Chance The Rapper On Mixtapes, Politics And Priorities

Aug 9, 2017
Originally published on August 10, 2017 7:56 am

At 24, Chance The Rapper has already had a career many artists could only dream of. In 2015, he became the first unsigned artist to perform on Saturday Night Live. This year, he won three Grammys for Best New Artist, Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Album. When he spoke to Stretch and Bobbito — who in the '90s invited then-unsigned or little-known artists like Nas, Wu-Tang, Biggie, JAY Z and Big L to rap on their college radio show — they asked him to help them dig into the contemporary hip-hop scene.

On this episode of What's Good with Stretch & Bobbito, Chance talks about career, priorities, politics, and his recent million-dollar donation to the Chicago public-school system he attended as a kid.


Interview Highlights

On the reinvigoration of the mixtape

Mixtapes have always been a guerrilla-style means of moving music. When I dropped 10 Day, my first mixtape under the name Chance the Rapper, I put it out for free so that everybody could get it. It was only on SoundCloud, because SoundCloud was the only place I could post music and not have to pay subscription, and also it worked everywhere worldwide. It was accessible, and that became my M.O.: trying to make sure that the streets could get it, that young white suburban teens could get it— that the geriatrics could get it, too.

On #BlackBoyJoy, the social media wave devoted to images of black men feeling good

I guess it's just because I'm famous that I'm an ambassador for black boy joy. I don't have to carry myself as anybody that I'm not, and people picked up on it.

There is a multitude of experiences that make up the black experience. I think there's always been a kind of quiet conversation that if you're not if you're not hard, if you're not from an impoverished neighborhood, if you're not certain constructs of a black stereotype, then you're not black. But now a lot of black people have a lot more pride in being who they are, and understand that that is a part of the black experience.

On moving from Chicago to Los Angeles and back

I did a tour and made a lot of money the first year off Acid Rap. And so I was like, let me get this crazy crib, let me move to L.A., let me record every day, let me be on the beach every day. ... Towards the end I realized that I had a bad Xanax addiction and that I was only really coming back to Chicago for weddings funerals. And I was like, "I don't want to be somebody that you see at the funeral or at the wedding and talk to for five minutes." I wanted to be present. So my dad came out and we packed up all my stuff, and in two days I was back in Chicago.

On donating $1,000,000 to Chicago Public Schools this spring

There are all types of city and state services that are dwindling or on the cusp of being cut ... so I decided to try to meet with the people that actually decide and allot the funds, and have direct access to the funds through bills and through their elected power. And through all the channels I was going through I just kept getting the same answers — so I said f*** it, I'll donate the money and see how the people respond and how the media responds, and see if anything gets fast-tracked. And while it hasn't been exactly how I want it to, there has been a little been a little bit of a political shakeup, and it is a conversation. And in 2018, you know, we're gonna pick the people who pick the laws again.

I think it's not just on artists or philanthropists to make the change; it is everybody's job to make it a conversation. I know y'all pay taxes, and I definitely pay my taxes because I know they waiting for me to slip, you know what I'm saying? Some of that money could be just [for] making education fair.

On how having a child has changed his work

I definitely try and be more deliberate: Everything I say has more intent, and I'm rapping as if I know she's going to listen to it. I've come to understand that art is awesome and beautiful because it's a reflection of life — but it's just a reflection, and the real thing is my daughter. I'm more conscious of my time and what's most important now.

Web intern Jenna Li contributed to this story.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

BOBBITO, HOST:

Please be advised that the language that you're about to hear in this upcoming podcast may not be suitable for your little kiddies.

CHANCE THE RAPPER: Yo, it's Chance the Rapper. And I'm with (singing) Stretch and Bobbito. What's up? What's up? Stretch, Bobbito, what's up?

STRETCH, HOST:

(Laughter) It's actually...

CHANCE THE RAPPER: (Singing) What's up?

STRETCH: I don't want to interrupt your beautiful song. But it's What's Good.

CHANCE THE RAPPER: What's good? What's good? What's good? All right.

STRETCH: Yeah.

BOBBITO: (Laughter).

STRETCH: Take two.

CHANCE THE RAPPER: That can be a part of the feature - all right, cool, cool. Let's start it over...

(LAUGHTER)

CHANCE THE RAPPER: ...As if that - like I didn't just give you guys a Grammy-winning song.

(LAUGHTER)

CHANCE THE RAPPER: Let's try this again, OK (laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BOBBITO: Stretch, what's happening?

STRETCH: Cool, Bob love, my man.

BOBBITO: What's good (laughter)?

