By Hayden Wright
Most artists spend decades using their platform to merit a humanitarian prize—Chance the Rapper netted the BET Awards honor in the same ceremony that named him Best New Artist. First, Puff Daddy presented the new artist award to Chance in a category that included Cardi B, Khalid, 21 Savage and Young M.A.
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“To succeed, you have to embrace the work,” Puffy said. “The grind is not glamorous, but you have to do whatever it takes to embrace the greatness within you… It requires a ‘can’t stop, won’t stop’ mentality.”
Chance thanked his family and collaborators for making his career possible.
Later in the night, Chance was honored with the network’s Humanitarian Award in recognition of his commitment to economic equality and social justice. Chance took the stage to collect the prize and shine a light on the causes that matter most to him.
BET Chairman and CEO Debra Lee presented the award, noting, “He’s not afraid to speak up for those who can’t speak up for themselves.” She then introduced a video from former First Lady Michelle Obama, who commended Chance for his humanitarian efforts.
“Barack and I are so sorry that we can’t be there in person,” she said. “We have known Chance and his family since he was a wee little baby rapper… In addition to making some really amazing music, he’s taking the big bright spotlight on him and shining it on the people of Chicago… I can think of no better legacy to leave.”
“I’m 24 and to be receiving something like this at my age, it feels a little bit—it feels good as hell,” he said. “It feels a little early to get something like this, but my God doesn’t make mistakes and I like to think he’s putting this enormous pressure on me to see how I react.”
His speech touched on drug sentencing reform, legalization of marijuana, investments in public schools, and addressing police brutality.
In his brief time near the top of the rap game, Chance has made waves with various public policy stances: He’s personally lobbied Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner for better public school funding and donated his own money to improve education in his native Chicago. Local students have lent a hand on his music videos and Chance was a vocal supporter of President Barack Obama (They go way back).
Along with Kendrick Lamar and others, Chance has been described as one of the defining voices of #BlackLivesMatter, speaking up on behalf of citizens and communities affected by police brutality. The altruistic star recently hired sign language interpreter for his latest tour—making it possible for the hearing impaired to enjoy his live shows.