Hailing from the South Side of Chicago, Chancellor Bennett (professionally known as Chance the Rapper) is known as a songwriter, record producer, and naturally, a rapper.
In 2015, he was listed on the music list for Forbes' 30 under 30, and has been the recipient of Grammy awards for Best New Artist, Best Rap Album, Best Rap Performance, and a handful of other nominations. Aside from making an impact in music, Chance has done a lot of important work for the Chicago public schools system, through his community work and nonprofit.
Most recently, Chance was given an honorary doctorate for his "philanthropy and continued service to the youth," and had a chance to speak to the 2018 graduates of New Orleans' Dillard University. To the Class of 2018, Chance spoke primarily about the power of being inspired.
Chance first named Michael Jackson as his source of musical inspiration, an iconic performer who influenced Chano's musical stylings and preferences. As Chance states, "I was introduced to my craft and my livelihood by this man...I spent hours staring at Mike through the screen, watching from him, and learning from him."
As an artist, Jackson was able to teach Chance important life and career lessons, too: "Throughout my childhood, watching him taught me a lot of the lessons I try to carry as a performer with me today...work hard. Captivate your audience. And above all, never set any limitations on your own greatness."
But Jackson didn't inspire just Chance -- he inspired Beyoncé as well. And this is something Chance discusses as being of notable importance.
Chance cites her 2018 Coachella headlining performance as, "the greatest performance put on by the greatest performer of all time," for good reason, too. "Everything she gave to the audience -- the marching band, her choreography, the musical transitions, the use of the catwalk, the wardrobe changes -- all reflected her ability to do the impossible," he states. "It was a production as grandiose as the Olympics and as intimate as a phone call."
Chance underlines that he believes Beyoncé's performance was greater than any performance Michael Jackson ever did. And in watching it, he realized one special thing: "All of us have a responsibility to be greater than the people who came before us."
"Beyoncé had Mike. Mike didn't have Mike. Mike had James Brown. James Brown had Cab Calloway. And so on and so on. Right now, the greatest performer who ever lived might be in this audience. And that person has something Beyoncé never had. They got Beyoncé. And so they have -- you have -- the greatest performance of all time; to watch it, to study it, to learn from it, but not to replicate it."
According to Chance the Rapper, we all have a responsibility to outdo our idols, even when it seems scary. We have to overcome that fear and be greater than our role models.
Whether your role model is Beyoncé or someone else -- who will you be surpassing in this lifetime?
Be sure to check out Chance's commencement speech below: