Chance the Rapper is adjusting to life quite well in his new quarantine-induced role as part musician, part teacher and full-time stay-at-home dad.
"Let me just say, I find my kids doing crazy stuff and that makes me really appreciate their teachers like, man," he laughs.
Between whipping up new music and helping his kids tend to their beloved new pet Sea Monkeys ("They're a slow burn," he tells us), Chance is still managing to give back to those who need it most.
The awards show, which Chance named after Alexander Twilight (the first black man in America to graduate with a bachelor's degree and be elected to state legislature) are less about allocating funds and supplies for educators in need, but more about cultivating the feelings of respect and admiration for the teachers and showcasing that.
"I just came to the understanding that these superstars just deserved a night of their own with all of the grandeur of the Grammys or the Oscars with celebrity faces and musical numbers and also more tangible awards but all in all, just a night for them to really relish in the work that they’ve done and feel the celebrity status that they deserve."
The show, which will take place during Teacher Appreciation Week, will feature Chance going live with 3-4 different teachers per broadcast and donate a total of $300,000 to each educator directly.
But for Chance, giving back has never equated to solely donating funds -- he's never been the type to sign his name to a check and hope that the money is enough to create lasting change in the systems that he wants to see flourish.
🚨🚨Tonight’s the night! I will be kicking off the first virtual Twilight Awards show brought to you by Box Tops for Education. Make sure to tune in tonight, tomorrow and Friday at 7pm CT on Instagram Live. I’ll be talking to some amazing teachers who are doing amazing things! @BTFE #TwilightAwards #BoxTopsForEducation #TeacherAppreciationWeek
A post shared by Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) on May 6, 2020 at 11:06am PDT
One of the biggest challenges that underserved communities or organizations that receive massive grants or funding have is the ability to properly allocate those funds towards systemic change -- and when it comes to educational institutes and public schools, this is crucial in determining long-term success.
"In 2017, I was working with my nonprofit Social Works in Chicago on creating some sort of equity for the students from the south and west side — the black and brown side of Chicago -- in terms of school funding and just bringing overall awareness to the education budget in Illinois," Chance tells AOL. "And basically while I was doing that, we created this program called New Chance [Arts and Literatrure] Fund … a grant program where we gave $100,000 to 20 different schools. We would create these cohorts where we would come to meet with each principle and a team based on the faculty of the school and really work together in creating these new programmatic lesson plans and basically just plan for how to utilize the money best."
It was through this hands-on work that Chance was able to see for himself how much teachers really do for their students and communities.
"When I did that I really got a chance to understand just how much money these [teachers] put into their kids, how much of their own money on their own time that they spend just hoping for the best for their students," He says. "It really just made me think differently about teaching."
Chance notes that he was "misunderstood" by most teachers in his past -- a rebellious streak that perhaps many of us are all too familiar with in our own pasts.
"I got in a lot of trouble," he says. "I got written off by a lot of my teachers and I had really bad relationships with a lot of teachers. What that did for me was allow me to really respect them. It gave me just a special love for any of the teachers that advocated for me or stuck by me or helped me from getting held back a grade or getting kicked out of school in grade school and in high school.
I still have close relationships with all those teachers and I think in working with the schools and finding out that a large majority of the teachers are like the ones that I actually liked in my schools really touched my heart and just made me realize that these people are really superstars, really like celebrities."
Hindsight is 2020 for the rapper.
"When you grow up, the memories that you remember from your childhood are the ones that taught you something, usually the ones from like 'Sesame Street', you know?'" Chance laughs.
And though looking to the lessons from past is a necessary tool in order to make sense of the present, the current COVID-19 pandemic has many anxiously looking to the future and how things may change.
It is undoubtedly changing the landscape of the music industry, forcing many artists to find creative ways to release, promote and perform music in a digital-only manner.
For Chance, who made himself known through the release of independent mixtapes and notoriously stands as one of the industry's most sought-after artists to score that long-awaited record deal with (update: it's still not happening), putting music distribution in the power of streamers and listeners has always been something at the forefront of his mind.
"I do like the idea of more live music and it being more accessible to more people," Chance tells AOL. "It reminds me of Travis [Scott's] performance with Fortnite, I think they reached like 100 million people or something crazy — being able to do stuff like that is just unheard of and an awesome new way of experiencing music."
Since the pandemic began, Chance has experimented with releasing song snippets via Instagram in collaboration with major artists like Lil Wayne and Yung Thug, titling each one 'Instagram Song' denoted by a number in order of which they were released.
"I still am a huge proponent of live, in-person concerts so it’s hard for me to let go of that," Chance admits.
But for the musician, adjusting to the new normal is more of a logistical shift than it is a complete mental overhaul something that sets him up to maintain his success in territory where other artists will just be learning to get their footing.
Instagram releases may be new for Chance, sure, but fulfilling the supply-demand need of fans around the world without major marketing pushes from a record label is something he's already mastered.
"For the Instagram song releases that I was doing … I've just always been of the belief (and I think it’s just a fact) that music predates the music industry," Chance explains.
"The mediums of access to music -- whether it be on disk, on record or back in the day when they used to just publish music as sheet music -- whatever mode that's come out, are temporary. There’s always a new way to make your music accessible by more people.
I don’t know why I hadn’t thought about releasing songs on Instagram before … I knew that there would be people that would be expecting or hoping that I would release [the music] on other platforms eventually but I kind of like the idea of it just being accessible for anyone that can get on the internet."
And while music remains a focus, it's Chance's dedication to his family that continues to take priority during this time.
Before the coronavirus pandemic began, Chance canceled his 2020 'The Big Tour' following the birth of his second daughter.
"I’m gonna take this time to be with family, make some new music and develop my best show to date," he told fans in a December 15 Instagram post.
"One of the main things I've been thinking about is that I got married last year," Chance tells AOL. "And I spent a long time going back and forth between being with my wife and not being with my wife before we were married. I did the whole single-dad thing and had a bachelor apartment and struggled just trying to be a single dad — that sh*t is terrible and terribly hard. And I think I just feel super blessed that I was able to be joined in marriage with my wife and have a second child and to be in this home as it is and not be dealing with this in the state that I was in two years ago."
A huge part of this realization and practice of gratitude is rooted in Chance's faith.
"It's all I have," he says in earnest. "I'm very blessed that I have my faith in this time. I think in this age of social media, everybody has a page, everybody feels like they’re very important and that they should be working on their social currency or social value. And I think that because of my faith and because of what the Word tells me, I know that I'm not the most important thing going on. And so I don’t have to accept every live opportunity that comes to me, I don’t have to be the most seen person.
All I need to work on are the things that God provided me. That's my family, making sure my house is clean, making sure I'm in good relations to the people that I'm not able to see every day while being very much focused on the people that are in my house."
He pauses. "Faith is the most valuable thing that I have in my house right now."
The Twilight Awards will be streamed on Chance the Rapper’s Instagram at 8 p.m. EST on May 6, 7 and 8, 2020.