Chance the Rapper has won the Grammy for Best New Artist, validating the rapid rise of the hip-hop star who has released his music only through streaming.
The rapper, who has been open about his Christianity, told the televised gala: “I claim the victory in the name of the Lord.”
“I know people think that independence means you do it by yourself, but independence means freedom,” Chance said as he pointed to members of his team.
The 23-year-old rapper from Chicago, whose real name is Chancelor Bennett, won in the closely watched Grammy category against a field that included electronica crowd-pleasers The Chainsmokers and experimental hip-hop artist Anderson .Paak.
“Coloring Book,” Chance’s mixtape released last year, incorporated gospel choir music and lyrically touched on his faith.
Chance the Rapper benefited from a change in Grammy rules this year to consider streaming-only releases. He did not sell “Coloring Book” as a CD or as downloads, saying he considered himself a touring artist.
“Coloring Book” nonetheless entered the top 10 on the US albums chart, the first for a streaming exclusive, as Chance promoted the work through an active social media campaign.
The mixtape featured appearances by top stars including Kanye West, a fellow Chicago rapper who was his early inspiration, and Justin Bieber.
Chance the Rapper has also used his rising platform to be an activist.
He has pleaded for an end to Chicago’s gun violence epidemic, waging a campaign similar to an album promotion that was credited with helping make May 23 a day without deadly shootings in the Midwestern metropolis.
He took up the anti-violence cause in collaboration with his father Ken Williams-Bennett, who has served as an aide to former president Barack Obama and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.