I mean, the grassroots connection I have with my fans is something that I've wanted as a fan. I mean, I've never met Kanye. For me, it's like every fan wants to meet their favorite artists and laugh and take pictures and talk. As soon as I got to a point where there were people I didn't know who knew my music, and me, I wanted to meet them and break down barriers like the Internet. I'm a real person, you know?

You've been outspoken about supporting other Chicago rappers, name-dropping them in songs and giving them shout-outs in interviews. Growing up here, I never saw local rappers really supporting each other. Are Chicago rappers now more unified as a whole?

Definitely. The reason why Chicago music wasn't succeeding back in the day is because there was no community. Even more than that, there was no business behind it. Chicago rap shows used to consist of 15 acts. It's a "showcase." You have to pay to perform, you only get four minutes … it wasn't legitimate. It was the radio too; the DJs didn't want to play local music. The newspapers would call everyone a "local rapper" and it took this new Chicago movement that started with Keef to change that. That's why I'm always shouting him out. He came in and was the face of Chicago for a good amount of time and it made people take notice of the culture of Chicago, not just rap but the violence and the schools shutting down.

How do those things and the culture of the city in general affect you as an artist? You're a direct link to these kids; hell, you ARE one of these kids. They listen to your music. They wear the same clothes.

It makes me want to watch what I say, you know? Not like censoring myself, but making sure what I say means something. Be it positive or negative, everything I say can have an influence on a group of people. Everything going on in Chicago affects me as an artist, but it also affects me personally. I'm from here. I live here. I just turned 20. I know a lot of dudes that didn't. It's cool because I get to sit up in this office and talk about it, but I can't seriously explain to you how scary it is going into the summer. You know what it is when it gets hot in Chicago. A lot of kids don't come back from summer break, you know?

Have you personally experienced that?

Yeah, man. I mean, I went to a good high school where a majority of the kids weren't from the South Side or West Side, but grade school or middle school. You work a summer job and there are kids that don't come back to work the next day. This [bleep] is like this: If you live in Chicago, you know someone that got shot or died. That's just how it is. A lot of places aren't like that … It's really [bleeped] up.

erwilkins@tribune.com

Chance the Rapper appears at the "Acid Rap" release party 5 p.m. Tuesday at Jugrnaut (427 S. Dearborn Ave.). Free.

 


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