by Kyle Cooke, Ari-Ahna Everett–
In Chance the Rapper’s debut album, Coloring Book, the Chicago-based rapper makes his feelings about record labels clear: In the song “No Problem,” which features Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz, Chance sings, “If one more label tries to stop me, it’s gon’ be some dreadhead (expletives) in your lobby.”
That’s been Chance’s attitude toward labels since he came onto the scene with his mixtapes dating back to 2011. His music has always been free, and Coloring Book was a streaming only album and an iTunes exclusive, which meant that customers could only listen to his album on Apple Music. Coloring Book was the first streaming exclusive to crack the Billboard 200.
His lack of label has not made Chance’s life any harder, though. He has performed on Saturday night live—the first unsigned artist to do so—and he has strong relationships with Kanye West and even President Obama.
Other artists are realizing that there are opportunities outside of record labels. Record companies make a disproportionate amount of money compared to the talent, so big artists like Frank Ocean and Beyoncé are following Chance’s lead with streaming only exclusives on Apple Music and Tidal, respectively.