Chance the Rapper Announces Twilight Awards for Teachers

A shiny red apple on a teacher’s desk. A thoughtfully written note. $300,000. Chance the Rapper plans on showing gratitude to teachers across America in a fairly substantial way with that cash prize and more as part of his inaugural Twilight Awards. In partnership with Box Tops for Education, The Twilight Awards recognizes 10 teachers who’ve shown dedication and creativity in helping their students succeed by gifting them with the money, school supplies and donations for their respective schools. 

The coronavirus pandemic forced Chance to host the first iteration of the awards show on his Instagram Live, where he’ll chat with and surprise three to four teachers a night starting Wednesday, May 6 to Friday, May 8 at 8:00 p.m. ET. But the 27-year-old performer plans on throwing a “more campy, cool, kooky” old school (read: in-person) extravaganza in the following years to highlight those “who have, what I consider to be, probably the most important job in our country,” he tells Billboard exclusively.

“Even though schools look a little different right now, teachers are still at the heart of how our children learn,” says Lilly Moeding, brand experience manager for Box Tops for Education, in a press statement. “That’s why we’re so excited to partner with Chance the Rapper for this special awards show to recognize teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week and beyond for everything they do for our kids and our communities.”

Chance hopped on the phone with Billboard today (May 4), the first day of Teacher Appreciation Week this year, to give a rundown on his latest passion project.

How have you been during quarantine? How’s your wife and daughters? 

Life is good. It’s obviously very trying and different in terms of being parents with two kids and not having a lot of infrastructure that we have, with the school and nanny and night nurse for the youngest. When all that went away, it was different for sure — definitely a little difficult — but it’s something that we learned to really appreciate, just because we’ve never had this much time with our kids and never been as close as we are now. So it’s an awesome thing, we’re doing good.

You had the idea for The Twilight Awards back in 2017 with your nonprofit SocialWorks to highlight teachers across the country for their work inside and outside the classroom. But I’m curious: Why do it now in the middle of a pandemic when schools are shut down and no one’s sat in a classroom for months? 

I think it’s a few things coming together. One is mostly circumstance. Like I was explaining about spending much more time with my oldest really gave me a full representation, or better representation, of how much time our kids stay with other people — and are being taught, guided and watched after by teachers who have, what I consider to be, probably the most important job in our country. And I think for one, my appreciation for teachers got even deeper after the start of this quarantine.

But also, the opportunity came to work with Box Tops for Education, which is a General Mills organization that honors teachers. The opportunity came to work with them in January of this year, way before I knew the novel coronavirus was going to be so impactful… We were looking for a way to collaborate and we had talked about them funding the Twilight Awards, and it just became easier once everybody kind of went into this stay-at-home rule. 

Once everybody had to stay at home, I think a lot of, most projects, I would say 90% of projects that didn’t get forced into it, they became a live stream, live-from-home project. And it just felt right to still carry on — because, well, for one, teachers are tasked to completely change and adapt to this time faster than a lot of other people have had to. You mentioned that class hasn’t been in session for a while, but really it’s just the classrooms haven’t been. A lot of teachers are having to do remote learning or remote teaching, helping their students’ parents come up with at-home activities and lesson plans.

What do you imagine The Twilight Awards will look like in the years to come after quarantine made everyone so acclimated to watching livestream shows and this award show will have only been done in this format? 

I think the initial idea was modeled after some of the more campy, cool, kooky award shows that are heavily based on musical numbers and comedic hosts and everybody that shows up. And I think that’s still the plan going forward. I think one thing that they mentioned as important is: Things are changing, and it’s not necessarily that it’s a temporary change. We don’t know how lasting the effects of this coronavirus] are going to be.

But I think the idea even of live is something that’s been rejuvenated by this whole circumstance. Live award shows usually still include a bunch of pre-taped pieces to it, and also some sort of delay with network involvement of, ‘Oh no, did he really just say that ’cause the feed?’ But when it’s like on our own channel, there’s a lot more just overall improvisation to it and overall danger Laughs.] Which is the coolest part of live TV or live anything.

The eventual real launch of the Twilight Awards hopefully would be as grand as the idea was in its inception. But I think this way is really cool because it’s so direct — directly affecting the teachers with cash prizes, and directly affecting their schools and allowing me one-on-one time to just interview these teachers, or any of my friends that have stories about their teachers or their students. I feel like it would be different once it’s a really big produced show, so I think it’s cool that we have this phase of it. 

You’re hosting the Twilight Awards on your IG Live later this week, but for the past couple of weeks, your Instagram has also been the home of some dope unreleased songs you’ve recorded with Young Thug and Lil Wayne on “Instagram song 8.” Can fans expect those tracks to drop soon, or what’s been your plan for new music lately? 

I’ve just been trying as hard as I can to find a little bit of time and record and collaborate. I have ADD, so occasionally I’ll get distracted by my video games or whatever other extracurriculars I have going on. Laughs.] But all in all, I try and stay busy when I have time and that ends up turning into, in some cases, the Instagram songs. But also some of them are just old songs that don’t have context or a place to go. So it’s been a pretty freeing experience all in all. sing-song] Period, point blank, that’s my answer!