even mixtape heroes like Curren$y and artists who routinely give their music away for free, like Run The Jewels, have also had commercial releases.
On his song “Blessings” from his newly released mixtape, Coloring Book, Chance raps “I don’t make songs for free. I make ’em for freedom.” The line is deceptively complex, as it indicates the value the Chicago MC places on his music beyond monetary and his belief that he is on a greater mission. However, a downside to Chance’s stance is he has been precluded from being considered for a Grammy, an important accolade to him, due to a technicality.
According to the official Grammy web site, the eligibility requirements for recordings are that “albums must be released between Oct. 1, 2015 and Sept. 30, 2016. Recordings must be commercially released in general distribution in the United States, i.e. sales by label to a branch or recognized independent distributor, via the Internet, or mail order/retail sales for a nationally marketed product. Recordings must be available for sale from any date within the eligibility period through at least the date of the current year’s voting deadline (final ballot).” Ever mindful of the Grammy Awards’ strict criteria, during his guest verse on Kanye West’s “Ultralight Beam,” Chance rapped “”He said let’s do a good ass job with Chance 3. I hear you gotta sell it to snatch the Grammy. Let’s make it so free and the bars so hard, that there ain’t one gosh darn part you can’t tweet.”
Now, with the official release of Coloring Book, a project that already has garnered critical acclaim, Chance has taken some sizable steps to re-write the Grammy rules with his own. Earlier in the week, he backed a petition started by Max Krasowitz to allow free recordings to be eligible for consideration. The petition, which was launched on Change.org, has garnered nearly 30,000 signatures. The fan eloquently states his case, saying “artists like Chance the Rapper, who are now getting national recognition and performing on national platforms (just this past week Chance performed on the Jimmy Fallon show) are being punished for making their music available to everyone, rich or poor, by releasing their music for free.” Before Chance’s support of the petition, according to Billboard, it already had amassed 15,000 supporters, and Chance’s involvement nearly doubled that number in just a few days.
While the petition raises public awareness, Chance also may have hedged his bets with a technicality of his own. By releasing his new mixtape exclusively via Apple Music, a paid subscription service, he may be positioning himself to argue that Coloring Book was, in fact, commercially released, thus satisfying the Grammy requirement. Even though the project is not on iTunes and will be widely available for free in 2 weeks, the 14-day exclusivity period that Chance has granted to Apple Music, means that he will receive payment for streams on the service, during the 2-week period, and thereafter. Even if streams on a paid music service don’t technically qualify as a “commercial release,” in a statement to Billboard, the Recording Academy said “the Grammy Awards process is fluid and, like music, continues to evolve. As a peer-voted award, the awards process is also peer-determined. Each spring, music creators in the community work with Recording Academy staff to prepare and submit proposals, which are then reviewed by the Board and announced shortly thereafter. Rules for the 59th Annual Grammy Awards will be announced this June.” Chance’s move may provide them with a distinction that allows the organization to recognize work of his stature, without opening up the floodgates of having to consider every free project in the universe released during their eligibility period.
In any case, this is another example of the creativity, savvy and determinedness of an artist who is marching to the beat of his own drum, in every category. To support the Change.org petition, click here.