How this Grammy-winning artist made it big while giving his work away for free

Chance the Rapper accepts the award for Best New Artist onstage during The 59th GRAMMY Awards.
Christopher Polk | Getty Images

Last night was a triumph for Chance the Rapper and a blow to the traditional music industry. He brought home three Grammys without having sold a single record.

The artist isn't beholden to any label. He makes a living from his music without actually selling his music, and that paradigm, to him, is the future.

In a "Vanity Fair" interview, the rapper explains: "I make money from touring and selling merchandise, and I honestly believe if you put effort into something and you execute properly, you don't necessarily have to go through the traditional ways."

In an interview with "Rolling Stone," he goes so far as to claim that music labels are already "a dead industry."

The success of Chance the Rapper and "Coloring Book" introduces a new age for music. Without working with a label, and while giving his music away for free, Chance has managed to build a dedicated fan base and scale career heights, including a few trips to the White House.

In his acceptance speech, he explained, "I know that people think that independence means you do it by yourself, but independence means freedom."

The Chicago musician won the 2017 Grammy for Best New Artist, beating out country singers Maren Morris and Kelsi Ballerini, soul-hip-hop bandleader Anderson.Paak and electro duo Chainsmokers. Upon receiving the award, Chance claimed his victory "in the name of the Lord," and dedicated the win to "all of Chicago."

Chance the Rapper accepts the Best Rap Album award for 'Coloring Book' onstage during The 59th GRAMMY Awards.
Kevin Winter | Getty Images

Chance won best rap performance for his song "No Problem" alongside 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne.

And the emcee won the award for best rap album. Upon receiving the award he said, "I didn't think that we were going to get this one," and he gave a shout out to the other indie artists out there who have been doing "this mix-tape stuff for a long time."

To wrap it all up, Chance the Rapper brought the crowd to their feet with a powerful performance.

The Chicago musician was nominated for 7 awards in total: Best New Artist, Best Rap Album (Coloring Book), Best Rap Performance ("No Problem"), Best Rap/Sung Performance ("Ultralight Beam") and Best Rap Song (for three different tracks — his own "No Problem," as well as Kanye's "Ultralight Beam" and "Famous").

Back in December, Chance the Rapper and his 13-song album "Coloring Book" made history as the first streaming-only album to receive a Grammy nomination. Now, having won, he's made history again.

"Coloring Book," Chance the Rapper's joyful third album, is also the first streaming-only album to chart on the Billboard 200. GQ describes it as being about "falling in love and becoming a father. It's about God. It's about making art when what people want from you is product. And it's about the value of black life, about taking care of you and yours when no one else will."

The decision not to sign with a label has been a difficult but ultimately rewarding decision for the musician. In his song "Blessings (Reprise)" he explains in his quintessential raspy voice that that he is "Kanye's best prodigy. He ain't signed me, but he still proud of me."

Chance's views are further reflected in a live performance of "No Problem" where Chance and his pals bust through the doors of a stuffy record label and rip up their piles of documents.

In addition to hawking his personal merchandise, Chance the Rapper has demonstrated his entrepreneurial prowess with his already sold-out "Thank you Obama" clothing line.

Chance the Rapper is spreading joy, optimism and hope. He is hacking the music industry and showing a generation of independent artists and entrepreneurs that there is more than one way to make it to the top.

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