STRETCH: What's Good with Stretch and Bobbito.

BOBBITO: What - you know, we always ask about what we think about current hip-hop.

STRETCH: (Snoring).

BOBBITO: I know. I know. I'm not going to ask you that.

STRETCH: I'm not snoring for hip-hop. I'm snoring for the question.

BOBBITO: No, for sure. But I am going to ask you, what's the last - on a positive note, what's the last hip-hop record that you fell in love with?

STRETCH: Oh, easy question. I like the easy ones. It was A Tribe Called Quest, "Thanks 4 Your Service We Got It From Here" (ph).

BOBBITO: Well, why, Stretch?

STRETCH: We're...

BOBBITO: Well, actually, I know why. But I want you to explain why (laughter).

STRETCH: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, we're huge Tribe fans. You know, the anticipation was crazy. Hip-hop, in terms of a mainstream art form, has changed so much. And I think people were really anticipating what Tribe Called Quest - how they would fit into today's hip-hop, how they would fit into today's political landscape, you know, in the middle of Black Lives Matter, what the record would be like, you know, with Phife, you know, suffering from an illness, which eventually took his life in the midst of recording it. By the time the record came out, of course, he had already passed.

There was the election, as well. You know, they came out and splashed "Saturday Night Live" with "We The People," which was a song that was, you know, their most explicit political record they ever made. Of course, you know, none of that means anything if the record isn't really connecting with you on an emotional musical level. And it did all of that. It was one of those records that just invited you in and then locked the door once you were in. It just wouldn't let you stop listening to it. It was so compelling and so funky.

BOBBITO: Well, listen, our guest today, Chance the Rapper, uses his platform to affect politics both locally and I think eventually globally. He is at the scorers table ready to check into this game. Stay tuned.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BOBBITO: Support for this podcast and the following message come from wordpress.com. Creating your website on wordpress.com helps your customers find you, remember you and connect with you. At wordpress.com, you'll find hundreds of beautiful designs, the ability to add a custom domain name and features to make your business more visible online. Using the technology that powers 28 percent of all websites, give 15 percent of your new website today at wordpress.com/stretch.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANCE THE RAPPER SONG, "COCOA BUTTER KISSES")

STRETCH: I - we're going to jump in.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "COCOA BUTTER KISSES")

CHANCE THE RAPPER: (Scatting).

STRETCH: Joining us now is Chance the Rapper.

CHANCE THE RAPPER: Yo.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "COCOA BUTTER KISSES")

CHANCE THE RAPPER: (Rapping) Cigarettes on cigarettes, my mama think I stank. I got burn holes in my hoodies. All my homies think it's dank. I miss my cocoa butter kisses. I miss my cocoa butter kisses. Cigarettes on cigarettes...

BOBBITO: He's only 24. But he has already had a career most artists could only dream of. This year, Chance won three Grammys for best new artist, best rap performance and best rap album. In 2015, Chance was the first unsigned artist to ever perform on "Saturday Night Live." And in March, he donated 1 million pesos to the public school system that he attended as a kid.

STRETCH: That's dollars.

Chance, welcome to the show.

BOBBITO: (Laughter).

CHANCE THE RAPPER: Yo, thanks for having me.

STRETCH: Good looking, man. You've had a long day today?

CHANCE THE RAPPER: Yeah, I'm in Tampa, you know, finishing up this tour. And it's my last day. So I had my whole family come out. So I've been with the baby and a bunch of other babies, my cousins and my aunts and uncles and grandmas and great aunts and all that type of stuff. So...

BOBBITO: Nice.

CHANCE THE RAPPER: ...It's been tiring, but it's been awesome.

BOBBITO: Nice. How swift are you on the diaper change in between songs?

CHANCE THE RAPPER: Like two seconds, two seconds tops...

(LAUGHTER)

CHANCE THE RAPPER: ...Which is slowed down, you know...

BOBBITO: I'm a...

CHANCE THE RAPPER: ...Just because I'm on tour.

BOBBITO: I'm a first-time parent myself, so I got nice with it. At first, it was very intimidating.

But listen, we want to talk about mixtapes because I was mentoring a young teen in Harlem about a decade ago. And he was like, yo, Bob, I've got this mixtape. I want you to check it out. I'm like, oh, word, cool. I didn't know you DJed. He's like, nah, nah, I rhyme. I said, oh, OK. Well, you know, who mixed the records for you? He's like, no, I'm rhyming over other people's beats. And it's more like an album. And I was like, so you going to pass me the tape? And he was like nah, nah, nah. It's online. I'm...

