In 2013, the year that the album Acid Rap debuted, 414 people were killed in Chicago. 80 percent of those deaths were attributed to gun violence. “While amounting to an 18 percent increase from 2012, which saw a total of 506 homicides that year, Chicago had the highest number of homicides across the country in 2013”, data collected and reported by the city of Chicago

According to Amnesty International’s report  Bringing Human Rights Home to Chicago and Illinois, “The reasons for gun violence in Chicago are complex. Poverty, unemployment, lack of access to education, and the fragmentation of gangs across the city are some of the factors that play a role in the violence. Also, the recent decision to close nearly 50 public schools has put thousands of children going to school at risk of violence or death”

[Paranoia Verse 3 plays]

The violence in Chicago is widespread affecting everybody, but it is particularly harmful for the youth who are often the perpetrators and victims of violence. Amnesty International states that from 2008 to 2012, almost half of Chicago’s 2,389 homicide victims were killed before their 25th birthdays. Born and raised in Chicago, Chance the Rapper is  familiar with the state of violence that surrounds the city. In 2013 interview with Sirius XM’s Sway In The Morning, Heather B asks Chance what the situation is between the youth and gun violence.

Heather B: “So all the 15 year olds, and the 13 year olds, that’s just stray bullets?”

Chance: “No, no. Them 15 year olds got guns, 14 year olds got guns, 13 year olds got guns. It’s because of how accessible that shit is to kids”

Chance explains the culture of paranoia and fear in Chicago that cause people put on a front to avoid “being caught lackin”. He says the “idea that everyone is out to get me, and know one’s on my side” illicit a paranoia that you have to act tough, and that showing weakness or appearing vulnerable can make you a target.

Chance: “N****s know that i’m not lacking. When i’m in Chicago i’m good. I’m not the n**** to promote violence, or promote having a gun, but I know what the situation is and it’s very real”

Just from the chorus, we are able to get a sense of how gun violence affects the city, having no single root because it appears to be more of an amalgam of issues. The song illustrates the complex feelings toward vulnerability. A dynamic that forces one to be caught in a vulnerable position, or to put on a front and carry a weapon.

[Paranoia, Verse 2 plays]

In this verse Chance is drawing attention to gun violence and the lack of discussion in mainstream media. He namedrops Katie Couric a former journalist, and Matt Lauer a former news anchor, who were both hosts of the Today Show. The artist feels nobody besides the local Chicago news focuses on the city’s murder rate, and it is overlooked by larger national news networks. There is a reference to Hurricane Katrina and the slow government response, with the survivors being called refugees. Drawing this comparison, the artist is suggesting the city may be overlooked because many of the victims are people of color. The media and or government, are scared of the “refugees” of Chicago, and have deserted them. Chance spoke about this comparison on in interview with Arsenio Hall saying that, “it’s a great metaphor for a bunch of black people struggling and everybody romanticizing it and making music about it. We got a couple of news reports about it but nobody’s really – as far as outside help – really helping us.”

In 2017 when the rapper finally met with Katie Couric, Chance explained, “The respect for life is little to none in the city because we don’t really feel like people care about us. There’s a lot of things I wasn’t exposed to or didn’t understand or know about until I went downtown. It’s literally like a different city over there. The violence in Chicago is isolated to certain parts and maybe if that violence moved outside of those parameters, maybe people would feel like it’s important to do something or take action” He is suggesting that if the violence experienced in localized impoverished areas were to spread to predominantly white, or recently gentrified neighborhoods, that people would address it more seriously and urgently.

[Paranoia, Verse 2 continued]


Illinois has tougher gun laws that most states, requiring a permit and a waiting period for purchasing a firearm. Despite this, guns are still prevalent in Chicago. Chicago’s neighboring states, Wisconsin and Indiana have relatively weak gun laws, allowing people to buy firearms without a permit or waiting period. State gun laws and regulations are only partially effective, as the borders are permeable. The 2015 study by professor of public policy at Duke University, Phillip Cook, supports this claim. The study, “found that more than 60 percent of new guns used in Chicago gang-related crimes and 31.6 percent used in non-gang-related crimes between 2009 and 2013 were bought in other states. Indiana was a particularly heavy supplier, providing nearly one-third of the gang guns and nearly one-fifth of the non-gang guns.” The 2014 Chicago Police Department reported that Indiana accounted for 19 percent of all guns recovered between 2009 and 2013.

[Paranoia, Verse 1 plays]

Though at this time he was still an upcoming artist with only mixtapes under his belt (5-Day and 10-Day), Chance’s verse in Paranoia provides insight to his approach in uplifting his hometown community. in this verse, the artist vouches to give back to Chicago when he has the money and influence to do so. Since the Acid Rap’s release in 2013, Chance had stopped violence in Chicago for 42 hours on Memorial Day holiday in 2014. With the #SaveChicago movement, the artist used twitter to spread his messages of hope. In partner with his father Ken Bennet, who has served as an Obama administration official and as director of public engagement under Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the two worked in cooperation with local community organizations, schools, and businesses to help prevent death on Memorial Day. With their involvement, the plan was to get people with posters and banners on every street, pleading to #SAVECHICAGO, while also getting local radio stations WGCI and Power92Chicago to say “Put your guns down Chicago,” every hour, on the hour which, began a week prior to the events.

Amnesty International’s Bringing Human Rights Home to Chicago and Illinois, reported the recent decision to close nearly 50 public schools has put thousands of children going to school at risk of violence or death.” Chance has responded by meeting with Illinois governor Bruce Rauner to discuss Chicago public school funding, donating $1 million to help CPS, raising $2.2 million the New Chance Fund, each of 20 schools will receive $100,000 over the next three years. The artist told reporters that he believed, “Funding education is the most important investment a community can make.” Chance has also created opportunity for young creatives in Chicago to express themselves through open mic events documented through twitter’s @OpenMikeChicago to supplement the lack of after school programs.

Although $2.2 million dollars is a significant amount, $100,000 for 20 schools over the course of three years seems like a drop in the bucket. The artist’s charitable work and involvement is significant because Chance is currently doing more for Chicago Public Schools than the city of Chicago.