This Editor's Letter originally ran in the June 2017 #BlackMusicIssue of EBONY magazine.
You can’t blame folks for wanting our cover star to run for public office. C h a n c e the Rapper is single-handedly trying to save the arts in Chicago schools, encourage reading among children through his work with the Chicago Public Library system and, at the same time, ensure his fans are treated fairly by railing against scalpers with tenacity and tech savvy. Unlike the orange-hued and mercurial man-child currently running this country, Chance truly is an outlier who thumbs his nose at the record industry and successfully exists outside the machine. To put it plainly: He’s a boss. This was evident during every moment of our fun-filled cover shoot here in EBONY’s (and his) hometown of Chicago. Flanked by a crew of creative, amiable individuals, the rapper with a voice that walks the line behind Wyclef Jean and Kanye West, weathered the cold on a rooftop here in the aptly named “Windy City.” “The Hawk,” an invisible beast with talons of ice that we Chicagoans know all too well, did not disappoint, swooping down and driving most of us nearly to tears.
That didn’t stop Chance from donning a suit, shunning his trademark “3” baseball cap and standing Scarface-style on top of the world. Well, on top of the West Loop studio where we shot, anyway. But back to my point, Chance is the perfect embodiment of this issue’s theme, music, specifically the Black contribution to this art form. The teddy bearesque talent’s individuality, free spirit, shrewdness and selflessness are what we should admire in artists. His financial and emotional contributions to the youth of Chicago, so maligned in the mainstream media, show them that he cares … that we care. Rappers brag about putting on for their cities. Here’s one who does the actual work. Too often we allow our idols to backslide, sacrifice their voices for mainstream acceptance and all but turn a blind eye to the streets that forged them—that is, unless said streets can give them the “cred” that boosts their bank accounts. (Present-day mumble-mouth “rappers” and hotep hip-hoppers of the ’90s, I am looking squarely at you.) Chance is a fearless reminder of what we can ask from those we shell out hardearned income to see in concert or whose lyrics we litter our time lines with.
This young man—a young father, to be exact—is a role model, as you’ll learn without a doubt in an excellently written piece by EBONY alum Adrienne Samuels Gibbs. Reading it will be music to your eyes. Speaking of music, I cannot end without acknowledging Chuck Berry, who passed away at the age of 90 in March. Berry, with his guitar-god status and perfectly coiffed ’do, is credited as one of the architects of rock ‘n’ roll as we know it. A salute to him, and the late, great Al Jarreau, whom we feature on our “From the EBONY Archives” page in honor of the multiple- Grammy winner’s imprint on jazz, pop and R&B with his smooth, sweet sound. If the afterlife works the way I think it does, there’s a sold-out jam session up there with both their names on the marquee.