(LAUGHTER)

BOBBITO: I'm 50 (laughter) - I'm 50 years old. You know, I've been down with hip-hop since "Jump." So it's intriguing, to me, this entire new sort of reinvigoration of the word and the element of what a mixtape is. And it's obviously played a crucial role for your career.

CHANCE THE RAPPER: Yeah.

BOBBITO: So I want to get some sensibility from you about what it has meant for you.

CHANCE THE RAPPER: Yeah, I mean, like, my music is for everybody. I've been a big, not just, like, spectator, but also instrumental in this evolving of mixtapes and mediums for moving music. And mixtapes have always been kind of a guerrilla-style means of moving music and, you know, tax-free and - you know what I'm saying? - and like...

(LAUGHTER)

CHANCE THE RAPPER: ...You know, just a little bit off the (laughter) - a little bit off the record. But it's just evolved because music's been around forever. But the music business is newer. And, you know, publishing is - and doing record deals are newer. And because they're constantly catching up, people kind of have to find new ways to get around it.

And so when I dropped "10 Day," which was my first mixtape under the name Chance the Rapper, it was about four years ago now. You know, I wanted to be on iTunes, and I wanted it to be, you know, everywhere that people could access it. But, you know, at the time, my fan base wasn't putting money into my projects immediately. But I knew that if I put out the tape, they'd come to the show. So when I dropped it, I put it out for free so that everybody could get it. It was only on Soundcloud because Soundcloud was the only place I could get a subscription to be able to post music and not have to pay no subscription.

(LAUGHTER)

CHANCE THE RAPPER: And also, it worked everywhere worldwide - you know what I'm saying? If I did an iTunes thing, I would have to do iTunes America, iTunes Canada, iTunes blah, blah, blah, you know. And it was accessible. And that was - that kind of became my MO, was trying to make sure that the streets could get it, that young, white suburban teens could get it and that geriatric, old (unintelligible) could get it, too (laughter).

(LAUGHTER)

BOBBITO: (Laughter) Gee, thanks.

CHANCE THE RAPPER: Anybody, you know what I'm saying?

STRETCH: I was at a show that you did as a surprise guest at STIX Jam in Brooklyn.

CHANCE THE RAPPER: You were there?

STRETCH: I was there. Yeah, yeah.

CHANCE THE RAPPER: Ah, damn.

STRETCH: I'd never seen you perform before. And, you know, once you got out - I can't front - I was really tired. I just was - it was just one of those days. And when you came out, I was like lying down on the couch in the back. And I got up.

BOBBITO: Are you serious?

STRETCH: And what I was really...

CHANCE THE RAPPER: That's love.

STRETCH: ...Just was amazed by was you were just feeding the crowd this really palpable, positive energy. And I think that's why you've resonated with kids so much. In fact, you've come to represent this concept black boy joy, a recent movement that's about sharing images and videos of black men feeling good and enjoying themselves. What does it mean to you to be this ambassador of black joy and optimism, especially in these times?

CHANCE THE RAPPER: It's important. I understand that there's a multitude of experiences that make up the black experience because I'm black, and I have black cousins. And (laughter) there's still one life that I'm living. But I've lived many different black experiences. And I only say that to say it's really just because of the fact that I'm famous that, I guess like what you just said, I'm an ambassador for black boy joy. But I'm happy that people are able to catch a black man on film and document and make history of a successful black man that's - you know, I consider myself to be a positive person. And that shit didn't exist like a (laughter) few years ago. I never heard of black boy joy until this year. So...

(LAUGHTER)

CHANCE THE RAPPER: But it's cool that, you know, I'm all with it. I live it.

STRETCH: Nice. Well, speaking of happiness, you know, when Bob and I were doing our thing on the radio in the '90s, the idea of happiness in hip-hop is interesting because that really wasn't on the menu. Like if you...

BOBBITO: (Laughter) It was a dark time.

STRETCH: If your presentation was, like, overly happy or positive, with a few exceptions, you stood a good chance of getting dissed. Like, that just wasn't really...

CHANCE THE RAPPER: There's a lot of exceptions to that...

STRETCH: No, no - there are many...

CHANCE THE RAPPER: ...Tribe, Souls of Mischief.

STRETCH: Oh, no, no - of course, of course, of course. But the construct of a bad-boy image was pretty common. And dudes had exaggerated storytelling. And their whole persona was completely fabricated.

CHANCE THE RAPPER: Yeah.

STRETCH: Your image, on the other hand, you know, runs counter to this in both vibe and personal authenticity. How do you think hip-hop has changed to allow you the space to maintain this aura of positive energy?

