Chance The Rapper Pressured MTV News To Remove A Lightly Critical Review

By Stephen Gossett in Arts & Entertainment on Jun 30, 2017 4:40PM

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Chance the Rapper / Getty Images / Photo: Jamie McCarthy
The timing could hardly have been more ironic: On the very evening that MTV was airing an episode of Wild 'N Out that featured Chance the Rapper, news emerged on Friday that MTV News had yanked a (mildly) critical review of a 2016 Chance concert shortly after his team allegedly threatened to never work with MTV in the future because of the post.

The report comes in a must-read post-mortem by SPIN magazine about the late MTV News experiment—in which Pitchfork and Grantland vets rebuilt the site into an esteemed longform-centric outlet. (Sweeping layoffs and an announced transition to a video focus this week effectively killed that course.)

The article reports two instances in which artists muscled the network in response to negative-but-fair criticisms of their work. Kings of Leon reportedly threatened to pull their involvement from MTV Europe Music Awards after a 2016 post by writer Hazel Cills, now of Jezebel, that called the band's sound "no longer just middle of the road. It’s almost aggressively anonymous."

The other, more detailed account concerns Chance the Rapper and a concert review, written by David Turner, then a staff writer at MTV News. Turner writes of feeling an "emotional disconnect" with Chance's Coloring Book-era work and then-new live direction.

Turner wrote in part:

"Where before it felt like we were on a similar path, wrestling with taking friendships into adulthood and the role that parents play in one’s life as an adult, suddenly Chance’s accelerated life priorities had created a noticeable gap between artist and listener. This divergence became even clearer with his childhood-themed stage production, evoking a nostalgia for life’s earlier days that I’m fine allowing to remain in the past."

But something about the review didn't sit well with Chance and his camp. After seeing the post, his management soon contacted MTV and allegedly said Chance would never work with the network again. MTV's Music and Talent division then asked editorial to delete the post, former editor Jessica Hopper reportedly explained in messages published by SPIN. (The review by Turner—who apparently didn't even expect it to be published by MTV News because of its critical nature—can be found here on Medium.)

Here's how Chance's manager, Pat Corcoran, replied to SPIN, via email:

"Upon the publication of the article, Chance and I got together & both agreed that the article was offensive.

When we brought our concerns to MTV, our rep agreed that the article was “a harsh shot” & took ownership of the editorial misstep.

From there, MTV chose to, on their own volition, to remove the piece.

We have a long history with MTV, which we cherish.

You may notice, Chance will be appearing in the season opener of Wild 'N Out tmw night (6/29) on MTV."

It's not clear what in particular Chance and Corcoran found offensive. Chicagoist has reached out to Corcoran and Hopper and will update this post as necessary.

Of course, that conflict between access and journalism/criticism is nothing new or unique to MTV News or music coverage. At the same time, while so much of Chance's recent extra-musical work has proven instructive, this one should be taken as a major lesson.

This post has been updated.