You know you've made it when you can make a room of 75 fans and a couple dozen industry professionals feel like the main stage of a major music festival. And, ladies and gentlemen, Chance the Rapper has done just that without a single studio album release to his name.
Yesterday evening, Midtown techno club Flash Factory played host to the launch party for Soundcloud's new subscription streaming service, Soundcloud Go (which you can read more about here
). Featuring performances from alt-pop duo JR JR, rapper A$AP Ferg, Chi-town hip-hop wunderkind
Chance the Rapper, and more, the affair felt less like an insider industry event and more like a raucous, orgiastic celebration of the future of rap and young people who feel an intimate connection to Chance's tunes.
I arrived at the venue just before 8 which was when electro-pop duo JR JR took the stage. I was a big fan of last year's self-titled record from the band (and their first album since changing their name from Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. to just JR JR), but I'd never seen them live before. That's a fact I came to highly regret after last night's set. Imagine what would happen if Michael Jackson and Passion Pit had a baby with a band with a dedicated saxophonist. That's how much fun JR JR are on stage, and both core members of the band are a whirlwind of energy on stage. Daniel Zott in particular is possessed on stage and I wish I had a quarter of the energy that man does.
JR JR were followed by electro/trance/EDM act Bob Moses, and if I never see them live again, it will be too soon. If you're into the most basic lite-house beats, nasally and half-hearted vocals, and the stage presence of a brick wall, maybe you'll find something to enjoy in Bob Moses but we didn't. I turned to my +1 for the show five minutes into the set, and we were both already ready for it to end, and it never felt like that sweet release was going to arrive because Bob Moses didn't have any song breaks to break up the monotony of their sonic experience. We do our best not to run negative reviews on Baeble and instead try to focus on what we love but I'm going to consider this paragraph a warning for our readers to avoid a Bob Moses show unless you're in the market for an Ambien substitute.
A$AP Ferg came out next. Minus A$AP Rocky, my familiarity with the other members of the A$AP Mob is pretty minimal. But, despite not knowing a single track that A$AP Ferg played, it's clear that this guy has a ton of energy and stage presence. His last record, Trap Lord
, was a fitting title. He got the crowd bouncing with trap beats and a boundless energy and he brought out one his A$AP Mob brothers for the performance (although there was sadly no appearance from A$AP Rocky which would have truly taken the evening to another level).
But the star of the evening was Chance the Rapper, and this is the part where I make a somewhat embarrassing confession as a music critic in 2016. I've totally missed the boat on Chance the Rapper. Since 2013 or so, I've pretty much exclusively listened to music on Spotify, and if your music isn't on Spotify, I'm probably not going to hear it. Chance's marquee mixtape, Acid Rap
, is not on Spotify. Surf
, last year's record with Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment, is but that's only partially a Chance album. His collaborative mixtape with Future is not on Spotify. I can name a couple Chance tracks and I've heard some of his tunes, but I've never spent any serious time with his music. Despite that deficiency in my Chance knowledge, I can report that the man puts on one hell of a show.
And speaking of Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment, Chance brought them on stage for his entire set, and there are few pleasures more intense than a rapper with a full live band. The audience kept hoping that Kanye would show up for "Ultralight Beam" which didn't happen, but Chance made the track a banger without Yeezy. And there was a portion of the evening that was extended performance art where Chance had a social experiment with the audience and the transference of power and energy between himself and his fans.
The show made me think a lot about what it was that makes people so excited about Chance. Clearly, the music is a big part of it. I didn't know these tunes going in but I was bouncing along with the rest of the crowd before the evening was out. But another huge part of the appeal is demographics. Chance is 22. To put this into perspective, Kendrick Lamar -- arguably the defining rap icon of the 2010s -- is 28. Chance is the potential of the Millennial generation defined. He represents the promise of what folks my age can accomplish. But that's a pretty surface reading. Chance's real appeal struck me during the "social experiment" portion of the evening.
Much like Kendrick, Chance represents an element of self-love in the hip-hop space. In a medium dominated by braggadocio (and Chance can be the confident hip-hop emcee when the time is right), Chance brings vulnerability to the medium. He paints himself as human. But he also reminds his listeners that they're worth love...that he loves them and that they should love themselves. In an age where we're constantly bombarded by messages that we shouldn't talk about our anxieties and fears and imagined shortcomings, it's a powerful message of self-affirmation.
But, yeah, needless to say, after last night, I'm going to have to go that extra mile to actually familiarize myself with Chance's work moving forward. He made a new fan yesterday evening.
And enjoy some photos from yesterday below from our photographer Kirsten Spruch.
Chance the Rapper