The untold truth of Chance the Rapper

Chance the Rapper is one of the biggest names in hip-hop, but even more impressive than that is the fact that he's managed to achieve all of his massive mainstream success on his own terms. While refusing to sign a record deal, the musician has instead self-released five mixtapes, which have all been made available for free. Chance has taken home three Grammy Awards, including best rap album for 2016's Coloring Book, and dropped his first official studio album, The Big Day, in July 2019. The highly-anticipated release notably surpassed 100 million Spotify streams in just three weeks. (Um, no big deal.)

Despite his ongoing presence in the spotlight, there's a lot more to Chance the Rapper (real name Chancelor Jonathan Bennett) than what meets the eye. Since debuting on the music scene in 2012, the Chicago native has made some high-powered enemies, run into some financial trouble, and landed a top secret role in a popular Disney live-action remake ... but more on all of this and more below. Let's tune into the untold truth of Chance the Rapper.

Are record labels out to get Chance the Rapper?

Amid his meteoric rise to fame, Chance the Rapper has always done things his way by refusing to sign with a record label. However, it's not due to a lack of interest. "I've met with every A&R, VP of A&R, president of the labels, CEOs," he told Fader in 2015 (via Insider). "I know all these people." Basically, Chance has had the necessary connections — he's simply chosen not to use them.

Luckily, some execs have supported the singer-songwriter in his unlikely route to success: "They're almost like, 'Keep going. You're in uncharted territory, and you're helping to shed light on what [the future of the business] will look like, and we're all curious.'" But others have unfortunately been less kind. Chance later shared the downsides of going against the grain while speaking with Complex, alleging that certain labels have tried to stump his growth by doing things like "push [him] out of headline positions so that their artist could be a headliner or not cleared songs."

"It's not like a big conspiracy theory," Chance assured, noting that some record label execs are upset because they "wanted to make money off me and I said no," while others don't like that he's admittedly advised friends from signing with certain people. "When they hear that back, then they tell other people bad s**t about me." Yikes.

Chance had the first free album on iTunes

As an independent artist, Chance the Rapper prides himself on offering iTunes' first free album ever. The 2015 record Surf was released as part of his side project, Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment, which the Chicago Tribune dubbed as "a hothouse of young musicians, songwriters, producers steeped not only in hip-hop, but in R&B, soul, jazz, funk, rock, and other subcultures." 

The album received rave reviews but, even more impressive, also made history. Chance took to Twitter to underscore this point while celebrating the two-year anniversary of Surf's release. Calling it the "first free album on [iTunes]," the rapper revealed that he "tried to get them to put 'free' instead of 'get.'" However, it seems his influence only stretched so far. Still, the "Nothing Came to Me" musician proudly spoke about this collaborative effort during an appearance on The Joe Budden Podcast in 2018, where he gave an inside look at his two-project deal with the music platform. It was quite lucrative for Chance despite the free output ... but more on this below.

But is Chance the Rapper truly independent?

After making a big deal of refusing to sign with a record label, Chance the Rapper was hit with criticism about seemingly giving up his status as an independent artist when he agreed to a deal with Apple Music. "@apple gave me half a mil and a commercial to post Coloring Book exclusively on Apple Music for 2 weeks," he tweeted in 2017 in an effort to clarify his contract. The musician added, "That was the extent of my deal, after two weeks it was on SoundCloud for free. I needed the money and they're all good people over there."

Chance later shared some more insight on the deal on The Joe Budden Podcast. "The whole Drake-Apple deal, which I feel like is closer to what you think my s**t is, they offered to me first," he revealed. Elaborating that there was $20 million on the table for this two-project deal, the rapper said, "It would've been Surf and Coloring Book, but they wanted a solo Chance project and I didn't have that at the time ... If [Coloring Book] was [finished] on time, I would've got 20 million. But, it was off time, so I got $500,000." Chance went on to justify, "They came to me, they said, 'Here's some money,' which I used for advertising.'"

Chance the Rapper and Barack Obama go way back

During Barack Obama's presidency, he and Chance the Rapper met on numerous occasions, from kicking it at a state dinner to discussing criminal justice reform. However, it turns out their friendship precedes the White House. 

