Aretha Franklin Dies
Chance the Rapper Bought Chicagoist -- Now What?
At midnight on July 19, Chance the Rapper dropped four new singles. On the most pointed, “I Might Need Security,” he takes aim at a number of people and publications for their perceived wrongdoing.
He calls for Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel’s resignation for his lack of action in terms of how the city handles police shootings, and put Crain’s and the Chicago Sun-Times on blast for allegedly trying to leak his home address and calling him a deadbeat dad, respectively.
But he’s not just sounding off for the sake of it. Each jab is a strategic set up, readying listeners for the track’s biggest hit of all: The 25-year-old has acquired local news publication Chicagoist. And how did he break the news? Instead of giving the scoop to his newly purchased news site, he dropped it in his song.
Since doing so, many other news sites have picked it up, stamping headlines of praise for another “heroic” act from Chance. (Most egregiously, Vanity Fair penned a headline that read "Chance The Rapper Saves Chicago Journalism," before ultimately toning it down.) But really, the sly line and heated delivery of "Security" is in stark contrast to the good-guy image Chance has crafted since the start of his career and still does foster: He hosts monthly open-mic nights, OpenMike, in Chicago for the city’s youth; helped raise over $2 million to fund arts and education programs at Chicago Public Schools; and has partnered with the Special Olympics for its 50th anniversary this year. And for an artist whose last project, the 2016 Grammy award-winning mixtape Coloring Book, featured religion-infused songs like “Blessings” and “How Great,” it’s a sonic shift, too -- less choral, more reverb.
But what hasn’t changed is the way in which he tries to tackle both city-wide and more personal problems: "I donate to the schools, next they call me a deadbeat daddy," he raps on “I Might Need Security,” as if his money should serve as a shield. (In March of 2017, when the Sun-Times article he references that debated his image ran, Chance was involved in a child-support case.) And again, now, he takes issue with negative news being published about him, and his response is to buy out a Chicago news site.
It’s no secret celebrities often have a love-hate relationship with the press, and understandably so. And while Chance does, for the most part, garner more positive press than most -- as laid out here -- that’s not to say he’s entirely immune. His most notable incident with the media came last year, when Spin reported that Chance’s team put pressure on MTV News to delete a negative review of one of his concerts. And more recently, Chance slid into the DMs of a Twitter user who criticized his proposal to longtime girlfriend Kirsten Corley to tell them to "get off my dick."
So then, for someone whose platform is held up on the pillars of a good image, Chance’s purchase of Chicagoist begs the question: can, and will, the site remain unbiased? It comes down to how Chance plans to be involved -- which remains to be seen. On the surface, he did a good thing; he’s supporting local journalism. But, in covering the news, if Chicagoist ever comes across a story that could bring him down -- or one of his associates or business interests -- will he take it with him?
In the past year, Chicagoist has had a shaky trajectory. It was shut down by its owner, Joe Ricketts, in November of 2017 amid a vote by its newsroom to unionize. Then in February of this year, Chicagoist, its sister site Gothamist and DNAinfo were bought by public radio conglomerate WNYC. And now, it will be run by a man who, as he admitted on the track, “bought the Chicagoist just to run you racist bitches out of business.”
Time and time again, Chance has made clear he sees himself as part of the resistance -- and though "Security" opens with the line "I ain't no activist," it goes on to prove the opposite. So it's not entirely out of the question that he might use Chicagoist as a platform for activist journalism. But while he uses his fame and wealth to fight against corruption, police brutality and the excesses of a white-male-dominated authoritarian system, he's also shown what he thinks about how a free press covers his own fame and wealth. If he gets the opportunity to step into power -- in April of 2017 an online campaign launched, and is still active today, urging Chance to run for mayor in 2019, though he himself has downplayed the possibility -- how much will he be willing to support a free and independent press that takes on an administration of his own making?
Chance said in a statement shared Thursday that he looks forward to re-launching the site, “and bringing the people of Chicago an independent media outlet focused on amplifying diverse voices and content." But, in doing so, the platform's biggest struggle might be ensuring its independence from him.