Chance the Rapper, Prophet

In four new singles released on July 19, Chance the Rapper raises a clear, smooth, and prophetic voice from the otherwise cacophonic wilderness of Chicago. The new music calls out political and social injustices, recognizes the leading role that women often play in Christian faith formation, and directly seeks to further the kingdom of God.

The track “I Might Need Security” is a platform for Chance’s condemnation of injustices. The repeating lyric “f*** you” that begins and ends the song is directed toward those who promote or condone oppression in his native Chicago. The phraseology is jarring, but it reflects his genuine sense of wrath towards big business, corrupt politicians, and prejudiced persecutors. The violence and racism must diminish. Only strong, persistent, even annoying pressure will make it happen.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is one of Chance’s targets. He raps, “And Rahm, you done, I’m expectin’ resignation/An open investigation on all of these paid vacations for murderers.” The line references the local government’s decision to grant paid leave to police officers who have shot and killed unarmed Black people in the city.

He continues to address racism a bit later in the song, singing, “Speaking of racist, f*** your microaggressions/I’ll make you fix your words like a typo suggestion.” Chance rightfully has no tolerance for microaggressions, which are the subtler, everyday actions and words that reflect a conscious or unconscious attitude of prejudice. One example of a microaggression would be someone telling a black man that he “doesn’t talk like a black person,” which is a false assumption about the homogeneity of black culture.

For Chance, racist politicians as much as gang leaders are full of empty promises. In opposition to both of their false hopes, he retorts, “I know the devil’s a liar.” He follows with an alternative: “I’m a soldier/Kingdom builder, man somebody shoulda told ya.” “I Might Need Security” is a full out take-down of the anti-kingdom of money and power and an endorsement of the loving, humble, and just kingdom of God.

My personal favorite, “65th and Ingleside,” is a reflection on Chance’s relationship with his on-and-off girlfriend and now fiancée Kirsten Corley. It’s a song of hope. The British musical artist Peter CottonTale kicks it off, “There’s a way, out of no way./Swear I know everything’s gonna be okay.” A church organ plays in the background, which along with CottonTale’s lyrics situates the song in the gospel choir tradition.

Chance especially lauds Kirsten for the way that she brought him closer to God. Her appearance in the rapper’s life is a blessing. He claims that he was a mess until “God decide to come bring [her] by.” He recognizes her as an instrument of grace who brought him “closer to God” than he’d “ever been.” Later, he extends his celebration of Kirsten to all women who take a leading role in the faith development of their relationships and families: “You know the power in a woman that could lead you in prayer.” Chance is humble enough to recognize her protagonism in the most important area of his life: his faith.

The track “Wala Cam” is nothing special. The rhymes are clever, the beat is sprightly, but the theme is basic. Chance can dance. Chance makes romance. It’s fun and frisky and all, but it doesn’t fill me–not too much more to say about it.

“Work Out,” on the other hand, is a total gem. Though the opening line is about missing a workout at the gym, the song is really about trust. Everything will work out. The lyrics and the tune are playful and relaxed. It becomes evident that the source of Chance’s peace is God. He raps:

“Seem to always work out when you hand it to Jesus…
I believe in long distance love, God that’s above
Bond that’s so strong can’t let y’all bald headed—
Yea Y’all interrupt, you all in a rush
We all gon’ meet up in the up, in the up, in the upper room.”

Amidst heartbreak, racism, and political strife, Chance acts as a prophet who brings tidings of good news. This life is not the end. We will all meet up again in the “upper room” of heaven, so there is no need to worry. The pains and struggles of the present pale in comparison to the joy and peace that await us in eternity.

We need more Chances in the world. His hope in everlasting life does not take away from his commitment to seeking justice now. And his commitment to seeking justice now does not take away from his hope in everlasting life. Blessed are those who preach the importance of both hope and justice, which work best when they reinforce each other. Blessed are those who are grateful for the women in their lives who have taught them to love the God of hope and the God of justice. Blessed is Chance the Rapper.

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Image courtesy of FlickrCC user Julio Enriquez.

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