Caring About A Mixtape: How Chance’s Big Wins Were An Even Bigger Victory For Hip-Hop.

(AllHipHop Editorial) Yesterday at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards, Chance The Rapper won big, taking home three golden Gramophones. Not only did this cap of an incredible year for Chicago’s newly favorited son, it was also a ground breaking moment in the world of Hip-Hop. With just his nominations, Chance became the first artist to have their digital, “stream only,” album (so free mixtape) to be acknowledge by the academy. This alone was a battle Chance has been fighting since the release of his breakout project, Acid Rap. So to have his third mixtape, Coloring Book, nominated for multiple awards made Chance a winner even before the show began. Yet by actually winning at the Grammy’s, Chance has undoubted shifted the culture of Rap and music as a whole.

Since the conception of Hip-Hop, the idea of a “Mixtape” has been a staple in the genre. It grew from a “word-of-mouth” cassette filled with the popular songs at the time, to a platform where up and coming artists can showcase their unsupervised vision to a wide audience. However, over time there became a disconnect between what a mixtape was and what it is today. In modern terms, a mixtape is a project where an artist (who is normally independent) produces an original tape that is absent of the mainstream pressures that govern the construction of an album. However, the most important quality of a mixtape is that it is available to the world for free. The availability of this tape allows the artist to market their work without the focus on record sales, thus allowing them to be just as free with their music as they are with the price.

Because of the growth and popularity of this concept, there has been confusion around whether a mixtape deserves as much recognition as a “traditional” Rap album. To ease the perplexity, various award academies (including the Grammy’s Recording Academy) decided to only acknowledge the work an artist decides to price for sale, no matter how popular the project was. This idea forced artists to emphasize the importance a mixtape has to the genre. For example: Rapper, Big Sean insists on calling his Detroit mixtape an “actual album,” while Drake decided to sell his mixtape, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, a move that almost diluted the integrity of the concept.

However since Chance’s rise to stardom, he has placed an intense focus on making the Recording Academy realize the importance of a mixtape, while still maintaining its free nature. In countless interviews and on multiple verses (most popularly his feature on Kanye’s “Ultralight Beam”), Chance has expressed how essential free projects are to the world of music. He does this because, as an independent artist, Chance realizes the necessity of creating what you want to. A concept that isn’t new to Rap. Chance understands that historically, the mixtape has been the platform where the Hip-Hop artist could express their true, unfiltered craftsmanship. And that these projects, more often than not, are received well by the general public. Armed with this knowledge and the new bombs that are streaming services and numbers, Chance was able to pressure the Recording Academy so much that this year, for the first time, they decided to allow free projects to be eligible for Grammy contention.

By doing this, Chance showed that determination and will power does pays off. Yet by being nominated and actually winning awards for his own mixtape (one of which was Best Rap Album), he did more than one could ever have anticipated. Leaving with three Grammy’s allowed Chance to prove, on one of the highest platforms, that Rap Culture has a clearly defined place in the world of music. With Coloring Book, Chance brought into fruition a change in music that will define the impact of his career. He showed that pure talent and creativity will win out if the music is good. A concept that defines the essence of a mixtape. Embodying this, made Chance’s victories last night one of the greatest feats in the history of Hip-Hop.