In a (Samsung) galaxy swirling with post-heat sponsor caps, energy drinks and GoPro footage of guys getting GoPro footage, there's something noble about the supremely talented surfer who chooses to go unsponsored. To see Kelly Slater — or any other successful surfer — rocking the pearly whites sans stickers gives us a thrill. The defiance of corporate claim is an act of freedom. And as you well know, dear America, freedom is becoming.
The rap game is no different. A prime example is 20-year-old unsponsored pro Chancelor Bennett, better known as Chance the Rapper. Chance was unsigned when his debut album, Acid Rap, first hit the scene back in April 2013. A year and a half later, after going multiplatinum, touring nationally with Eminem, countless sold-out solo shows, a Coachella performance, and hit songs with Skrillex, Lil Wayne and Justin Bieber (we'll give him the benefit of the doubt on that last one), Chance the Rapper remains unsigned.
Why, you ask? Maybe it's because the Chicago native raps freely about psychedelic drug use and purportedly produced a substantial portion of Acid Rap while under the influence of Timothy Leary's preferred muse. Maybe it's because his style — a blend of raw hip-hop, acid jazz, blues and pop — and his unconventionally melodic lyricism (he randomly breaks into song during rap verses), can only be described as "acid rap," a genre that Chancelor himself invented. Or maybe it's because, like Kelly, he doesn't want a sponsor. Chance wants to do whatever Chance feels like. And rumor has it he feels like making an appearance on The Madonna Project (yes, Madonna is working on a new album, and yes, Chance might be on it). Chance is also collaborating with his musical ensemble, The Social Experiment, for an upcoming LP titled…wait for it…Surf. Thanks, Chance. We'll listen to you just the way you are, sponsor or no sponsor. —Mike Misselwitz