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Chance The Rapper passionately performs at Breakaway Fest on Aug. 26. Credit: Mason Swires | Assistant Photo Editor

Back Tracks: Rap gets emotional at the Grammy’s

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The Grammy’s are usually a hot-and-cold topic in pop culture. Some will dismiss winning as meaning nothing from a critical or artistic standpoint, while others will tally Grammy totals when arguing over the best musicians of all time. There are valid arguments on both sides. Regardless, fans still tune in year after year.

However, as the music industry continues to evolve with online streaming dominating as the most popular medium, the rules of the Grammy’s should as well. That is why, in one of the most interesting storylines for the 59th Annual Grammy Awards this upcoming Sunday, independent online phenomenon Chance the Rapper is up for seven awards despite not charging for his music.

Chance will be one of many to perform live on Sunday, and judging by the productions he has put on in live performance settings and music videos, it has potential to be the night’s most grand.

There have been many instances of emotional performances from rap artists on music’s biggest stage. Chance can join the ranks of the two rappers below if he can match their intensity.

“Stan” by Eminem featuring Elton John (2001)

In perhaps one of the most controversial Grammy performances on paper, one legend, Elton John, and a rapper soon on his way to becoming one as well, Eminem, performed a duet of “Stan.” Known for lacing his songs with misogynistic and homophobic lyrics, there were many up in arms about how decorated Eminem was heading into the 2001 Grammy’s fresh off of “The Marshall Mathers LP.”

But Elton John did not see Slim Shady’s music that way, viewing his lyrics as an angered persona he was living out through raps.

A few dark piano strikes, a gentle rainfall projection and an approaching thunderstorm preluded Eminem’s entrance onto the stage. In a light blue tracksuit, he situated himself on a prop bed before launching into his first verse.

“Stan” is one of Eminem’s darkest tracks, but it is also one of his most clever. The first three verses of the song are from the point of view of an obsessed, deranged fan, who ends up driving his car off of a bridge with his girlfriend tied up in the trunk. The fourth and final verse comes from Eminem, as he struggles to come to terms with Stan’s fate.

When the performance comes to a dramatic finish, Eminem and Elton John hugged at center stage. This was not only a powerful moment for the two but also for bridging two communities — LGBT and rap — that had been at odds.

“Hey Mama” by Kanye West (2008)

Kanye West’s figure came to light on the 2008 Grammy’s stage, as he shifted his attention toward an angelic image of his late mother shining above him. A few deep string plucks introduces “Hey Mama,” an upbeat ode to Donda West from his 2005 sophomore album “Late Registration” and one of his earliest-penned tracks.

However, his live rendition at the Grammy’s was heavy and emotional, following his mother’s death in 2007.

It has been cited explicitly throughout his music that his mom’s passing still affects him to this day. A mother’s love is incomparable, and Kanye credits many acts of love on “Hey Mama,” from the remedy of homemade chicken soup to her undying support of his dreams, despite his dropping out of school. Kanye’s lowest moments have inspired musical masterpieces, and “Hey Mama” ranks up there.

The improvised line, “Last night I saw you in my dreams,” greets the Grammy crowd. This leads into West’s first verse, passionately succumbing to one knee as he recites a conversation he had with his mom on the kitchen floor as a child. He sings the whole song almost at a whisper, tying the introduction together before walking off the stage, signing off with “and my real life will start when I go to sleep.”

Chance is not shy to letting people know Kanye is his idol. Just as West did with his first Grammy’s appearance in 2005 — a performance of “Jesus Walks” and awards for Best Rap Album and Song — Chance has the opportunity to approach Kanye’s success on Sunday.

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