Chance The Rapper buys Chicagoist

The South Side native gets into the media business – and takes shots at them

In an unusual manner, Chance The Rapper announced some big news – by letting one of his tracks serve as a press release.

In a stunning announcement, the Chicago native announced he was purchasing the website Chicagoist from public radio station WNYC in New York. In a first, he made the announcement in a track he dropped called I Might Need Security –  one of four he released Thursday morning.

WNYC purchased Chicagoist and the archive rights to DNAInfo after former owner Joe Ricketts – whose family members owns the Chicago Cubs – shuttered it after New York employees decided to form a union.

“I’m extremely excited to be continuing the work of the Chicagoist, an integral local platform for Chicago news, events and entertainment… said Chance The Rapper in a statement. I look forward to relaunching it and bringing the people of Chicago an independent media outlet focused on amplifying diverse voices and content.” Chance recently formed Social Media LLC, a company looking to promote diversity in the media business through investigative journalism and representation.

Chance The Rapper – who real name is Chancellor Bennett – has risen to stardom despite a lack of radio airplay. Unlike many rappers, Chance often raps about social issues in his music and has numerous targets – specifically Governor Bruce Rauner and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whom he both dissed in the track. Rauner and Emanuel are unpopular in Chicago’s black community.

Chance also took aim at the media in his new single, specifically Crain’s and the Chicago Sun-Times, who he had issues with regarding how he supports his children saying in the song “I bought the Chicagoist just to run you racist bitches outta business.” The rhetoric is not unlike President Donald Trump’s regarding the press, who regularly ridicules them and often refers to reporters as “enemy of the people”.

But the Chicagoist purchase is indeed a plus, given very few minorities are represented in the media business in Chicago – and bucking the trend seems to be picking up stream. In June, alt-weekly Chicago Reader was purchased by an African-American woman (Dorothy Levell) after the Sun-Times’ disastrous run, with Mark Konkol’s ten-day employment as the main highlight in dysfunction.

Chance has been a viable Chicago citizen and philanthropist, donating one million dollars to Chicago Public Schools and raised two million more for their arts and education programs and collaborated with the Special Olympics on its 50th Anniversary. As part of the ceremonies, Chance headlined a show Saturday night at Northerly Island. A product of CPS, Chance grew up in the West Chatham neighborhood, the same area ESPN’s Michael Wilbon is from.

With Chance on board, the Chicagoist is unlikely to run stories where it is completely clueless about the South Side and south suburbs, where the majority of the Chicago area’s African-Americans live. It is proof the Chicago media often neglects the southern portion of the market – a point Chance rightly points out. For example, Chicagoist wrote this about the Chicago Skyway in 2015:

As we South Siders know, the Skyway does not connect directly to downtown Chicago (it feeds into the Dan Ryan Expressway, which runs just west of the Loop) and there is no such thing as the “southeastern suburbs” though the Skyway connects to Indiana directly from Chicago.

This is how I summed up Chicago media coverage anywhere south of Cermak Road – we might as well be in another city.

Chance The Rapper’s decision to buy Chicagoist is certainly welcome news for those of us who feel snubbed by the media too long and only think of gun violence and crime when it comes to covering the African-American community. But there are some questions: how often is Chance going to be involved in the editorial content of the publication? Is he buying it for the sake of buying it? And if he’s involved in a controversy himself, will Chicagoist cover it? These are the inevitable questions someone is bound to ask.

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