CHANCE THE RAPPER: Yeah, I appreciate that question.

Well, I think the fact that it's able to be a main-stage or mainstream image and accept it and celebrate it is because of folks like Kanye, who came in the game and was like, this is who I am and these are the type of things that I love. And I'm excited about them. And I don't, you know, necessarily have to carry myself as anybody that I'm not. And people picked up on it. It's constantly changing because of, you know, the accessibility that fans and media folks have to the personal lives of artists. And so if you're saying that you on the block all the time, then you got to post selfies on the block now. And if (laughter)...

(LAUGHTER)

CHANCE THE RAPPER: You know what I'm saying? If you say that you're really for the kids, you know - you know what I'm saying?

STRETCH: (Singing) We need more people...

(LAUGHTER)

CHANCE THE RAPPER: Right (laughter), you know what I'm saying? Right, like photo ops and stuff. So I'm lucky to be in a space where I've been accepted for who I am and celebrated for who I am and able to connect with so many people. I think there's always been - bigger than hip-hop, I think there's just always been a quiet, you know, conversation and joke that like, you know, if you're not hard, if you're not from an impoverished neighborhood, if you're not, you know, certain constructs of a black stereotype, then you're not black. And so niggers kind of ran with that in the '90s, I think. And that's why there were so many fabricated hood niggers.

But, you know, now it's like a lot of black people have a lot more pride in being who they are and understanding that that is a part of the black experience, is living and being who you are. I think it's more accepted on the main stage.

BOBBITO: Thank you for putting that in context because that - you know, coming from the '90s, it was like the keep-it-real era, even if you weren't real, you still aspire to keep...

STRETCH: It was keep it real, and real meant fake.

(LAUGHTER)

BOBBITO: So anyway, you wrote your album "10 Day" during a 10-day suspension. I'm curious now that you're seeing these new platforms, these new openings, these new awarenesses, where is the inspiration coming from in terms of your daily as well as your not-so-daily - for the lyrics, but also your melodies because it's not easy to write melody. And it's not easy to write harmony. And I'm noticing in your music that you have lyrics as well as harmony and melody. And that's not always present in hip-hop, as well. So where are all these forces coming from?

CHANCE THE RAPPER: Yeah, I mean, when I was in high school and I put out - well, when I was in high school, I put out a lot of mixtapes, to be honest, obviously. But, you know, I didn't put out a real, real one that people heard or that was under the name Chance the Rapper until my senior year of high school and I got suspended and made that "10 Day" tape. At that time, I started to...

BOBBITO: He was keeping it real, right?

(LAUGHTER)

CHANCE THE RAPPER: Yeah, you know what I'm saying? I was like, at the time, I was listening to - do you remember Freestyle Fellowship?

BOBBITO: Of course.

STRETCH: Of course.

CHANCE THE RAPPER: (Singing, rapping) Once we have the knowledge of self as a people then we could be free and no devil could ever enter the boundaries.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "INNER CITY BOUDARIES")

FREESTYLE FELLOWSHIP: (Rapping) I stand in the center around all these sounds I see. Blessing Allah that I found the key. That's how we be...

STRETCH: Yo, you just scored points with Bobbito...

BOBBITO: Yeah.

STRETCH: Oh, my God.

BOBBITO: We - Stretch and I, we were the first station to play their music on the East Coast.

CHANCE THE RAPPER: That's crazy. My uncle is from Cali. He was the one that put me on Souls of Mischief, put me on, you know, a lot of - like, of...

STRETCH: I'm a fan.

CHANCE THE RAPPER: ...Oakland stuff, too. And - I'm saying. So he...

STRETCH: (Laughter).

CHANCE THE RAPPER: But he's also white. So you guys would really fuck with him. (Laughter) He's - but he's the best uncle that I have, my favorite uncle - Uncle Chris. He sent me...

STRETCH: What's up, Chris?

CHANCE THE RAPPER: ...Freestyle Fellowship at the same time that I was suspended from high school. And I started like, you know, really thinking about flows, like rhythm specifically and then on the other side, melody a lot more and trying to be a little bit more elastic. And so, like, at the time, it was like, all right, I got a simple subject matter, which is, you know, I fucking hate school. And then I got like a - have a wide range of ways to play with that.

