NEW ORLEANS — Grammy Award-winning artist Chance the Rapper will deliver this year’s commencement address to graduates of Dillard University in New Orleans.
The school’s 82nd Commencement ceremonies for more than 200 graduates will be held Saturday, May 12, at 8 a.m. on the campus’ historic Avenue of the Oaks.
Dillard President Dr. Walter M. Kimbrough says Chance the Rapper, whose real name is Chancelor Bennett, is part of a new wave of artists who can openly talk about faith while being in hip hop, balancing the secular and the sacred. In 2017, the 24-year-old’s independent project “Coloring Book” became the first streaming-only album to be nominated and win a Grammy.
“He’s not signed but a multiple Grammy winner,” Kimbrough said, noting that Bennett often gives away his music, movie tickets, Jordan-brand tennis shoes and awards to school teachers. “He’s the artist that your grandmother would love.”
Kimbrough, who’s known as the Hip-Hop Prez, teaches a class on ethics and hip hop and has sought Bennett to appear on campus for two years.
Bennett has been intentional with using his ever growing popularity to give back to his hometown of Chicago, especially the youth who admire him. In 2014, Chance used #savechicago to stop gun-violence for 42 hours and since then, he’s forged ahead. And for three years, whether through hosting monthly high school OpenMike series at Chicago’s Public Libraries, raising over $100,000 to bring sleeping-bags and coats to Chicago’s homeless, or raising over $4 million for his local Chicago Public School System, Bennet makes helping others a priority.
Bennett is also the founder and president of SocialWorks, a nonprofit created to empower youth through the arts, education, and civic engagement, and it’s his aim to reshape the possibilities through freedom and access for the youth of Chicago and the globe.
“The activism is a bonus with Chance,” Kimbrough said. “I thought he made for a great commencement speaker because of his spirit of being entrepreneurial and authentic. But his civic engagement, including encouraging people to vote and willingness to speak out on issues, like his recent opposition to a Heineken ad, are just as paramount.”