Column: Chance the Rapper’s Grammy noms and the legitimization of hip hop and the mixtape

Michael Zorn | AP File Photo
In this Sept. 4, 2016, file photo, Chance The Rapper performs at The Budweiser Made In America Festival in Philadelphia.

Chance the Rapper made Grammy Award history this week by earning seven nominations, without ever signing a record deal.

Most people are probably familiar with Chance’s mixtapes, “10 Day,” “Acid Rap,” and “Coloring Book,” which is nominated for Best Rap Album of 2017, albeit it is certainly classified as a mixtape.

It isn’t just “Coloring Book” getting some love. Chance is nominated for three different best rap song awards with “Ultralight Beam,” which he was featured on, as well as “Famous,” and his own track, “No Problem.” Chance is also a contender for best new artist, best rap/sung collaboration with Kanye West on “Ultralight Beam” and best rap performance, again, with “No Problem.”

This is pretty new to the world of Grammys. The academy just announced in June of this year that they would start to consider mixtapes in the running for “best x, or y.”

Chance is a revered artist. People are really, really loving him. I started listening to him around “Acid Rap” and, truthfully, I still can’t get enough of the tape. There’s something about it.

Even while “Coloring Book” isn’t my favorite, I can totally understand why it was nominated. It’s a great blend of soulful, religious music and hip hop. It’s as much about the gospel as it is the ins and outs of being a youth in Chicago. This fusion grabs people, and pulls them into Chance’s world, and it’s obvious to me people have been loving it.

But what these nominations really open up is a world of possibilities. Mixtapes have been prevalent for as long as I can remember, and probably as long as older folks than myself can recall. This is legitimization on a huge scale. The academy is telling us right away that mixtapes aren’t just for your local DatPiff lurker, or Hot New Hip Hop fan. Mixtapes are for everyone, although I must admit it’s a pretty funny to imagine a stuffy, white, academy member looking through a stack of mixtapes.

Hip hop music in general has received a huge validation stamp with Chance’s nominations. Sure, the best rap album award has been around since 1995 (first presented to Naughty by Nature and then the Fugees), but that doesn’t mean it’s been taken as seriously as it actually is. Hip hop, while diluted by lots of less than savory artists, is still very much an art form. Now we just need to wait until they decide to put the cover of Tupac’s “All Eyez on Me” in the MoMA.

Will Izzo can be contacted at [email protected].