Chance the Rapper has injected himself more and more into Chicago politics in recent months, offering his endorsement to mayoral candidate Amara Enyia.
Friday, the Chatham native released his first work of “journalism” since he bought the online publication Chicagoist last July — complete with puppets, a vintage suit, wig and a fake mustache.
In a nearly 15-minute video posted to YouTube, Chance the Rapper — whose given name is Chancelor Bennett — poses as TV news reporter “Champ Bennett,” tasked with getting to the bottom of what exactly Chicago’s 50 aldermen do, how they are elected and the challenges candidates with less money face.
Comedian and Austin native Hannibal Buress plays “Al Duhrman,” the alderman of the non-existent 51st Ward who is purported to be the oldest and longest serving member of the City Council.
In a one-on-one interview with Duhrman, Bennett asks him, “How do you ‘take care’ of the people of the 51st Ward?”
Duhrman — playing the role of an incompetent public servant with no interest in governing — responds:
“It’s a lot that goes into my time. We honor our police and firefighters at City Council. Take care of them potholes on the West Side, permits, block club parties, awnings, liquor license. If you want to start a bar, you want a liquor license, you gotta pay me off. People call my office about those boots on their car. It’s not my fault you didn’t pay your parking tickets. Now your Altima has a canary-yellow Timberland. Pay them parking tickets. They’re a different department than me. Wish they put four on your god—- car. Pay your tickets, s—.”
Duhrman later tells Bennett that he’s part of the Black Caucus — “We the real gangsters” — as well as the “Just Vote Yes Caucus.”
“Any piece of legislation that comes my way, I just vote ‘yes,’” Duhrman says. “I don’t even look at it, I just vote ‘yes.’”
Bennett surmises “it’s arguable that these formal caucuses are for optics and symbolism rather than meaningful voting blocs. They’re virtually insignificant when it comes to reviewing legislation on taxes, pensions or TIF dollars. It would seem that they’re maybe not in cohesion at all.”
The “Al Duhrman” character is a thinly veiled reference to Ald. Ed Burke, whose City Hall and ward offices were raided by the FBI Thursday. Based on the clothing worn by several interviewees, the video has been in the works for months.
Bennett goes on to ask Duhrman if he believes “age factors in your position in City Council?”
“Nah,” Duhrman says with a shrug. “I’m 75, and I’ve been in office since the ’60s. The people voted for my dad, he croaked, then the mayor appointed me. I just keep winning elections, baby.”
Burke, a former Chicago Police officer, turns 75 next month. He was appointed to the City Council in 1969 after his father, Joseph Burke, died while serving as alderman of the 14th Ward.
Bennett also conducts several man-on-the-street interviews of passersby at the bustling North/Damen/Milwaukee intersection in Wicker Park. Asked who their is alderman, what are an alderman’s duties and how many wards are in the city, most people have no idea.
Eight candidates for various ward offices also sit down with Bennett to answer questions about the challenges they face as part of their campaigns.
Cleopatra Watson, a candidate for alderman of the 9th Ward on the South Side, tells Bennett that a decline in education quality is a big factor in why there aren’t more challenges to incumbent aldermen.
“Civics [class] was removed from many of the curriculum through Chicago Public Schools high schools, so not understanding the infrastructure can also be generational, too,” she says.
After two days on YouTube, the video had gotten nearly 89,000 views.
Chance the Rapper announced his purchase of the Chicagoist in July when he released the song “I Might Need Security,” which mentioned the move. In a statement at the time he explained his decision to relaunch Chicagoist, which had been shut down by its previous owner in November 2017.
“I look forward to re-launching it and bringing the people of Chicago an independent media outlet focused on amplifying diverse voices and content,” Bennett said.