“It’s good to be back and know who I am,” Chance the Rapper tells Complex, following the private opening of his “Child of God” art exhibition with Naïla Opiangah at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago this week.
A common misconception about the 28-year-old rapper and father of two, though, is that he forgot who he was in the first place. In reality, Chance has only settled deeper into himself over the past few years. Now, he’s reemerging as an artist who accepts that he’s still affected by negativity, but is no longer afraid of being misunderstood.
At the beginning of 2022, the Chicago rapper embarked on a pilgrimage to Ghana, where he reconnected with his Blackness, discovered deep familial roots, and met people who would ultimately help shape the creative approach for his next project. One of those people was Naïla Opiangah, a talented Gabonese painter who was working out of legendary Ghanian artist Amoako Boafo’s studio at the time. The two connected instantly, and Chance decided he wanted her to be involved in one of his most ambitious creative endeavors to date.
“Child of God” is Chance’s first solo release in over a year, doubling as a contemporary art exhibit. It also marks the beginning of a new chapter for Chance the Rapper. His music has been steadily evolving since the release of his last studio album, The Big Day, and so have his visuals. He has always loved film, but by leading the cinematography for “Child of God,” Chance is now putting his filmmaking skills on full display, and creating a “new visual language” that places more emphasis on the words he’s spitting.
“Even though it makes me more vulnerable and it does put a lot of emphasis on what I’m saying, I feel like that’s what I have to offer the most right now,” he explains. “I feel like I’ve given a lot of Chance, and I’m still giving a lot of Chance, but now I’m trying to give a little more of ‘The Rapper,’ and let people get what they’re coming for, which is my words.”
Throughout the “Child of God” music video, we see Naïla’s painting being created. She says the illustration of naked Black women gathered together was an idea she came up with after listening to the song and sketching what came to mind. Naïla reveals that the prospect of drawing naked Black women intimidated her at first, because she felt embarrassed, but it wasn’t until she questioned and explored those feelings that the piece fully bloomed.
It all culminates in a song and video that exude a sense of confidence that Chance has worked hard to regain. “Child of God” has the kind of poise and self-assuredness that he believes would make his high school self proud, and the song arrives a little over a week before the 10-year anniversary of Chance’s 10 Day mixtape. He’s been doing a lot of reflecting on the project in the days leading up to the anniversary, and he believes the new music he’s preparing to release demonstrates how much he has grown as a person since his time suspended from school.
“If I was able to see my old self that had just dropped his first mixtape with the head in the clouds, and got Illroots—which was the biggest deal in the world at that time—and traveled to SXSW by himself on a train at 18 for 26 hours when I had never traveled anywhere else in the world by myself, I’m proud of that kid. I think that kid is proud of me, too.”
Following the release of “Child of God,” Complex spoke with Chance the Rapper and Naïla Opiangah about blending their creative processes to make the song and accompanying art, how Chance’s trip to Ghana impacted his life and music, and what’s been guiding him in the creation of his next project.