5 Ways Chance The Rapper Is Winning Without Taking Home A Grammy

"I'm pre-currency, post-language, anti-label."

His current position in the rap game wasn't left to chance.

It was through hard work and an unwavering desire to do music just the way he intended it to be that Chance the Rapper has become a household name, and the outcome of Sunday's Grammy Awards could catapult him into orbit.

The Chicago rapper — hailed as Kanye West's protégé — racked up seven nominations from his album mixtape Coloring Book, his third release following 2012's 10 Day and 2013's Acid Rap.

While that's impressive in its own right and has been making headlines since the Grammy nods were announced in December, the multiple chances he has at taking home a trophy or two can be directly attributed to his independent mindset.

"I'm pre-currency, post-language, anti-label," he rhymed in the song "Blessings" from his current release.

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Some have argued that his ties to Apple Music — which had exclusive streaming rights to Coloring Book for the first few weeks of its release in May 2016 — makes it seem as though he is a signed artist. But that's debatable since Chance has reportedly never officially signed to a label, not even Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music, and that's his "big brother," as he once described.

"It's not easy at all, definitely not telling Kanye," he previously told ABC News about turning down the 21-time Grammy Award-winning artist's offer. "It's definitely hard keeping that resistance, but I want to teach people that it's doable without."    

Here are five reasons why Chance The Rapper could be the dopest independent emcee:

1. He’s the first artist to have a streaming-only album nominated for a Grammy.

Coloring Book garnered 57 million streams in its first week of release on Apple Music. That would equal 38,000 units sold for an album. That explosive week helped Chance's third release reach No. 8 on Billboard's charts. Bottom line, it is the first streaming-only album to receive a Grammy nomination, so aside from its high demand and critical acclaim status, it's also made history. A win would solidify that.

2. His music helped to change the Recording Academy’s criteria for Grammy nominees.

Chance The Rapper has been credited with changing the rules of the music business, and that's gotten the Grammy Awards attention. The cool dude from Chi-Town, who raps about proudly being anti-label in one song and sings gospels in the next, is one nod shy of two-stepping right alongside the likes of Drake, Kanye West, and Rihanna. While Beyoncé is even one more step ahead of the rest with nine nominations — making her the most nominated female artist in Grammy history — Chance's first trip to the Grammys is also quite historic.

To date, he has never sold a single piece of recorded music since all of his releases have been free through digital streams or downloads. A petition signed by 40,000 urging the Recording Academy to change its rule banning non-commercially sold recordings from Grammy consideration may have been the final nudge that persuaded the organization to relax its eligibility standards in June one month after the release of Coloring Book.   

3. He’s trading shots with hip-hop heavyweights.

When it comes to the rap categories for the Grammys, Chance The Rapper faces off against Drake and/or Kanye West for every single one of his nominations. And even in the one rap category where he's not nominated — Best Rap/Sung Performance — he's still a featured artist on one of his fiercest competitor's songs, Kanye West's "Ultralight Beam."

With eight nods each, Drake and Kanye's impressive careers appear to have inspired Chance to the point that they're now on the same playing field. In the Best Rap Performance category both Chance and Drake are among the nominees, while all three emcees received nods for Best Rap Song and Best Rap Album. Not bad for not being signed to a major like his peers.     

4. He felt like a champ with "Coloring Book" way before the Recording Academy recognized its genius.

The third time's the charm for Chance The Rapper, and to show his appreciation and celebrate the success of Coloring Book, he's been sporting the number 3 on his cap. Now, the New Era caps are for sale on his website for $45, along with other apparel. Just as Chance is a sort of rebel in the music game — breaking barriers left and right — the cap also stands for a rebellion, symbolizing another time in his life that now works as a statement of independence.

"I used to always rock a cap when I was in high school and get them taken away," he explained to GQ. "After they gave back a few caps to other kids, they would just give me the box because the rest were all my hats. So I think, in one part, it's a rebellion."

And what a rebellion it's been. Just 24 hours after the "3" caps' release in October, they were sold out. That's worthy of praise from any school official who reprimanded him during his school days.   

5. The reason he's looking down and smiling on the "Coloring Book" album cover will melt your heart.

All three illustrated Chance The Rapper album covers were done by the same artist, Brandon Breaux. On his first release, 10 Day, he's gazing up to the sky in astonishment. For Acid Rap, Chance stares straight ahead looking perplexed. But unlike his other two albums, on Coloring Book he's smiling while staring down at something. If you put all three album covers side by side its not hard to see that it's telling a story — a dream-to-reality sort of tale.

"The first one is … discovery," Breaux explained in a previous interview. "The second was a play off the title, I just really love the title, Acid Rap."

But the third album stood for so much more.

"The third is being in a place of maturity, a place where there's a certain amount of control. He's not a newbie anymore, having accomplished all of these things," he continued. "When we took the photo, he was holding his daughter. He was looking down at his daughter (Kensli). And that was his concept, his idea."

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