Chance the Rapper is the newest recipient of the Innovator Award during this year's iHeartRadio Music Awards. At just 24 years old, Chance joins previous Innovator Award winners Pharrell Williams, Justin Timberlake, U2, and Bruno Mars.
Three-time Grammy winner (and seven-time nominee) Chance the Rapper is recognized for his groundbreaking accomplishments in music and undeniable contributions to social causes. As an independent artist, he has risen to the top of hip-hop superstardom and uses his voice to fight for youth empowerment through the arts, and education through his non-profit organization, SocialWorks.
Pharrell Williams, who was the very first recipient of the Innovator Award, presented Chance with the honor. He said of Chance:
"I'm a huge fan, and to call Chance an innovator almost feels like an understatement. He remains independent, releasing music whenever he feels like it. It sounds crazy, but that's the kind of crazy that made him the first streaming-only artist to win three Grammys. And yes, he's only 24 and dresses like one of myf avorite video games Mario Kart, he dresses like Mario. So, of course, he's an innovator. And while he's doing all of this, he personally gave a million dollars to Chicago public schools. A million dollars! Why? Because that's where he grew up. That's his community, that's who he really cares about. The youth there. He's a hero to so many, including me."
He added, "We also need to make some noise for him being an amazing dad. He completely breaks the stereotype of young dads. The guy's an amazing father."
In his acceptance speech, Chance started out by thanking Pharrell, and spoke about the positive influence that he's had on his life. He explained, "Thank you, first of all. And real quick, since nothing is scripted up here, thank you Pharrell for number one being just a positive, I say that with as much impact as I can, a positive influence in my life since I was young. But also, for giving me the confidence, because I don't know if you remember this a long time ago we were at a studio, and I was telling you, I think I need to sell this third mixtape, so I can get my nominations at the Grammys and blah, blah, blah. And you were like, 'No, you don't gotta do that.' And just with small passing things that you say, I don't know if you know how much weight it carries on people, but thank you."
Chance continued, and spoke about all of the amazing artists who have come before him, naming James Brown, Ray Charles, and Prince, as well as female artists like Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift, and Beyoncé. He said:
"I found out I was getting this Innovator Award, and I still, with everything that comes my way, I still feel very young, a little undeserving and overwhelmed by a lot of the stuff that happens. But I asked my man Pat why they would be honoring me, and we had a conversation about musical identity, musical liberation, independence and freedom. And that's something that we stood on for a long time, and something that we didn't create though. We didn't innovate that idea. Musicians were free when this whole thing started, and I do wanna shout out people that help me lead the path that I'm no right now. I wanna thank James Brown for his musical endeavors, Ray Charles for his musical insight in this business. The late, great artist Prince for his musical business sensibilities. And the women, the contemporary women. Nicki Minaj, I don't know how many of you know about what she's done for streaming rights, Taylor Swift, Beyoncé. Beyoncé, she invented that flash surprise album, taking over everything, but from one direct source. It's hard for me to really break down stuff for you guys, but I didn't invent independence in any way. I didn't innovate this idea. I'm following behind a lot of other people, and it takes a lot more of us coming together as artists to regain our control and power as we should have it. So thank you for this, and thank you to all the artists before me, and after me, this is for you guys. God bless."
Watch Chance The Rapper's full iHeartRadio Innovator Award acceptance speech below.
Photos: Wes and Alex for iHeartRadio