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Chance the Rapper: Become the 'upper management' of your own career

Chance the Rapper may still be a new name to some, but at just 24 years old, his accomplishments in music and business have landed him the title of the youngest person to make Fortune's 2017 40 Under 40 list.

Refusing to sell his music and sign with a record label, the Chicago native built an unconventional path to success by releasing his music for free and making most of his earnings off merchandise and ticket sales.

"I never wanted to sell my music," he tells Vanity Fair, "because I thought putting a price on it put a limit on it and inhibited me from making a connection."

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

Chance started working on his first "mixtape," or album, "10 Day" during his senior year of high school. Relying solely on the internet and word-of-mouth for marketing, he released the project in April 2012 and eventually garnered more than 400,000 downloads on the music-sharing site DatPiff, according to Business Insider.

The following year, he released his second mixtape, "Acid Rap," which was downloaded more than a million times.

"After I made my second mixtape and gave it away online, my plan was to sign with a label and figure out my music from there," he tells Vanity Fair. "But after meeting with the three major labels, I realized my strength was being able to offer my best work to people without any limit on it."

Chance The Rapper performs onstage during Take-Two's Annual E3 Kickoff Party at Cecconi's Restaurant on June 13, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.
Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images | Getty Images
Chance The Rapper performs onstage during Take-Two's Annual E3 Kickoff Party at Cecconi's Restaurant on June 13, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.

Chance collaborated with fellow Chicago artist Kanye West on five songs on West's 2016 album "The Life of Pablo." While the artist had already amassed a nice fan-base of his own, his work with West helped raise his profile.

In May 2016, Chance took a slightly different approach with the release of his third mixtape "Coloring Book," streaming it exclusively on Apple Music for two weeks before it was released to the general public. In a tweet earlier this year, the rapper clarified details of the partnership and said that he negotiated a $500,000 deal, plus advertising, with Apple Music for the project.

Debuting in the top 10 on the Billboard 200 album chart, "Coloring Book" became the first streaming-only album to reach the list and, according to Fortune, later became the first streaming-only album to receive a Grammy.

Page Six reports that a source close to the rapper says that since the Grammys he has turned down $10 million advances from record labels to remain an independent artist.

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

Using his entrepreneurial mindset to expand his empire beyond music, Chance has landed endorsement deals with big name brands like Nike, Nestle and Twitter, and plans to make his acting debut later this year in the film "Slice."

While the rapper has found personal success by breaking barriers as an independent artist, he makes it clear that he doesn't want to continue trekking the non-traditional path to success alone.

"In order for me to continue to thrive, I need more artists to do it themselves," he told Complex. "I don't mean do it by yourself, like literally, like, 'I'm doing everything.' You can bring on your friends and professionals that you know and build a business where you're the upper management. Where you're the creative, and you are the last decision maker and you don't ever have to feel compromised."

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