"Chance, I've known for years 'cause his dad was my state director when I was a senator in Illinois, so I first met Chance when he was eight years old," Obama revealed during a 2016 interview with SiriusXM's Sway in the Morning (via Pitchfork). "And so we've been family for a while." But that's not all. According to Rolling Stone, Chance actually interned for Obama during his first presidential campaign and "even spent a day phone banking on his behalf." 

Former First Lady Michelle Obama later solidified just how close the two families have remained in a video message for the rapper at the 2017 BET Awards: "We have known Chance and his family since he was a wee little baby rapper, and it has been a thrill watching him come into his own in so many ways." 

You might want to start calling him Chance the Actor

In October 2016, Chance the Rapper told fans that he'd spent the entire summer ... on a film set! Oh yes, the musician tried out his acting chops with a starring turn in Slice, a horror comedy feature film that was written and directed by one of his longtime collaborators, Austin Vesely. 

Vesely had previously worked with Chance on a number of music videos and told the Chicago Tribune that he didn't need to convince the Windy City native to give acting a try. "He basically told me that when the time comes that I could make something, he'd be there for me," Vesely said. "So I wrote a role for him in the piece." 

Chance's role in question was "a werewolf who is a former Chinese food delivery driver." As interesting as that might sound, the project unfortunately failed to mark his hot new career path as Chance the Actor. While garnering lukewarm reviews, the movie scored a mere 55 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

Just don't call Chance's music Christian rap

Chance the Rapper has never shied away from speaking about his Christian faith and its importance. However, he doesn't necessarily want fans to think of his music as Christian rap. Given the religious sounds and themes regularly found in his songs, that might be easier said than done. After Rolling Stone called Coloring Book "a gospel-rap masterpiece," for example, Chance told Teen Vogue that he didn't really want that to happen. 

"One of my biggest fears with Coloring Book was that it would be labeled," the rapper said in 2017. "I never sought out for people to recognize it as a gospel album. I don't make Christian rap, but I am a Christian rapper." Explaining where the apprehension came from, Chance noted, "I feared that people would be dismissive of it, like, 'This is Christian rap, I'm not trying to hear it.'"

Chance shared a similar message in a freestyle rap on Instagram the following year: "Everybody finally can say it out loud / Your favorite rapper's a Christian rapper / And I got faith and my faith in my soul."

The truth about why Chance the Rapper goes broke 'a lot'

He may be devoted to giving away his music for free, but Chance the Rapper sure knows how to make money. From merch to tours and lucrative business partnerships, he's earned a nice chunk of change over the years, which actually landed him on the Forbes Celebrity 100 list in 2017 with an estimated earning of $33 million.

This musician also knows how to spend it and confessed to GQ in 2017, "I go broke a lot." That's because Chance believes in putting everything he has into his career (not to mention his philanthropy) and trusts that it's a worthy investment: "I have this understanding that whatever I put out there, if I really am doing what's right, it's going to be rewarding." Illustrating his point, Chance recalled, "I remember sitting on the back of the bus on the first day of the Social Experiment tour, with my face in my hands. I emptied out my bank account, and before I did that tour, that was the number one thing I said I'd never do ... But I put all that money up, and within two weeks, when everyone was getting paid, I was like, Okay, cool, we're good again."

When asked to name the last time he was broke, the rapper admitted it pretty much happens with every new record. "The same s**t happened with Surf," Chance proclaimed. "And the same s**t happened with Coloring Book."

Chance's signature hat is actually a form of rebellion

Chance the Rapper has become synonymous with his signature No. 3 cap, but it's much more than a mere fashion statement. As the rapper told GQ, his affinity for caps started at a young age and never faded. "I used to always rock a cap when I was in high school and get them taken away," he recalled. "It was an excessive amount. Like, so often that at the end of each school year, there would be a box of all the confiscated caps." Chance noted, "I think, in one part, it's a rebellion."

As for the significance of the No. 3, it was born out of a desire to replace his go-to Chicago White Sox caps with something fresh. "I wanted to put something else on the hat. And so I decided to do 3," Chance the Rapper told the media outlet. He added, "I rationalized it to myself that it stands for the third mixtape, the Holy Trinity, and the three-pronged family of myself, my daughter, and my girl."

