Chance the Rapper is just days shy of his 24th birthday, and he’s already regarded as one of the most important figures to ever come out of Chicago.
“He’s a true role model,” says Emily Jones, a Chicago native. “It’s kind of like what Barack was for us in 2008.”
The love is reciprocal. Chancelor Bennett, the three-time Grammy Award-winning rapper who was born April 16, 1993, is constantly making headlines for his advocacy work in the Chicago Public Schools system. He’s so dedicated to Chicago youths, he hosts monthly events for high school students like “Open Mike,” a spoken-word poetry night created in honor of Brother Mike, a beloved poet and community activist who died in 2014.
“Only thing that’s changed is that we get to share him with everyone else,” says poet Asha Nightly.
On any given day, Chi-town residents can still catch the rapper in Harold’s Chicken or on the Red Line train in his signature “3” hat. While the world falls in love with the poster boy for #BlackBoyJoy, only Chicago natives can truly understand what he means to the city that raised him.
“This is a treasure of ours and he’s always been a treasure,” says Demetrius Amparan, a hip-hop artist. “So seeing the world really appreciate that is like seeing the world appreciate Chicago.”
In honor of Chance the Rapper’s 24th birthday, we sat down with Chi-town locals to chat about how important he is to the city. Watch the video above.