Chance the Rapper talks Rahm Emanuel, Kanye West, Chicago ‘poverty porn,’ and drug use in a new GQ profile

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"Never told this to anyone," says Chance the Rapper, recounting in a revealing GQ profile how a scary period during his girlfriend's pregnancy last year helped strengthen their relationship and restore his faith in God. 

"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. . . . 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." 

Certainly there's been no shortage of coverage of the skyrocketing Chicago MC, some of the best of which has come from the Reader's own Leor Galil, who wrote (among other pieces) one of the most in-depth early profiles of the Chatham-raised rapper born Chancelor Bennett. But the new feature by GQ staff writer Zach Baron, "How Chance the Rapper's Life Became Perfect," doesn't feel gratuitous or redundant, largely because of its 23-year-old subject's remarkable candor.  


Baron's story is both engrossing and meditative, and absolutely worth taking time to read in full. As an amuse-bouche, below are ten of the profile's many colorful moments. 

Chance realized God is a rap fan, thanks to his grandmother. 

"[S]he 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.'"

He appreciated the benediction. But also: "I'm thinking, like, damn, I don't even know if God likes rap! You know what I'm saying? Is she praying that I fail at everything I'm trying to do?"

He says touring and merch sales are solid and that he'll never participate in the "dick-swinging contest" of signing to a label.

"Just in terms of, like, those guys being able to say that they got me. That's what they want to do. It's like a fucking dick-swinging contest, where they all just brag about who they recently got. And so I'm definitely not trying to be a part of their dick-swinging contest. I'm staying far away from all dick-swinging."

The six months he lived in LA were a drug-filled disaster.

Moved here at the end of December in a pill fog, like a young rock star, and lived a young rock star's life. He got a place in North Hollywood, signed a lease on it with the mournful English songwriter James Blake. They called it the Koi Kastle. "It was like a big-ass rapper mansion." Then Blake removed himself from the lease and left Chance to pay the whole rent. Chance set up a studio there. "I had the pool. I had the movie theater. I had the basketball court. I was doing it real big. I was Xanned out every fucking day."

[snip]

He will admit to some questionable decision-making during this time. He worked for actual months on a cover of the theme song to the animated TV show Arthur.

[snip]

"I was just fucking tweaking. I was a Xan-zombie, fucking not doing anything productive and just going through relationship after relationship after relationship."  

James Blake disputes ever signing a lease with Chance. An editor's note appended to the story reads:

*GQ couldn't reach James Blake before this story went to press, but afterward he supplied this statement in response:

"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."

The MC turned a rented Chicago studio into a makeshift encampment while recording Coloring Book.

"And then we started bringing in more producers and more vocalists and a choir and an orchestra, and at a certain point we were like, 'Okay, now we need three rooms.' And eventually we decided to rent out the whole studio, and we just put mattresses in all the rooms and it became a camp."

Collaborating with Kanye West on The Life of Pablo was . . . interesting

"I would say almost 60 percent of working with Kanye—let's say 53 percent of working with Kanye—is speeches." In one room, West had racks of baby clothes. He had three different studios for producers. "There was another guy there who was a magician."  

The Obamas—and particularly Malia—have Coloring Book on heavy rotation in the White House.

"Oh yeah. They're bumping Coloring Book hard up there. If you go up there, you'll probably hear Coloring Book. This is not a joke at all."

The president gave Chance some career advice when they sat down in April. 

"[H]e 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."

National coverage of and label interest in Chicago's hip-hop and rap scenes have been a thorn in his side.  

He watched the media come in "and create this poverty porn that was not something that was afflicting them on a personal level, but put a magnifying glass over it and literally take Keef to a gun range"—which Pitchfork did, in 2012. "MTV wanted to do a Chiraq piece, and VICE wanted to do a Chiraq piece. You know? All the labels were coming out and recording everybody. I was going through that at the same time. I was speaking to all the same labels. And luckily, it didn't work out for me."

The release of the video of Laquan McDonald being shot to death by a Chicago police officer put a rift (however symbolic) between Chance and his father, Ken Bennett, who had worked for Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

"It was really hard for my dad," Chance says. "He worked on a lot of very noble and decent causes. And I think he believed in Rahm as much as everybody else did." But to Chance, the incident was a confirmation of many things he'd already suspected or felt. "We already have a really bad relationship with the police. We already have a really bad relationship with the city. They kind of have us stuck in our corners of the West Side and the South Side and only come through our neighborhoods when they're trying to do some bullshit. Now we have video of them doing us like this? It was just scary, I think for everybody."  

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