Chance the Rapper has a huge impact on brands

You know you're doing something right when your influence extends to Corporate America. It started in May 2019 when Chance the Rapper tweeted out praise for Wendy's, jokingly writing, "Positive Affirmations for today: I will have a good day, I will succeed today, Wendy's will bring back spicy nuggets at some point please please Lord let it be today." Not only did Wendy's respond, but the company actually agreed to do just that ... under one condition. "The people in charge say if you guys can get our tweet (this one right here) to 2 Million likes, they will bring SPICY CHICKEN NUGGETS BACK," Wendy's promised. It took less than 48 hours to get the necessary likes, but the spicy chicken nuggets were indeed back by that August.

So, it's no surprise then that when Chance mentioned that he met his wife at a Re/Max party on the 2019 track "Zanies and Fools," there was speculation about it boosting the brand. Chicago Business asked a marketing expert, who noted, "[It's] the best sort of endorsement because Chance apparently isn't being paid for this — he's talking about Re/Max as part of his life, and as an important part of his life." They added that this, in turn, could translate into positive brand recognition for his fans who might potentially think, "'Wow, Re/Max. That's a brand I should think about,'" when it comes time to shop for a home.

How Chance's wife's baptism 'saved' him

Chance the Rapper has made no secret of how important his faith is to him, but as he told Nicki Minaj on her Queen Radio show, it was actually his wife's faith that helped him get through a low point in his life. 

While discussing his 2019 album, The Big Day, Chance told his fellow rapper, "I need you to hear one song on my album that has my best verse that I written in my life. It's called 'We Go High.'" That's because it's an ode to his love, Kirsten Corley. "I explain that my wife literally saved my life by becoming celibate and going and getting baptized," Chance revealed to Minaj. "It changed my life, for real. Now I know exactly where my strength comes from." 

The incident happened after Chance was apparently unfaithful and the pair temporarily split. Speaking about that time, the musician noted, "I had to do the Grammys by myself. I had to do a lot by myself. Then when my girl was gracious enough to have me back, it changed my whole life."

Chance the Rapper once raised concerns for his safety

Shortly after the release of The Big Day, Chance the Rapper sparked major concern among his fan base when he sent out a series of since-deleted dark tweets in early August 2019. "I'm getting this crazy feeling that people want me to kill myself," he wrote in part (via NME). "That's not my vibe at all, but I feel the push ... I feel like even more than that, some people want me to feel ashamed. Shame is heavy yo." The rapper concluded, "The number one thing that's been on my heart and has been reaffirmed in the last week that I'm now 100% sure of is... That I LOVE my wife." 

Chance later clarified that he wasn't being literal — "I just want to reiterate that I don't want to kill myself, nor am I ashamed of loving my wife" — but didn't specify what had caused those initial feelings. According to speculation, it might have been the criticism he received for The Big Day (Slate, for example, noted, "It rarely feels particularly revelatory"), especially that which called him out for focusing too heavily on his marriage. "The Big Day is the sound of a man in love," Rolling Stone proclaimed. "And sometimes that's awesome."

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Did you notice Chance the Rapper's super secret on-screen role?

Disney's live-action remake of The Lion King in 2019 features an A-list musical cast, from Donald Glover to Beyoncé ... but there is one celebrity you might not even notice is in the flick: Chance the Rapper. 

Chance revealed his super secret — and super weird — role during an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in July 2019. The rapper explained that the on-and-off-screen gig came to be when his good friend, Donald Glover, told director Jon Favreau that Chance was a "huge fan" of the original flick. One thing led to another and he was eventually brought on as "a nostalgia consultant to tell [Favreau] what '90s kids like about Lion King."

That's not all, though. "I did a little bit of slight vocal work on the animated film," Chance revealed to the titular host, reassuring a laughing audience that he wasn't kidding. "I do a lot of the background noises," he proclaimed — noises like antelopes grazing. "I'm dead serious." 

Is there anything Chance the Rapper can't do?