It's safe to say I was very excited for my first Chance The Rapper show. The young star's meteoric rise to the top of the his class in the new rap generation has been absolutely astounding. Off the strength of two mixtapes, 10 Day and Acid Rap, Chance has been able to tour heavily and continue to build his brand without the backing of any label. Much like Macklemore, he is showing the great possibilities behind going the independent route and balking at a major label backing.
I walked into Webster Hall early. Noticing the bar lines were empty, I realized I was mingling with a fairly underage crowd of assorted hipsters similarly dressed, wearing a ton of Chance merchandise. The concert started off slow and barely felt like one at all. Opener Sweater Beats, a DJ infusing trap and R&B sonics, ripped through a heavy dance mix that barely elicited any crowd response. I was worried the lackluster energy would follow suit and create a hard environment for Chance to work in. I was very wrong.
The Social Experiment preceded Chance to the stage, starting a heavy groove before the youthful MC bounced to the stage and immediately got the crowd involved. For such a young musician, Chance seems like he has been entertaining crowds for years. Frequent crowd interaction, whether inspiring speeches or his trademark ad-libbed call and response between songs to keep people paying attention, he was able to move and sway the crowd in any way he so desired.
For someone who hasn't released his own solo material in nearly two years, you'd be surprised how actively involved the crowd was. Never a dull moment, the crowd screamed back lyrics at Chance and urged him to perform fan favorites. It's interesting to note how regardless of old this material may be, Chance brings the same energy and passion to these songs as the same time he probably performed them. I spoke to a couple people in the crowd who mentioned this was the second or third time seeing Chance live. The way they described their fervor for his music reminded me of a Dead Head or a Phish Phan.
The real treat, however, was The Social Experiment. Not many rappers work well with a live band. Resorting to DJs and backing tracks, their songs seem to become lifeless live. Chance, however, never had that issue. Highlighted by trumpet player Donnie, who is the supposed mastermind of the upcoming Social Experiment album Surf, Chance frequently let his band members groove and perform stunning solos to great audience feedback. Working as one unit, it became apparent to me why Chance is so thoroughly invested in making music with his friends. They are extremely talented. Their production value is top notch and their musicianship is striking for artists of their age. If it takes a Social Experiment album to allow Chance to continue to grow before he is ready to release more solo music, so be it. He is a once in a generation talent capable of making fun, socially conscious songs. Like Kanye West, the Chicago native is gonna be a lifer.
Watch the rapper's latest video, from last year, and then go buy yourself a concert ticket...