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Chance the Rapper on His Interdisciplinary Work

Written by on July 20, 2022

Photo Credit: Keeley Parenteau

I started that with Brandon Breaux back in 2018, and I started playing with the idea again, but I didn’t know exactly how I was going to do it with Brandon. So, I get out to Ghana, and within 20 minutes of landing I find out that my hotel that I’m staying at is a famous gallery in Ghana, called Kempinski, that has a Gallery 1957 there.

Then as soon as I put my bags down, Vic is like, “We’re going to go meet up with some artist at a residency that’s in the hood a couple of miles away.” So, I drop my bags and we instantly get in the car, and we slide over to this place in the residency. The studio that we get to is owned by this guy named Amoako Boafo, who is probably the biggest contemporary artist that’s coming out West Africa right now.

He’s only a couple of years older than me, and I know his work, because LeBron had posted his stuff a couple of weeks before. So, it was crazy, I’m in Ghana. I’m in Ghana, I’m with Amoako, this is crazy. He had this whole studio that was a residency for artists in West Africa that were learning to … It was like a YOUmedia. That’s probably the best way to describe it. He was a mentor for a bunch of younger artists that had came from Ghana, but also other parts around West Africa.

In that studio, I met a girl who’s the exact same age as me that actually used to live in Chicago, but is from West Africa, from a country called Gabon. Her name’s Naïla Opiangah. Naïla is an amazing architect. She used to work with David Adjaye who built the African-American Smithsonian Museum, but she’s also an awesome painter. She was working under Amoako at his studio when I came there.

She actually was just showing us around the studio. She didn’t even tell me that she was a painter, but we ended up towards the end of the trip getting to see her works. Her style is this Black nude figure art, but because she’s an architect she does a lot of stuff with perspective. So, while it almost leans in abstraction, it’s very mathematical, the way that the bodies or the subjects interact with each other.

She’s just a very cool person, a very smart person. Like I said, she lived in Chicago for a short period of time, so we instantly clicked. On this trip, she asked me about her works and about the works that I owned, and if I consider myself a collector. Me, being Chance the Rapper, I’m always super communist. I hate anything that’s not for the people. I was like, “I’m not a collector. I support artists. I’m an artist myself.”

She was like, “Well, if you don’t collect, how can you support an artist?” This turned into a two, or three day argument, where we were just like … Naïla, anybody that’s ever met her, that’s listened to her, she can be very persistent. What that argument ended up turning into was her making me really question and figure out how I can support visual artists, and how I can be a part of the world.

It basically inspired me to ask her to paint an artistic collaborative piece that would go hand in hand with the song, so much so that they would become married to each other. We did just that. She flew to Chicago less than a month later, and we set up shop at my studio, at The House of Kicks. She got this 12 foot tall canvas, and put together probably the most beautiful painting I’ve ever seen.

We named it “Child of God,” and it became my first interdisciplinary art piece. Since then, I’ve just been trying to work with different artists to make a visual piece that really feels like a tangible song. That’s my biggest issue with my form of art is like, my work is real, but it’s not tangible. Now I feel like, for years and years and years to come, “Child of God” will be in museums, in schools and studied, and talked about and seen as a physical thing. The idea of it is contained within this object.

Child Of God, Naïla Opiangah, 2022

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