What a difference a year can make. Chance’s 2016 joint June/July cover story with Lin-Manuel Miranda (the second of two covers at that time) profiles him before debatably the best freestyle of the #SoGoneChallenge, when his critique of Chicago and Illinois politicians was in its early stages, and still in the midst of producing what is now Coloring Book. Fast forward to this June/July, and Chance is meeting with governors, funding Chicago public schools on his own dime, and gathering Grammys, a Humanitarian Award, and Complex’s first digital cover under his belt, among other accolades.

In addition to the talents and qualities that make Chance an empathetic, inspiring songwriter, he's just a remarkably consistent artist, maintaining a high standard of quality for the music he releases. It's made whittling down (and ranking) his best songs especially tough. He's matured significantly, from early mixtape 10 Day to Acid Rap to Surf to Coloring Book, but that evolution hasn't rendered any of his past work irrelevant. Even when he's working in a more frivolous space, like holiday music, he still manages to produce gems.

The oeuvre of Chance's rap songs made him an easy choice for the Complex staff to award him the title of the most recent Best Rapper Alive. Not everyone agreed with Complex's decision to reward Chance yesterday. There were questions raised about his lyricism on his tracks and ability to rap in the traditional sense. Spend time with some of the songs we love here—in particular, loosies like "Israel (Sparring)—and maybe you'll be convinced anew.

 

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