When Chance The Rapper released his third mixtape, Coloring Book, as a free download in 2016, it sent ripples down the industry, demonstrating a DIY attitude with a widespread appeal. A year later, the Chicago rapper became a three-time Grammy Award-winning artist and did so by circumventing the traditional system. It was a cavalier mindset that helped bring his new film, Magnificent Coloring World, to life.
That aforementioned mixtape sent Chance The Rapper into the stratosphere of critical acclaim, and the domino effect led to the death of the conventional blueprint in hip hop. The pre-destined plan that artists were encouraged to religiously follow in the hope of gaining a little extra label support was torn to shreds. Instead, being independent has allowed Chance to have total creative freedom to take on whatever project he finds of interest, such as his brand new concert film Magnificent Coloring World, an effort that was recorded back over the course of three surprise shows in 2017 in his hometown at Cinespace Chicago Film Studios to a room full of unsuspecting superfans.
The plans likely wouldn’t have been a possibility if Chance wasn’t an artist who pushes himself to go against the grain. Unsurprisingly, it’s atypical in almost every aspect, but ever the perfectionist, the film never saw the light of day until he revisited it during the coronavirus lockdown with his creative magnifying glass. Now some time has passed from that era of mixtapes, Magnificent Coloring World is a befitting way to draw a line under the years that saw him transition from an unknown quantity to a superstar.
The hefty four years it’s taken to allow the project to come to light says everything you need to know about Chance’s hands-on approach. It also explains why it took a global pandemic for him to finally have the time to revisit and perfect the footage. In fact, the film had slipped his mind entirely until he started to get creative with his virtual concerts, and it sparked something in Chance’s brain.
“Obviously, just like everybody else, I was sat in front of my laptop, or in front of my TV, just watching hella films, and then get inspired to try different camera tricks,” he says over Zoom, reflecting on his decision to finally take on the project. “I get inspired, and then, you know, try and try different camera tricks, and I was like, ‘Man, I’m good at this virtual concert shit because I did it a long time ago.’ I filmed it, it just didn’t come out right, and I found the raw footage thinking that it could just have been an editing issue.
“I went back through all the footage, and cut it together in a different style, and let some of those like high-value shots hold on for longer based off the shit I’d been watching,” he added. “Also, appreciate that music, you know, in those arrangements. I haven’t performed any of those songs that way since that show because it was specifically arranged for that show, and just revisiting that was a good feeling.”
If it wasn’t for the unlikely emergence of virtual streaming, revisiting Magnificent Coloring World wouldn’t even have occurred to the rapper, and this treasure trove of content would have been still gathering dust. Chance refused to sanction the first version because he felt as though the original edit didn’t do the concerts justice, despite ploughing a small fortune into making it is a reflex that epitomises his attitude to art. “I’d say it’s of the utmost importance to me to be involved in everything, and I don’t have to necessarily be the person that does every single thing because there are people who I enjoy their vision better or have a better vocabulary. Like I’m not great at ‘Final Cut’, ‘Premiere’ or anything like that,” he explained.
“Artistically, I know what I want to do with the edit in terms of pacing or going through a Multicam, so having my vision come to life is important, but nothing works without community. Independence just means you get to do what you want, and it’s liberation, but it’s the liberation of everybody. I love the fact that I still work with all the guys that I’ve made it with,” Chance passionately says.
His independence frees Chance from dealing with the rigmarole that comes with being signed to a major label — not that he ever devised a plan to tear down the industry in the first place. His stubborn artistic integrity, however, means that it soon became abundantly clear that he had to forge his own path. “Originally, I didn’t know that it would become something where more and more people are choosing to remain independent or doing something different,” Bennett says about accidentally democratising the economics of music. “At that time, I was 19 years old, and being super honest, I wasn’t super savvy on the music business. Thank God for all the movies about people taking shitty deals that made me apprehensive about locking myself into something until the right thing came along.”
