Chicago Choir Joshua's Troop On Connecting With Chance The Rapper: 'He Called Me Personally'

Ramona Rosales
Chance The Rapper photographed on July 20, 2016 at The F Stop Studio in Chicago. 

Percy Gray Jr. was sitting in church on Sunday (Mar. 19) around 5 p.m. when his phone suddenly started buzzing with an endless stream of texts and calls. Chance The Rapper was trying to get in touch with him. 

Gray Jr. is the leader of the Chicago choir Joshua’s Troop, which Chance had tweeted about trying to connect with. “I checked my messages when I got out of church, and Chance had called me personally," Gray Jr. tells Billboard. "He left a message, who does that?!”

The urgency to connect was revealed on Monday (Mar. 20), when Chance invited the choir to sing at his Open Mike Chicago event, put on by his organization SocialWorks. Brittney Gray -- Gray Jr.’s 27-year-old-daughter who joined Joshua’s Troop at age 12 -- says prior to attending the event, it was enigmatic to her considering it is exclusively for high school students. Her only knowledge of Chance's Open Mike night was that it serves as a platform for Chicago’s youth to share their talents, which she -- and more importantly her father -- were able to witness first-hand. 

“I’ve been trying to explain to my dad the magnitude of what’s happening right now,” Brittney relates. “My dad is older, so he knows who Chance is but doesn’t really understand his impact in the industry and especially in Chicago, because Chance means so much to young people in this city. He's a breath of fresh air."

Earlier in March, Chance had shared a video on Instagram Stories of himself and his daughter, in which “Clap Your Hands” by Joshua’s Troop was playing in the background -- the song, released in 2008, reached No. 19 on the Hot Gospel Songs chart.

Even before the Instagram video, though, Gray Jr.’s nephew predicted Chance would come calling. Gray Jr. recalls how his 30-year-old nephew called him after Chance gave his acceptance speech for Best New Artist at the Grammys this year -- he thanked God, his family and Chicago -- and said, “You and Chance are going to hook up.” Sunday evening, after Gray Jr. had connected with Chance, he called his nephew back and said, “You predicted this over a month ago.”

Prior to meeting Chance, Gray Jr.’s only introduction to the rapper was by way of his gospel-infused track “Sunday Candy,” which also happens to be Brittney’s favorite song largely because of the personal connection. “To be black and grow up in a black church you have similar experiences -- that song touches me," she says.

Brittney goes on to say how Chance is a spiritual and religious individual, which is why she thinks he felt inclined to reach out to their organization. “To have a famous rapper, who is not just famous in our city but in the nation, want us -- a young gospel group -- to come sing with him, that’s not necessarily the cool thing to do. But that’s what’s great, Chance is setting a new standard.”

Twenty-four hours after not only meeting, but performing (and later partying) with Chance, Brittney says she is still on a high -- “I feel like my life has been recharged -- and she imagines much of the choir feels the same. Before Joshua’s Troop performed at Open Mike -- Chance even hopped in on “Clap Your Hands” -- the rapper spoke with those present about their current opportunity, as well as his plans to work with them again.

After Chance had left the room, Gray Jr. says, “The choir was acting like they had just seen Jesus.” He adds how one of the group’s younger members even proclaimed, “This is better than graduation.” 

While Gray Jr. may not have been well acquainted with Chance before Monday, he knew enough. “I knew he was a young man from Chicago that changed the whole music game," Gray Jr. says. "So for him to choose us, my young people, it’s unbelievable. I’ve been telling them for 16 years, ‘You never know who’s listening to your music.’”