Chance the Rapper has long branded himself as an independent rapper, because he’s never signed to a major label and has released all of his music for free. However, his last mixtape, 2016’s critically-acclaimed Coloring Book, was released through Apple Music, who exclusively hosted it for two weeks before Chance uploaded it to his SoundCloud for free. The cognitive dissonance of proclaiming yourself to be proudly independent despite an affiliation with one of the largest corporations in the world has not gone unnoticed, and today, Chance tweeted an explanation of his deal with the tech company:
“Independent” is a loaded phrase in music that says more about the ideals of the person uttering it than it does any hard standard. Today, it’s basically impossible to be a truly independent artist, which would entail getting your success without help from anyone with a transparently financial interest—no publicist, no label, no streaming service, no well-branded festival spots. (Very, very few artists of note meet that standard.) Chance considers himself independent because he simply isn’t signed to a major label, though he took half a million dollars from the most profitable company in the world. His standards are probably different than a punk band’s, if you can recall any and all conversations about whether some band had sold out for signing to a small, non-major label.
But could Chance be independent despite his deals with Kit Kat, who are owned by Nestlé, a company that isn’t without controversy? Is he independent despite wanting validation from the Grammys, as buttoned-up and conventional of a cultural institution as any that exists? That might be too much to say without getting hyperbolic, but regardless of what Chance believes, it’s not as easy as proclaiming yourself to be something and shutting the door on any conversation. That’s why he’s tweeting now, months after Coloring Book’s release.
Regardless, full transparency is a solid gesture of faith when trying to dispel any notions that you’re not on the level. Given Chance’s record of charity for noble causes, it’s clear the money, whatever its source, isn’t going to waste.