Chance The Rapper Lifts Our Spirits
Few hip-hop artists from the current decade have as strong of a success story as Chicago's Chance The Rapper. Beginning his career with the release of the free 10 Day mixtape in 2012, he soon began attracting attention from media outlets as well as his peers, opening for Childish Gambino on a North American tour. Quickly following up with his second free mixtape Acid Rap in 2013 and a collaborative effort with Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment titled Surf in 2015, Chance's popularity catapulted, with Acid Rap and Surf topping many year-end Best Album lists, as well as appearances on late night shows including Saturday Night Live and Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
It was the release of yet another free mixtape titled Coloring Book in 2016, however, that cemented his place as one of the biggest and most acclaimed rappers working today. He was suddenly embarking on huge headlining tours, as well as becoming an activist for multiple causes, including combatting gun violence in Chicago and donating money to help fund Chicago public schools. Already having his eyes pointed towards super-stardom at 24-years-old, he is currently on a massive tour with The Social Experiment, who made their way to Atlanta's Lakewood Amphitheater on Sunday night.
Chance's entrance couldn't have been more bombastic. Riding in on a motorcycle, clad in a denim jacket as balls of fire light up the stage, he got right into the intro of "Mixtape." "When the praises go up/The blessings come down," he sang on "Blessings," inciting a massive singalong from the crowd. Being a sold out show, every inch of the amphitheater was occupied. Chance even seemed surprised by it, expressing multiple times throughout the night how grateful he was that 18,000 people came out to see his show.
Chance's backing band was Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment, who were on fire the entire night. Extravagant horns during "Blessings" continued into "Angels," complementing Chance's rambunctious flow. Chance reminisced about a past childhood relationship during "Juke Jam," as Justin Bieber's contribution to the track played over a smooth backbeat. Fireworks from atop the stage went off during a three-song streak of covers from Kanye West's The Life of Pablo: "Waves," "Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1," and the magnificent "Ultralight Beam." Chance's emotionally resonant verse from "Ultralight Beam," my favorite part of the song, translated wonderfully in the live setting.
Surf cut "Sunday Candy" impressed, with vibrant instrumentation from The Social Experiment going hand in hand with Chance's wholesome and cheerful lyricism, lifting the spirits of everyone in the crowd. The four-piece backing vocalists were highlighted during "Special," with heavenly harmonies providing a pleasant interlude into recent DJ Khaled's hit "I'm the One." The wildly popular, star-studded video was the backdrop, with the crowd getting into the song as Chance rapped his fiery verse.
Rattling high-hats rang in "Lost," one of the more underrated tracks from Acid Rap. It's a twisted love song of two non-ideal lovers that learn to accept each other, and it provided a sense of moodiness before the transition into "Cocoa Butter Kisses." Chance's flow infected the crowd with his passionate delivery, and the trippy, purple silhouette of Chance that adorned the screen behind him during the song was mesmerizing. A familiar piano diddy began playing, as Chance humorously sang the first few words of his Kit-Kat commercial song. "I gotta make a Kit-Kat joke, I just have to," he told the crowd, before breaking into Coloring Book opener "All We Got."
The huge beat of "All We Got" rattled the amphitheater, as Chance led the crowd in a sermon-like chorus of "Music is all we got." The fiery banger "No Problem" got everybody moving. Since the tune is about Chance's distaste for music labels, parody logos of various labels were displayed behind him, such as Sony being turned into "Phony," Warner Music Group into "Weiner Music Group," etc. Chance's swagger during the song was awesome, and the excitement from the crowd maximized as a multitude of confetti was shot into the audience.
The smooth, understated ebb and flow of Chance's verse during "Summer Friends" went well with the forest backdrop. The song is a sort of rallying cry against gun violence in Chicago, emitting a thoughtful and melancholic feeling into the crowd. Things got colorful during "All Night." The dancey, dubby beat got the crowd in a party mood, as bright, colorful symbols illuminated the stage. Heavy gospel vibes were brought forth during the triumphant "Finish Line," as Chance's rapid fire flow was accented by exuberant horns from The Social Experiment. The four backing vocalists led the crowd in a gospel choir as the song came to a celebratory end.
"Same Drugs," a slow-moving piano ballad about growing apart, led the crowd into a massive singalong. Chance's ability to command such a large audience was truly impressive. The show caps off with a lengthy spoken word verse from Chance during "Blessings 2." The song is about how thankful Chance is to God for his rise to success, and the extended ending chorus brought the audience into a congregation of singing. A marvelous sea of confetti filled the air, as the lengthy coda came to an end.
Chance The Rapper is a shining gold standard of how far up the success ladder DIY ethics can take an artist. At 24-years-old, still unsigned and with three Grammys under his belt, Chance has managed to achieve what no artist has ever really done before. It's a seriously fascinating thing to behold. His magnificent, uplifting performance in Atlanta on Sunday night put all of his talents on display, and I can only see things continue to go up for him from here.
Photos by Brandon Boone for Bullet Music