Why Is Chance The Rapper A "New Artist"?
While it's difficult to be mad about any of your favorite artists earning a coveted Grammy nomination, that doesn't mean that it also doesn't bring up some questions. For instance, Chance the Rapper was nominated for Best New Artist. Which is all sorts of awesome, right? But, then again, what about him is new, exactly? Why is Chance the Rapper considered a "new artist" for the Grammys? Considering, you know, he's anything but?
If you want to get technical, Chance's debut mixtape, 10 Day , dropped in 2012. Meaning, at this point, he's a four-year veteran to the music scene. In that time, he's come out with three other mixtapes, including Acid Rap, Free (Based Freestyles Mixtape) with Lil B, and Coloring Book. A newbie he most certainly is not when it comes to putting out grade A tunes. But, it's not the timeliness or production of the music that counts in terms of a "New Artist" to the Grammys. You see, it's all about exposure.
Case in point, in a 2014 Q&A, the Grammys site answered a question pertaining to Ed Sheeran that was akin to this inquiry on Chance. The Sheeran fan asked, "What exactly qualifies an artist as 'new'?"
To which the Grammys answered,
Our Best New Artist category probably has the most complicated set of rules of any of our categories. Essentially, a "new artist" is defined for the GRAMMY process as any performing artist or established performing group who releases, during the eligibility year, the recording that first establishes the public identity of that artist or established group as a performer.
So, while the whole "Best New Artist" nomination four years into a career might seem almost... insulting to some fans, the Academy's explanation does make sense. An artist like Chance, or at that point, Sheeran, can certainly make a name for himself in less mainstream circles. But, people who don't only flip through rap and hip hop stations might not be able to put a face to the name. The Grammys ultimately recognized that this year, Chance truly broke out onto the scene in a more universal and widespread way.