Some here at HHSR have been slow moving towards the Chance The Rapper hype train—musically, that is. From a social impact standpoint, Chance is second to none in hip-hop.
But the fanfare over him as an emcee has been harder to justify. Not that he isn’t talented, but the immediate rubber stamp of Chance essentially being the next Kanye West felt a bit premature a times. However Monday’s performance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, featuring Daniel Caesar, was pure artistry in the truest sense.
The then untitled, but since titled, “First World Problems” was written two days before he hit Colbert’s stage. The mellow lyrics accompanied beautifully a Caesar guitar melody has more of a spoken word feel. Chano delves into the frustrations he deals with as his celebrity grows, but quickly comes to the realization that there’s no turning back to the life he once had as he continues his pursuit of “The American Dream”.
Rapper turned podcaster Joe Budden bemoaned the song, labeling it “too positive“. While this may have been a somewhat tongue-in-cheek rap hot take (and the level of positivity within this record could easily be debated), the idea that an emcee cannot or should not rhyme about anything that doesn’t involve drugs, guns or misogyny is bullshit. Budden is from an older generation—perhaps if Chance were older, he would categorize him with the likes of Biggie, Jay Z, Tupac, Nas, Ice Cube and a hundred other rap legends who have spit “positive” bars in the past. While being a product of the older generation and coping with the new wave of rap can be a challenge, Budden’s critique was illogical and the epitome of “Get off my lawn!” at its finest.
Besides, Chance (as mentioned) is doing the work of 10 Black Panthers at once in his own community. In an interview with Colbert prior to the performance, Chance opens up about his non-profit work, which has raised over $2 million for Chicago Public Schools. It’s safe to assume this work can be categorized as a positive endeavor.
Above anything, hip-hop is (or was once upon a time) most rooted in truth. If “First World Problems” is indeed “too positive”, evidently Chance is adhering to traditional rap norms by living out his truth through music.