And so today, when I - you know, a project like "Coloring Book," it was like, all right, I have several themes. I got God, you know, which is - you know, he's like very, very prevalent in my life now. Or he always been. But like, you know what I'm saying. And then also, I have my family. You know, I have a daughter now. And then, you know, all the things that are going on in Chicago within those things, you know, within my family. And then things that I've been dealing with over the past three years since I released "Acid Rap" - kind of all those being the varying factor and then kind of attacking it the same way through different tracks was like, just flipping it - characterization.

BOBBITO: Ay.

STRETCH: Boom. So you spent your whole childhood and teen years firmly planted in Chicago. And as a hip-hop artist, you're following the footsteps of a lot of history from Common to Twista to Rhymefest and, of course, your mentor Mr. Kanye West. But you recently moved to Los Angeles. You said that...

CHANCE THE RAPPER: Yeah.

STRETCH: ...The time you spent there was creatively unproductive. So what was the move about, and how has moving back to Chicago affected your creative process?

CHANCE THE RAPPER: Like when you live in L.A., it's like, you know, a lot of sitting and waiting, a lot of, like, planning what I'm going to do but not really doing shit. When I, like, would sit around and arrange all these different choir vocals or sit around and, like, play with all these different sounds, like, I wasn't really creating new stuff. I was just, you know, experimenting. And then towards the end of that of that trip - I lived in L.A. for six months. And I had this beautiful big crib. Crib isn't the right way to describe it. I had a big, obnoxious, rapper mansion that I was renting.

(LAUGHTER)

CHANCE THE RAPPER: And that's the best way to describe it.

STRETCH: "MTV Cribs" (laughter).

CHANCE THE RAPPER: You know what I'm saying? - like, literally "MTV Cribs." And at the end, get the fuck out of my house, and we have to search all the cameramen because they might have stole some of my expensive rapper shit.

(LAUGHTER)

CHANCE THE RAPPER: So you know what I'm saying? Like, it was crazy because I - you know, I didn't have a deal. And I did a tour and made a lot of money, you know, first year off "Acid Rap". And so I was, like, you know, let me get this crazy crib. Let me move to L.A. Let me record every day. Let me be on the beach every day. And I didn't go to the beach once while I lived in Los Angeles. I just talked about going to Venice all the time and then talked about how long it was going to take, you know? And that, like, kind of applied to everything I was doing out there.

Towards the end, I realized that I had a bad Xanax addiction and that I was only really coming back to Chicago for weddings or funerals. And so I was, like, you know, I don't want to waste my time here. I don't want to be a visitor when I come home or somebody that, you know, you see at the funeral or at the wedding, and you talk to for five minutes and then, you know, hope everything's good peace. I wanted to be present. So my dad came out, and we packed up all my stuff in two days. And I was back in Chicago. And since I've been back, I've been doing great things.

(LAUGHTER)

CHANCE THE RAPPER: Execution.

STRETCH: So speaking of your father, Ken Williams-Bennett, he used to work for Senator Barack Obama and, later, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. You, yourself...

CHANCE THE RAPPER: He also worked for President Barack Obama, just while we're at it.

STRETCH: OK.

BOBBITO: Word up.

STRETCH: And then before the 2016 presidential election, you performed a concert and let thousands of people to the polls to vote early. You said that you don't have any plans to enter into politics. But you use your platform to encourage political participation and influence policy. Are there ways that you think that you can influence politics as an artist that you, perhaps, wouldn't be able to as a politician?

CHANCE THE RAPPER: Definitely. I just have a larger platform than all politicians. I have a bigger voice than Donald Trump - you know what I'm saying? - than literally anybody that works in politics. And so, yes, I can connect with people on a level of appealing as a person who's still a citizen, who still does, you know, what he wants.

But I have ideas for how to voice opinions and make change that other people just don't have. I have this one idea. Shout out to Mike. We made this website called rapperradio.com. And what it is, is a database of all the social media handles of every radio DJ and station on FM between top 40 and urban.

BOBBITO: Brilliant.

CHANCE THE RAPPER: So fans go on the website. And they basically type in their city. It's very - it's also very neat. I just want to pat myself on the back for a clean website.

BOBBITO: Is it a Tumblr (laughter)?

CHANCE THE RAPPER: No. It's - this is official. You go on the website, you type in your city, and every station that's in your city is available. And you choose which one you want to request the song to. So that helped "No Problem" become the No. 1 urban record in the country. Another pat on the back.

(LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NO PROBLEM (FEATURING 2 CHAINZ AND LIL WAYNE)")

CHANCE THE RAPPER: (Rapping) If one more label try to stop me, it's going be some dreadhead niggas in your lobby. You don't want no problem, want no problem with me. You don't want no problem, want no problem with me. Just another day, had to pick up all the mail...

