Chance The Rapper has become a global star in the since years that have passed sine he released his breakthrough mixtape, Acid Rap, and he’s done it without the engine of a major label or distribution label. Where some rappers merely claim to be independent, and often have a cloaked corporate engine helping them behind the scenes, Chance has truly remained independent, pushing out his music on either Soundcloud or through direct deals with streaming services, never for sale. His latest mixtape, Coloring Book, recently became the first stream-only project to ever chart on the Billboard 200, and late last year he became the first independent solo artist to ever perform on Saturday Night Live. It’s safe to say that the Chicago emcee has done it his way.
During a recent talk at the University of Chicago, Chance revealed that it very nearly wasn’t that way. He describes a scene where he’s playing unreleased music for renowned music executives Sylvia Rhone and L.A. Reid–now of Epic Records–and them being so pleased with that they began discussing conjuring up contracts.
I’m playing it for ’em and they’re like, jammin’, and they’re like, “Do your dance!” and I’m in that bitch like, “Ah, yeah!” playing “Chainsmoker” singing the words louder than the speaker and shit ’cause Acid Rap wasn’t out yet, so they hadn’t heard it, but I was hyped on it, and I was like, “These people really fuck with me. These people really love me. These people really love me. These people really understand what I’m trying to do,” and they were talking about printing up contracts.
A phone call from his father gave him pause, however.
“Son, I know you’re in New York. I know you’re doing something really important, but remember, don’t sign anything!”
As we now know, Chance didn’t sign anything that day. During the rest of the chat, Chance discussed several other ideas and experiences, including the evolution of his mixtape artworks and his belief in the “space” between music and the music industry. You can watch the full thing below, or skip straight to the Sony bit at around 19:15.