Last night, The ESPYs, ESPN’s annual awards show highlighting the best and brightest in the world sports, paid tribute to arguably the greatest athlete in the world, the late Muhammad Ali. The boxer, the philanthropist, the trash talker and the inspirational figure influenced not only other athletes but the whole world. With such a rich legacy, he was deserving of a very special tribute. Chance the Rapper didn’t disappoint. The hip hop artist penned an original song dedicated to the life of the champion. Along with frequent collaborators Jamila Woods, Donnie Trumpet, Peter Cottontale and a full gospel choir, Chance the Rapper got his Kirk Franklin on, leading the musicians and inspiring the audience with the song “I Was a Rock.”
The moving performance began with a sound clip from Ali’s 1977 speech on the meaning of life where the legend proclaims, “When I get out of boxing or when I’m through, I wanna do all I can to help people. What’s the best thing I can do? Get ready to meet God.” The poignant, Birdman-esque sentiment sums up Ali’s legacy and serves at the inspiration for the song. The chorus, “I was a rock / I was a rock and roller / Back in my day / But now I’m just rock,” gives a small glimpse into the life of the heavyweight hero. The song includes a number lines that pay homage to not only Ali’s work but his infamous personality, with witty refrains such as, “‘Ain’t no one prettier / ain’t no one wiser / ain’t no one better,” incorporated throughout.
Chance the Rapper is no one’s singer, but that boy can emote like hell. The Chi-town native knows how to use his raspy voice to convey emotion beyond his age and vocal range, giving you chills and thrills. The flawless harmonies of the choir are icing on the cake, giving you the feels as only a first Sunday choir can.
By celebrating the life of Muhammad Ali, Chance the Rapper and friends have definitely shined a light on their own formidable talent. Chance has not only come of age performing on the premier awards show, but proves he’s worthy of sharing the stage with legends of any profession. While every other rapper is singing in the trap, Chance has taken a page from the world of gospel. His love and dedication to the music shows. For more inspirational music from the artist, check out his latest release, Coloring Book.