CHANCE THE RAPPER: What if there was a Rapper Radio for policy?

BOBBITO: Boom.

CHANCE THE RAPPER: And so every time there was, you know, a petition or a - some proposition, you could make a database with all the people in Congress that are voting on the laws in which you - which lead your life - if you could tweet-storm your senator or your congressman and say these are the actions we want, you know. This is what I'm voting for. This is what I want my followers to vote for, you know?

BOBBITO: I mean, there are platforms out there similar to that. But I can't think of any that are led by someone like yourself or someone who's a personality that whereby the followers would be a little more emotionally invested because they believe in a person or a personality and the way that this is happening for your rapperradio.com...

STRETCH: And also aggregated into one, clean, well-designed website.

(LAUGHTER)

CHANCE THE RAPPER: Centralized. Centralized and clean.

BOBBITO: Well, applause for that. Now to the big donation you made to Chicago Public Schools. A little context for our audience - basically, the school system is saying the state has a separate and unequal funding system that's left the public school system strapped for cash. You made a million-dollar donation as a call to action. I can't think of precedent for that. And the - definitely not in the hip-hop space.

Does someone come into your ear and be like, yo, Chance, let's do this. Or was that, you know, part of the legacy of the footsteps that you follow with your father, and, you know, obviously meeting the great politicians who you have in the past? Where is this space coming from?

CHANCE THE RAPPER: My dad's a great man. So yes, I do want to be him when I grow up. But it's about God. And, you know, I was fighting for - to take the service charges that my fans pay to Live Nation and to ticket websites - is a little expensive, right? And so I was working on a deal using my charm...

(LAUGHTER)

CHANCE THE RAPPER: ...To have these guys - to have these big companies for one tour - just for one tour - for my tour - to just get rid of any service fees. And that way, my fans will be getting tickets at a cheaper price. And while that deal didn't work out, they came back and said - everyone came back and agreed that they would be willing to donate that money to charity. And so originally, we had talked about ACLU and a few other causes. And at the same time, there was a lot bubbling in Chicago about this - about the state budget because it doesn't just affect the schools, even though that's one thing that I wanted to shine a light on and how negatively it's affecting the kids. There's all types of city and state services that are dwindling or on the cusp of being cut.

So I came up with the idea of donating the money. And I said, you know what? That's not my job. You know, charity doesn't always - there's a saying. I can't remember it right now, and I don't want to sound fucking stupid on the air. But, you know, like, charity isn't always the way is what I'm trying to say. And so I decided to try and meet with the people that actually decide and allot the funds and have direct access to the fund through bills and through their elected power. And through all the channels that I was going through, I just kept getting the same answers. And so I said, fuck it. I'll donate the money and see how the people respond and see how the media responds and see if anything gets fast-tracked. And while it hasn't been, you know, exactly how I wanted to, there has been a little bit of a political shake-up. And it is a conversation. And in 2018, we're going to pick the people that pick the laws again nationwide.

But especially in Chicago and in the state, that first million dollars will make a huge change in about 13 schools next year, you know, books and arts - and not even just arts, but back to like, you know, GenEd, like, actual supplies. Like teachers out of their own paychecks, a lot of the time, are buying supplies for their students because the principal doesn't have the money because the school district doesn't have the money because the state isn't giving them money.

So I think it's not just on artist or on philanthropists to make the change. It is a part of - it is everybody's job to make it a conversation. Y'all pay taxes. I know y'all pay taxes. And I definitely be paying my taxes because I know they're waiting for me to slip. So you know what I'm saying? Some of that money could be just making education fair. So then we got more doctors and more lawyers and more policemen and more - more everything - you know what I'm saying? - in the future.

STRETCH: You're a product of the Chicago Public School System, correct?

CHANCE THE RAPPER: Yes, sir.

STRETCH: And what was that experience like for you?

BOBBITO: Well, he got suspended for 10 days (laughter).

STRETCH: Other than those 10 days.

(LAUGHTER)

CHANCE THE RAPPER: Mine was great because the first school that I donated to - Westcott, my neighborhood school, which was literally two blocks walking distance from me - wasn't where I went to grade school. I went to - my parents made me test around the city. So I had to travel like six or seven miles to go to where I went to school because they had an accelerated learning program. High school's the same thing. I went through a thing in CPS called the selective enrollment process. And so if your school gets good enough test scores all around, then that eighth-grade class is eligible to test into the top 13 schools in the city.

