The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

BET Awards: Michelle Obama surprises Chance the Rapper with a tribute

Chance the Rapper received a special surprise as he was honored with the Humanitarian Award at the 2017 BET Awards. (Video: Courtesy of BET, Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Courtesy of BET)

Before BET President Debra Lee brought Chance the Rapper onstage at the BET Awards on Sunday night to accept the Humanitarian Award, she had something to tell the crowd: “We have one more surprise from a very special lady.”

All of a sudden, former first lady Michelle Obama appeared on a video screen. The crowd burst into cheers as Obama offered a pretaped message to 24-year-old Chance, who recently donated $1 million to Chicago Public Schools.

“Thanks so much, Debra, and hello, BET family,” Obama said. “Barack and I are so sorry that we can’t be there tonight in person, but please know that we are with you in spirit and we are so incredibly proud of you, Chance.”

Chance the Rapper is meeting with Illinois’ governor about education funding

The Obamas and Chance, of course, share Chicago roots. The former first lady added that she and her husband “have known Chance and his family since he was a wee little baby rapper, and it has been a thrill watching him come into his own in so many ways.”

“In addition to making some really amazing music, Chance has been taking that big, bright spotlight that follows him around and he’s shining it on young people in our hometown of Chicago,” Obama continued. “Time and again he has been standing up, speaking out and doing the work to get kids in our community the education they deserve. And with these passionate efforts, Chance is showing our young people that they matter. That they have something inside of them that is worthy of being expressed, and that they have so much to contribute to their communities and to our country.”

She concluded: “Chance, you are an outstanding role model, and an inspiration to all of us who care about our next generation. Because of you, countless young people will grow up believing in themselves, fulfilling their God-given potential and then reaching back and lifting up other people along the way.”

As the crowd roared its approval, Lee added, “Thank you to our forever first lady, Michelle Obama.”

As he accepted the trophy, Chance called the moment “wildly overwhelming,” and said he didn’t prepare a speech because he wanted to speak from the heart.

“I had plans originally to try and tell the world and everybody watching how to make it a better place, to tell everybody in this government that y’all need to let everybody out of jail for selling weed before y’all start making it legal for people to sell it and make capital off it,” he said, to loud applause from the audience. “I was going to tell the Chicago public school system not to take out a loan from Chase Bank when they know our schools are planning on failing in the district.”

At the end of his speech, Chance added that he strives to be more involved outside of his community in Chicago. “I want to travel overseas and help out people all over the world,” he said.

“Being 24, getting something like this, it doesn’t feel deserved yet, but like I said, my God is putting the pressure on me so I can become who I’m supposed to be,” he said. “I’m a good man, and I’m going to become a better man.”

Read more:

Chance the Rapper was right: Streaming now makes up half of all U.S. music revenue

Is this rap’s real golden age?

Michelle Obama is quietly planning her next act