Chance the Rapper at the Chicago Theater Review - Too Talented and Too Motivated

When Kanye West, arguably the most famous hip hop artist today (if you ask him, the most famous of all time), was on Saturday Night Live earlier this year the best part had nothing to do with West himself.  The best part was when a 22-year-old kid from Chicago stepped on stage to deliver his verse on "Ultralight Beam".  That kids name is Chance the Rapper.


The kid's name is Chance the Rapper

Chance is everywhere these days: he isn't signed to a label, yet that doesn’t stop him from collaborating with everyone from Kanye, Childish Gambino, Action Bronson and Madonna.  His second mixtape, to follow-up his massively successful Acid Rap, is coming shortly and he even announced this week he would serve as an ambassador for the Chicago White Sox (he threw out the first pitch at their home opener).   With all that on his plate, he still had time to headline the radio station Power 92’s 15th Anniversary party at the Chicago Theater on Friday night.


Smooth lyricist

Here’s the thing about Chance the Rapper:  he is really good.  His live show is unlike any mainstream hip hop artist in that his performs before a live band.  The band, call the Social Experiment (or SOX for short – a nod to his new baseball employer) is a jazz-trained group of Chicago musicians led by Chance’s friend Donnie Trumpet (who, coincidently plays the trumpet). 


Chance’s performances explode with vitality.

Like any good jazz band, the group adapts to what Chance is doing in front of them. At times the tempo slows down when Chance wants to drive a point home and at other times the tempo builds to a crescendo.  It is fluid.  Unlike most hip hop acts where the backing music is pre-recorded and therefor completely rigid.  Because of this Chance’s performances explode with vitality.

Chance's live band: the Social Experiment


All of this to back Chances suave lyrical flow.  It might sound odd to say about a 22 year old, but as MCs go, he is up there with the greats.  His style is as smooth as Jay Z’s, at times as intense as Eminem with hints of the greatness of Rakim.  That is high praise, but Chance the Rapper makes it look easy.

And fun.  During the show he was jump, dancing, working the crowd, punching the air, throwing water into the crowd and even, at one point, flying in the air.  He is a showman with the talent to back it up.


A showman with the talent to back it up

Give Chance the Rapper’s fans some credit too - they knew every word to most of his songs.  He performed his hits “Juice, “Angels”, “Baby Blue” which all had the crowd on their feet, and bopping up and down. 

Getting up close with the fans

However, the crowd went bonkers when a gospel choir came out behind the band as if they were collectively thinking, “will he do ‘Ultra Light Beam’?”  Which is on Kanye West’s hard-to-find-to new album The Life of Pablo, but heavily features ChanceChance did not disappoint – he brought the crowd to church by spitting his verse with the choir singing like it was Sunday morning.  Truly a moving moment.


Bringing the crowd to church

Chance has a deep love of Chicago.  As Chicagoans are lucky to have him.  It is safe to say that you will be seeing Chance the Rapper a lot more in the future.  He is too talented and has too much motivation to rest.  And that benefits all of us.


Photos by @kjosephfotos

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