And so then I traveled even further to go to high school downtown in a nice neighborhood where I was taught a lot of stuff that other people weren't. But it's still a Chicago public school. It's just there's a select few that get extra attention. And they have kids with parents from higher-class neighborhoods putting money in a trust. So they're not even really, you know, relying on state funds.

STRETCH: I think we've got to get to the Impression Session.

BOBBITO: Yeah, yeah. Let's do it.

STRETCH: Coming up next is the Impression Session.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

STRETCH: Support for this NPR podcast and the following message comes from Blue Apron.

BOBBITO: Blue Apron partners with sustainable farms, fisheries and ranchers to bring you all the ingredients you need to create incredible home-cooked meals.

STRETCH: Ingredients come paired with an easy-to-follow recipe card delivered to your door weekly in a refrigerated box.

BOBBITO: Rediscover how fun cooking can be while enjoying specialty ingredients and exploring new flavors and cuisines.

STRETCH: Get your first three Blue Apron meals free with your first order, plus free shipping, by visiting blueapron.com/stretch.

BOBBITO: What's Good with Stretch and Bobbito is going on tour this September. Save these dates - September 7 in Brooklyn, N.Y., September 22 in Washington, D.C., the nation's capital, September 27 in Los Angeles, Calif. For more information and tickets, keep an eye on nprpresents.org over the coming weeks.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BOBBITO: We're back. It's time for the Impression Session. Chance...

CHANCE THE RAPPER: Yo.

BOBBITO: ...Here's how it works. We are going to play you a song each. Stretch, play you one track. I'll play you another. Simply listen, digest, and we want your feedback - whatever the song makes you feel or however it moves you.

CHANCE THE RAPPER: I'm with it. That sounds like an amazing game.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DAUGHTERS")

NAS: (Rapping) For my brothers with daughters, I call this. For my brothers with daughters, I call this. For my brothers with daughters, I call this. For my brothers with daughters - I saw my daughter send a letter to some boy her age who locked up. First, I regretted it then caught my rage, like, how could I not protect her from this awful phase? Never try to hide who I was. She taught and raised like a princess. But while I'm on stage, I can't leave her defenseless. Plus, she see me switching women. Pops is on some pimp shit. She heard stories of her daddy thugging. So if her husband is a gangster, can't be mad. I'll love him.

STRETCH: Just a taste of the bass.

CHANCE THE RAPPER: All right (laughter).

STRETCH: (Laughter).

CHANCE THE RAPPER: Word.

STRETCH: Well, that's "Daughters" by Nas off his "Life Is Good" album.

CHANCE THE RAPPER: The one with him with the dress, with Kelis' dress.

BOBBITO: So how did that make you feel?

BOBBITO: Well, it's nostalgic. I remember when it came out. And I obviously didn't have a daughter yet. So it's my first time listening to it again and remembering it. You know, that's my whole thing is I'm overprotective. And just yesterday, I had, like, a big - there was a big thing about her running around pools and stuff. I don't know. It's just it - I feel it, though, you know? Do you have a daughter or you have a son?

BOBBITO: I have a son. It's a lot. You know, I don't know what's - people always tell me like, oh, yeah. You know, it's easier to have a son. But, you know, my wife and I, we encounter a lot of things that we have to be cautious about with him. Raising a child, period, there's a lot of things to deal with and to be aware of and to prepare for. And you know, we're first-time parents. You're a first-time parent.

CHANCE THE RAPPER: Yeah.

BOBBITO: You know, you don't always know the answers. You don't always know the course. You try to research and get advice from your elders as best possible and just, you know, use your best judgment.

CHANCE THE RAPPER: Yeah.

CHANCE THE RAPPER: Chance, has having a daughter affected your creativity in a particular way?

CHANCE THE RAPPER: Definitely. I definitely try and be more deliberate with everything I say - more intent behind things that I say. My content in itself has changed, you know, rapping as if I know she's going to listen to it.

STRETCH: She will (laughter).

CHANCE THE RAPPER: And, you know, but also just, like, I can't be at the studio all night because I have a daughter, you know? And I'm more conscious of my time. And I've come to understand that, you know - I think I understood even before she was born that art is awesome. Art is beautiful because it's a reflection of life, and describes life and shows life in its beauty. But it's just a reflection, you know, and, like, the real thing is my daughter. And so I understand, like, what's most important now. And it's put, like, layers on everything and a hierarchy on everything that happens in my life now. So, yeah.

BOBBITO: Word up. All right. We're going to play another joint, and just take a listen to it and enjoy. And then we'll come back, and we'll talk about it.

