I can only imagine how bizarre I must’ve looked to onlookers across the salon when Chance The Rapper’s “How Great” dropped. Sitting underneath the heat of a hooded dryer spinning my iPhone ’round and ’round like a manic, tangling up my burning ear buds with each unexpected turn of the device and laughing to myself. Shoulders bouncing with each suppressed chuckle, bopping to melodies the world beyond my ears couldn’t hear and making “yassss” faces at the glowing LCD screen. As I waited for my twist out to dry, I’d been idly swiped down my Twitter timeline to pass the time and kept seeing something about a new Chance The Rapper video in every other mention.
And since Chance is my homie (in my head, anyway) and the latter portion of Coloring Book continually catapults me straight into my feels, I had to go find it immediately. As I scrolled in search of the video link, I saw random memes of people spinning iPhones on their fingertips like Spaldings with the phrase, “watching @chancetherapper video like,” not getting what it meant. Then I saw Chano’s own tweet with the five-minute iPhone-shot music video for “How Great” embedded in it, the second of its kind in support of this album. “Lock yo screen,” he’d tweeted. Okay… Cool, my phone’s orientation is locked anyway, but what is he getting us into?
#HowGreat Official Video featuring my cousin Nicole. Shot on iPhone. Lock yo screen pic.twitter.com/KqDy5hqv68
— Lil Chano From 79th (@chancetherapper) October 20, 2016
And then I felt the smiles come as I experienced the sporadically rotating black and white video for myself, along with the millions of other faceless Twitter family members doing the same at that moment. All Curious. All glued to their phones anyway, so no computers necessary. I could imagine a room full of people on their phones, as millennials are wont to do when stuck in a waiting room, elevator or other socially awkward standstill, in-between moment of our day with no one to converse with, twisting their phones over and over again with confused, half-embarrassed grins. Looking up at each other as they all try to stifle their giggles before laughing at the probable absurdity of the sight. A moment of nonsense to make sense of fun. Taking in a chill-causing all girls choir and the infamous “cousin Nicole” killing a solo at its simplest. Seeing Jay Electronica, the rarest Pokemon of all, finally emerge via something as casual as sophisticated SnapChat fodder for an official music video. It’s brilliant, and most of all, it’s just fun.
Chancelor Bennett, with his larger-than-life creative eye and consistent DIY tendencies, is a joy to watch create, because he does so not with the intention of being deep or stuffy, but to exercise every bit of his right as a 23-year-old to actually have fun at work.
We saw his live-action Broadway production of “Sunday Candy”—one of my favorite videos in… ever—with its choreographed jazz hands, cardboard cutout cars and houses and Grease-era letterman jackets for him and his SOX squad. He lived the dream and rode on top of the Chicago metro system and soar through the air like an urban superhero decked out in Amelia Earhart goggles for his “Angels” video with Saba. For “No Problems,” he made a no-f**ks-given decision to ditch the fancy video production teams and got some of the biggest (and most busily and expensively booked) celebs in hip-hop to skateboard, dance, sip and smoke into the camera, play around like big kids and get listeners and viewers to play around with them. Hell, he even launched his own Magnificent Coloring World Tour to get people to see the same vibrancy in life that he does.
Like his dizzying and delightfully rough-cut “How Great” visuals—you can clearly see Electronica stumble over some of his lines and the two lauded lyricists laugh it off on the next stanza—there are no hard and fast rules or proper orientations. No guidebooks, blueprints and regulations that he wishes to follow. No red tape he can’t easily Chicago footwork around. No budget too big or small to create something beautiful, organic and downright enjoyable to engage with. For Chance, the ambassador of #BlackBoyJoy, playtime has no limits. Maybe we should all tear a page out of his book and live a little.