Photo by Philip Cosores
Chance the Rapper is having one of the more memorable years in modern music history — and it’s only August. His stunning Coloring Book mixtape, recorded in collaboration with Kanye West, led the Grammys to change its policy on streaming-only releases being eligible for nomination. His spiritually uplifting message has earned fans at ESPN and the White House, and he’s about to embark on one of the more anticipated tours of the year, which includes the first-ever music festival to be held in Southside Chicago. And all that’s without mentioning his countless collaborations — including his jaw-droppingly brilliant verse on Kanye West’s “Ultralight Beam” and recent pair-up with Jamila Woods on “LSD”.
In a new interview with Zach Baron for GQ, Chance discussed many of these subjects and more. The entire piece is well worth the read, but you can find my five biggest takeaways below.
1. Following the release of Chance’s mixtape, 10 Days, his grandmother put a “curse” on him.
“I was just doing a lot of drugs, just hanging out. I was gone all the time.”
One day he went over to his grandmother’s house.
“And she looked me in the eyes and she said, ‘I don’t like what’s going on.’ She said, ‘I can see it in your eyes. I don’t like this.’ And she says, ‘We’re gonna pray.’ And she prayed for me all the time. Like, very positive things. But this time, she said, ‘Lord, I pray that all things that are not like You, You take away from Chance. Make sure that he fails at everything that is not like You. Take it away. Turn it into dust.'” …
But then he decided to take it how she meant it, which was: as a blessing. As fate. What he succeeded at would have God in it, somewhere. What he failed at would not. He embraced his own lack of control: “Things that you push so hard to get, and they don’t work out—I don’t dwell on them as much, because she said that. You know? Because it makes me feel like, you know…everything is mapped out.”
2. Remember that story about him becoming roommates with James Blake? It never happened — and there’s some drama to the story. According to GQ, the pair signed a lease together for a “big rapper mansion” in North Hollywood that they dubbed, “Koi Kastle”. However, “Blake removed himself from the lease and left Chance to pay the whole rent.”
In a statement given to GQ, Blake disputed the story, saying he never agreed to live with Chance. “We’d very loosely and playfully daydreamed about getting somewhere to live/work for a little while, but never discussed specifics. We wanted to work together on something, so Chance invited me to the house he said he’d rented for him and his friends….I turned up and he told me my name was on the lease, which was creepy because I’d never signed anything. I’d never and still have never heard of Koi Kastle, had never seen a picture of the home and had never been to or known the existence of the area it was in. Then he went on MTV and said we were living together, and so to this day many people still think we are.”
3. Frank Ocean once serenaded Chance the Rapper and his date.
“I was on a date one time at the crib, and we’re sitting in the front room, maybe rolling up some weed or something.” Frank Ocean was downstairs, somewhere. “And then Frank just comes up and starts playing the piano and lightly singing in the background of our date. Obviously, that scored me a lot of points with this female.” A reclusive genius serenading two kids, the sun setting over the valley. “But it wasn’t where I was supposed to be.”
4. Coloring Book is on regular rotation at the White House.
“There was a big meeting [in April] about My Brother’s Keeper and criminal-justice reform, and a whole bunch of artists and celebrities were there. And at the end, everybody takes a group photo, and [President Obama] was signing stuff. And he keeps pushing me to the back, and I’m like, ‘I don’t understand why he won’t sign my shit.’ And he makes me wait till the end, and then he brings me up to his office, and we had a really good conversation about what I was working on. He told me I needed to start selling my music. He’s a good man. Even if he wasn’t president, if his ass worked at, like, Red Lobster, he’d be just a good man working at Red Lobster.”
5. He lived in Los Angeles for six months and “damn near lost God.” He moved back to Chicago, reconciled with his girlfriend, and, after a turbulent pregnancy, became a father. All this helped restore his faith — and, in turn, inspired Coloring Book.
After a while, it started getting to him, the emptiness of whatever it was he was doing. Or not doing. “I was just fucking tweaking. I was a Xan-zombie, fucking not doing anything productive and just going through relationship after relationship after relationship. Mind you, this is six months. So think about, like, how could you even do that?”
So he decided to move back to Chicago. Got demons out of his life. Got back to his God, got back to the Chicago in him—all the things that would eventually pump through Coloring Book like blood. Got back with his girlfriend, too. They got pregnant. “I think it was the baby that, you know, brought my faith back.” The heaviness of the responsibility. But also the terror of it. “My daughter, when she was still in utero, she had, they call it atrial flutters. It’s kind of like an irregular heartbeat. But when you’re in utero, it’s real hard to detect and also to treat. Sometimes you have to get a C-section so they can operate on the baby. Never told this to anyone.” It made him and his girl closer. “And it made me pray a whole lot, you know, and need a lot of angels and just see shit in a very, like, direct way. And…you know, God bless everything, it worked out well.” Kinsley Bennett. Born healthy in September of last year. Chance almost vibrating from the energy it brought out in him.