Coloring outside the lines: Charting Chance’s wild rise

Chance the Rapper performs Thursday at The Palace of Auburn Hills. A guide to how he got there

Adam Graham
The Detroit News
Chance the Rapper will perform Thursday at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

Chance the Rapper will perform at The Palace of Auburn Hills on Thursday, the 24-year-old’s biggest area concert to date.

The proudly independent artist — he doesn’t have a record label and gives away his music for free — has enjoyed quite a precipitous climb over the last few years, building a grass-roots audience and grabbing headlines for his charitable initiatives. Earlier this year, Chance — who sold out Chicago’s U.S. Cellular Field (now Guaranteed Rate Field) in 2016 — announced he was donating $1 million to Chicago Public Schools.

How did Chance, born Chancelor Bennett, get to this level so quickly? Here are five major steps he has taken since he released his debut mixtape, “10 day,” in 2012.

1. “Acid Rap.” The follow-up to “10 Day” arrived in April 2013 and immediately made noise in internet rap circles, garnering a young, net-savvy fan base for the then-20-year-old. The album pulled influences from soul and gospel and jazz and the blues, with a thoroughly modern figure at its center whose introduction to rap came courtesy of Kanye West’s “The College Dropout.” It was clear he was onto something, but not yet apparent how far he could take it.

2. Coachella with Bieber. In April 2014, one year after the release of “Acid Rap,” Chance performed a daytime slot at Indio, California’s Coachella festival and brought out Justin Bieber as a special guest during his performance, the biggest cameo in a festival that has become known for its big-name cameos. The pair performed “Confident,” from Bieber’s “Journals” project, and images of the two of them standing side-by-side went worldwide in seconds. The set solidified Chance as a must-see festival act. He’s performed at Chicago’s Lollapalooza festival several times, and he headlines this year’s four-day fest, Aug. 3-6.

3. “Saturday Night Live.” By 2015, Chance was on a roll; even Madonna tapped him to rap on “Iconic,” a track from her “Rebel Heart” album. At the end of that year, he made history as the first unsigned artist to appear as a musical guest on “Saturday Night Live,” debuting the single “Somewhere in Paradise” and performing “Sunday Candy,” a song with his collective, Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment. Chance would return to “SNL” as musical guest a year later.

4. “Ultralight Beam.” The opening track of Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo” album, released in February 2016, features Chance in a guest role. With his powerful, gospel-tinged verse, Chance not only steals the song, he makes a good case for stealing the whole album. “You can feel the lyrics the spirit coming in Braille, Tubman of the underground come and follow the trail,” he raps, “I made ‘Sunday Candy’ I’m never going to hell, I met Kanye West I’m never going to fail!” The verse was his biggest, most important platform yet, and he hit a grand slam out of the park.

5. “Coloring Book.” Chance’s third album arrived in May 2016 and was the culmination of everything he had done to date: a positive, uplifting look at a young Chicago native wrestling with the ills of the world and doing his best to float above them all. The album produced an anthem in “No Problem,” a track solidifying his independent roots (with cameos from 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne), and the set was a driving force in the Recording Academy’s decision to allow streaming-only albums to be eligible for Grammys, where it went on to win Best Rap Album at February’s ceremony. Meanwhile, Chance — five years into his career — was awarded the Best New Artist trophy, signifying his run is only just beginning.

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Singer Justin Bieber, left, performs with Chance The Rapper on day 3 of the 2014 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in California in 2014.

Chance the Rapper

8 p.m. Thursday

Palace of Auburn Hills, 6 Championship Drive, Auburn Hills

Tickets $45 and up or (248) 377-0100