(SOUNDBITE OF POEM, "SHA-CLACK-CLACK")

SAUL WILLIAMS: I shout, don't shoot the children. But they say it's too late. They've already been infected by time. But that shit is before my time. I need more time. I need more time. But it's too late. They start shooting at the children and killing them one by one, two by two, three by three, four by four, five by five, six by six. But my spirit is growing seven by seven, faster than the speed of light because light only penetrates the darkness that's already there. And I'm already there. I'm here at the end of the road which is the beginning of the road beyond time. But where my niggas at?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Oh, shit.

WILLIAMS: Oh, shit. Don't tell me my niggas got lost in time. My niggas are dying before their time. My niggas are serving unjust time. My niggas are dying because of time.

(APPLAUSE)

BOBBITO: Chance, that's artist by the name of...

CHANCE THE RAPPER: Saul Williams.

BOBBITO: Yes. Yes. And that's...

CHANCE THE RAPPER: Yeah. It's from "Slam."

BOBBITO: Exactly.

CHANCE THE RAPPER: Sorry. I'm not trying to cut you off. There's another poem in that movie called "Amethyst Rocks." That's one of my favorite Saul Williams poems. He's a genius and just a legendary person. So I think it's cool that y'all played that. Yeah, I'm sorry. Ask a question.

BOBBITO: No, no, no. I had the pleasure of introducing him on stage at the Nuyoric. And I used to host events there.

CHANCE THE RAPPER: That's crazy.

BOBBITO: And I remember the first time he performed that. The room was completely silent. I mean, in the film, everybody claps. But that poem was so deep and the way he performed it as a spoken word. I just thought - I thought of playing it for you today and sharing it with you to try to get something out of - his words there, the way he delivered them to me was almost like a call for action. And I think of civil rights. You know, I think of Chicago. I think of what you're doing apart from your music. But also, I mean, that was recorded, right? That was in the film "Slam." That was on the album. That soundtrack sold a lot of copies in certain countries and affected a lot of people and inspired them. So what I'm trying to get at is, where is your music gearing towards in terms of bridging it with civil rights?

CHANCE THE RAPPER: Well, I think where my music meets my personal obligation as a human and as a black man is always fighting for freedom and always fighting for liberation and for a voice and access. Mass incarceration isn't a new thing, you know? But, like, we were talking about earlier with the advancements of people and people's thought and how that interacts with what technological advancements we've made has allowed for, like, more discussion and more free thought on it. And we're in a generation of action, so there'll be more changes.

STRETCH: Beautiful.

BOBBITO: Word.

STRETCH: Love that generation of action.

BOBBITO: There it is. And listen, you know, Stretch and I, we - we've had the great pleasure of interviewing some phenomenal people on this show. And we want to applaud you for what you're doing. You know, we're all working towards something really positive. And so keep on being who you are and keep on doing what you're doing.

STRETCH: Indeed. And we want to say thank you for sharing your time with us. We know you've got a hectic schedule and a daughter to attend to and a tour to finish up.

(LAUGHTER)

CHANCE THE RAPPER: Yeah. I want to say thank you guys for letting me be a part of the show. And I'm glad it's back. And I really, you know - next time I'm on I want y'all to ask me to freestyle - not now cause y'all just reminded me that I do have to pick up my baby.

(LAUGHTER)

CHANCE THE RAPPER: But I do appreciate what y'all have done in music and you guys' position in hip-hop music and what it's done for people thus far and will continue to do.

BOBBITO: Word.

STRETCH: Thanks, man.

CHANCE THE RAPPER: Coolio. Yo, I appreciate you guys for real. Thank you.

STRETCH: No doubt. We appreciate it. Take care, man.

BOBBITO: All right. Peace.

CHANCE THE RAPPER: I'll see y'all all around.

BOBBITO: Peace.

STRETCH: Yeah, man.

That is our show. This podcast was produced by Sami Yenigun, edited by Steve Nelson and N'Jeri Eaton and executive produced by Abby O'Neill.

BOBBITO: Special big ups to our VP of programming, Anya Grundmann.

STRETCH: If you like the show, you should check out our interviews with Mahershala Ali and Dave Chappelle.

BOBBITO: And Eddie Huang, too. He's a laugher.

STRETCH: Listen on Apple Podcasts, NPR One, or wherever you get your podcasts.

BOBBITO: Peace, in all caps.

(LAUGHTER)

CHANCE THE RAPPER: Yo, it's Chance the Rapper (singing) Stretch and Bobbito. What's good? What's good? What's good? It's Chance and Stretch and Bobbito. What's good? What's good? Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.