Chance explains how he even fired his original lawyer, who failed to secure the rapper deals before arriving at the sobering realisation, “At a certain point, I got the information to understand that there wasn’t going to be a right deal,” he said. It took Chance until 2019 to finally release his debut album, The Big Day, a thematic record centred around his wedding, which proved to be the muse he needed to create an LP. His uncompromising attitude is what has got him to where he is today, and he admits, “It’s not as much a job for me, I make music, I live life, and then I make music about living life.”
When your music is centred on significant life events, staying creatively active can become complicated, especially when everything suddenly comes to a halt. However, the opportunity to return to Magnificent Coloring World has been a lifeline to Chance. “You can’t even quantify it. It’s just crazy, now that’s my normal,” he says about the adjustment in his life and becoming more used to being at home. While the musician is eternally grateful to spend the priceless time with his wife and children, the lack of freedom outside the four walls of his house meant that inspiration for his next project has been difficult.
“I can’t make music without living life, and I can’t live life without making music,” he explained. “The first thing that got a lot of people into my music was a mixtape 100% about being suspended from high school (10 Day), just a singular idea. It had a huge effect on me. It was the first time I really ever looked in my life and was like, ‘What am I gonna do?’ I think overall, I just always like to be doing both, and I’m always missing the other one.”
The world of cinema has been a saving grace for Chance over this period of flux, and it was the reason his track, ‘The Heart & The Tongue’, which he released earlier this year, even came to fruition. “That was my first time at the helm of directing the video,” he notes. “It was so cool because it got devised in this way where I didn’t have a song and then later I had to take a director, but I had this vision for a video and the content that I wanted to be discussing. Which is the duality in my mind of what do I want to say versus what do I want people to hear? I had that before I had the lyrics, and then I ended up writing a song to it and producing the beat for it. It all just came together in such a cool way.”
There’s an overlap between the many sides of his personality, two focal facets of the rapper that bleed into each other and invigorate his overall creative vision. He has an urge to constantly keep his brain engaged, and he is an artist that never goes through the motions, hence why he’s become engrossed so heavily in the world of film.
If Chance has an itch to scratch, he wouldn’t be staying true to himself if he ignored it, and that authenticity remains the only constant throughout his career. However, his love for music is burning as bright as ever and, currently, the talk of a new musical project allowed Chance to cryptically state: “Oh, yeah, eventually. I don’t know if it’ll be like another three years. Well, I guess three years from 2019 would be next year.”
As our conversation meanders between cinema, music, and creative drive overall, the opportunity to discuss some of his contemporaries arises. Chance oozes passion when talking about his love for Drake’s Certified Lover Boy and Kanye West’s Donda, two records that have propped up headlines for weeks. He’s back obsessed with music from a fan’s perspective and has that childlike joy again, which can be a difficult thing to achieve almost a decade into superstardom.
“It kind of takes the veil away from when you’re backstage too. I felt like this was the first time in a long time that I felt like just an audience member. Just being able to watch it with the rest of the world is like unfolding is like every day with a new episode,” Chance says with vigour. “You’re in it for the love. So if you don’t feel the love, sometimes it’s hard to do it. But when you feel like you’re in love with it, it just comes to you,” he profoundly adds.
These last 18 months have been traumatic for everybody, and we are all different to some degree from the person who stepped into the first lockdown — even if you’re one of the most successful rappers on the planet like Chancelor Bennett. However, the experience of stepping into new territory, piecing Magnificent Coloring World together and channelling his thoughts through the prism of film has been the tonic that his soul needed.
Chance has forged out a piece of cinema that is truly unique to him by flexing his creativity in a new direction. From speaking with the 28-year-old, he sounds energised by what the future holds, even if it’s a mystery to everybody, including himself. Still, Chance wouldn’t have it any other way, and unpredictability is his chosen currency.
For more information about Magnificent Coloring World – and where you can view it, visit here.