Chance The Rapper Is In The Business Of Saving Souls

For those who are sad, Chance the Rapper's music is the antidote.

I did not watch the ESPYs last night with the rest of the world (namely with Black Twitter). On one part, I don't have cable because I'm cheap, so there's that. But really, instead I was busy being sad. Sulking over personal trivialities that feel like mountains underneath the magnifying glass that comes with living in the swallowing oasis that is New York City. I went to sleep moody and woke up with an annoyance that set it off again. But what I was sad about isn't as important as what pulled me out of it. 

My terrible digital-based-job-having-self habit is waking up, rolling out of bed and into the glow of my iPhone screen, scanning through both work and personal inboxes, texts and social feeds to see what I missed in those hours I was seeing black. As I scrolled past Carmelo Anthony and friends standing in solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement, Devon Still posing with his cancer-free daughter and new wife, and the Currys and Wilsons bonding over marital bliss, I landed on a link nestled on top of a picture of Chance the Rapper's signature "3" cap and a neatly fitting tux. "Chance The Rapper Honors Muhammad Ali with an Original Song." Instant click. I knew it was going to be something I needed.

My relationship with Chano's music as a healing mechanism stems back to Surf, the Social Experiment album starring Chance. Every time I'd hear "Sunday Candy"—which played in repetitions of at least three times—had struck me straight through the heart like an arrow and stayed with me afterwords. The churchiness of it, feeling like I was sitting in the same pew as the Bennetts on a Sunday morning, sandwiched between Chance and his late grandma, famous for her storied peppermints, fancy hats and cocoa butter kisses. The organs, pans, horns and voices of Jamila Woods and the choir ricocheting off each other, in a crescendo of celebration of family and the Lord, sweet as candy. It was ridiculous how much I played the damn thing to brighten my mood.

Then along came Coloring Book, the Acid Rap follow-up we all thirsted for. It took me a long time to finally hear the damn thing because I don't have Apple Music (remember: cheap), it hadn't hit Spotify (I have the free version, still cheap) and it wasn't available for purchase or download in the Apple Store like Surf was. But the internet has a way of coming through for the kid, and I found out he planted the tape on random download sites for us to find. Bless you, Chance, because the "Blessings" reprise at the end of the album was the answer to it all. Let me just say right now that the entire tape was a spiritual journey, but it came to a peak at the final "Blessings" (the first one is a sweet little ditty assisted by Jamila Woods again). The first time I played it, the tears snuck up and fell from from my eyes without warning. I simply could not stop. Are you ready for your blessing? Are you ready for your miracle? Chance, Ty Dolla Sign, Raury, Anderson .Paak, BJ the Chicago Kid, Nico and more were all asking me a question I couldn't answer beyond a blubbering "yes." 

Something inside jerked at the inquiry and worked up all my emotions as if I were sitting in a sanctuary. I've always been a proud Christian, at church every Sunday next to mom and my little sister, but I can't say I was an active participant. Not until college, at least, when I figured out my relationship with God for myself. I never got the whole shouting, fainting, sprinting-around-the-sanctuary-when-the-pastor's-sermon-climaxed thing. Growing up in a tame Caribbean Methodist church where we sing from the hymnal 95 percent of the time and fellowship with Jamaican bites and tea the second service ends, the hooplah I saw on TV and in other churches felt too theatrical for me. When I went to college, hearing the Howard University Gospel Choir, attending non-denominational Chapel and dancing on Beacon Liturgical Dance group opened my eyes to youth in worship and worship through music. I was freaked out at first watching people experience the Holy Ghost, but it was there I began to cry in church and feel things internally that I couldn't explain. And didn't try to. 

Since moving back to NY, the only time I feel those feels is when I listen to music in my room, the same moving songs I danced to and teared up to. And now Chance the Rapper, a young churchy millennial whose faith in and love for God I can personally relate to. "Blessings" pulled me back to that space, as well as "Finish Line/Drown" and "How Great." Now enter his celebration of Muhammad Ali's life on last night's ESPYs where he pulled another soul-stirrer from beneath his permanently affixed cap with a song we'll call "I Was A Rock" for now, the song's refrain. His notes, crisp, clean, honest and holy, struck me deep in my heart again, lifting me out of the dark space I woke up in. 

Even as I wrote this post to the tune of the performance (which has looped over 10 times by now, shout out to the auto play feature), I smile and reflect on things I can't identify, all to the rapper's improving singing voice. It genuinely sounds as good as it feels, and for that I'm thankful. I'm thankful for a kid of this generation making music that can help save the spirits of the same generation. Add some brightness to somber moments. And ultimately, give glory to the one who made it all possible. I needed this.


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