Chance The Rapper Makes History

Chance The Rapper made history Sunday night, winning the Grammy for Best Rap Album; the first time the accolade has gone to a streamed-only album.

The 23-year-old Chicago native, who was nominated in seven categories, picked up three statuettes for his work featured on the Coloring Book album, including Best New Artist and Best Rap Performance for “No Problem” with 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne. A Grammy rule change announced last year allowed streamed-only recordings to be eligible for nominations.

Chance The Rapper ironically sported his signature “No. 3″ hat as he graced the stage to accept his Grammy award, not once; not twice; but thrice!

“This is for every indie artist!” he shouted jubilantly on the stage, after winning for his gospel-infused hip-hop album, Coloring Book. That particular win is all the more magnificent when considering who the rapper was up against in the category: Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo, Drake’s Views, and DJ Khaled’s Major Key were also nominated. All those albums were backed—and heavily marketed—by major record labels.

Chance also performed on the telecast, joining gospel artists Kirk Franklin and Tamela Mann for a medley of “How Great” and “All We Got,” joined by a full orchestra and gospel choir.

With neither a record label contract nor any physical album sales, Chance hinges his finances off of the meager payouts from digital streaming. Yet the rapper doesn’t care about missing out on lucrative profits. He explained why in a recent Vanity Fair interview:

“After I made my second mixtape and gave it away online, my plan was to sign with a label and figure out my music from there. But after meeting with the three major labels, I realized my strength was being able to offer my best work to people without any limit on it.

I make money from touring and selling merchandise, and I honestly believe if you put effort into something and you execute properly, you don’t necessarily have to go through the traditional ways.”

He sells the “3” hats he’s always pictured in, for example. And those are backordered with a three-week wait.

Remaining unsigned, Chance has said in previous interviews, also allows him to collaborate more freely with other musicians and build up an authentic fan base. While his business strategy may be “in uncharted territory,” it’s piquing the interest of longtime industry executives—enough so that they’re curious to see what his unusual model might mean for the future of music.

The Forward Times would like to extend our sincerest congratulations to Chance The Rapper for not only making Grammy History; but making Black History as well!