Chance the Rapper on Police and Community Relations: "There's a Larger Conversation We Need to Have"

Chance the Rapper Getty H 2016
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Chance the Rapper Getty H 2016

In a new interview with Billboard, Chance, the son of the former deputy chief of staff to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, says Emanuel needed to be more "compassionate" than "strategic" after the killing of Laquan McDonald in 2014.

On his 2012 debut, 10 Day, Chicago native Chance the Rapper touches on the looming threat of violence in his troubled city: “Round here we lose best friends like every week/I like to think we playin’ a long game of hide and go seek," he rapped.

As the son of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s former deputy chief of staff, Chance has seen the city’s problems up close, and his views on issues like police brutality are nuanced. “My dad is getting the call every morning, updates on how many kids got shot the day before,” he says in Billboard’s latest cover story.

When African-American teenager Laquan McDonald was shot 16 times by a police officer in Chicago in 2014, the artist felt Emanuel could have handled the situation in a better way.

“In a time of crisis he tried to be strategic, and he should have been more compassionate," Chance said.

More generally, he adds, “There’s a larger conversation we need to have about the role of police officers, their relationship to the people as enemy or executioner, when they’re not supposed to be either. There’s also not enough pressure on internal organizations that are supposed to police the police and on judges in the justice system who are supposed to make reasonable decisions.”

At 16, with his dad following other Chicago politicos to Washington, D.C. following President Obama's inauguration, Chance met the newly elected president, and this year, along with a dozen other prominent musicians, he returned to the White House to talk with him about the anti-violence initiative, My Brother’s Keeper. (“I’m more confident than ever,” Chance tweeted after the meeting.) In Chicago, he has used his father’s connections and political know-how to start an open-mic for teens, distribute a combination jacket-sleeping-bag to the homeless, sponsor events at the Field Museum and fund the church camp he attended as a child.

“He’s just one of those humanitarian-type of individuals,” says Chicago singer Jeremih a couple of days after Chance joined him onstage at the Pitchfork Music Festival last month. “There’s not a record he can’t hop on, a genre of music he can’t relate to. I don’t know too many people who could go on Jimmy Fallon one night and go to a peace rally the next day.”

Read the full Chance the Rapper cover story here.

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