Published Nov 05, 2013Not since 50 Cent was an intriguing rap figure have mixtape-only artists pushed their product with such an aggressive performance schedule.
Like Big K.R.I.T. and Joey Badass before him, Chicago's affable Chance the Rapper has been milking his lo-fi independent breakthrough freebie Acid Rap for all its worth. Making his second headlining stop in Toronto in less than four months, as part of his 30-date Social Experiment tour, Chance wheeled his tour bus right outside the marquee of the Danforth Music Hall and hit the stage early before a sold-out, all-ages crowd.
After DJ Rashad dropped an energy-amping set of surefire hits of '13 from Drake, Wale and Pusha T, Chance zipped onto the dais shortly after 9pm and the house lights came on by 10; after all, the 20-year-old's back catalogue only reaches back to 2012. But what the performance lacked in length, it more than made up for in effort.
Dressed in a hoodie and khakis, and backed by a drummer, keyboardist, trumpet player (!), and Serato jock, Chance displayed charisma beyond his years.
His Toronto admirers, a portion of the more than 300,000 who downloaded Acid Rap, screamed his lyrics right back at him. "Juice," "Smoke Again" and "Pusha Man" all went over like gangbusters. One girl too young to earn a wristband even crowd-surfed — nineties babies love this guy.
If Kanye West's College Dropout is a major point of influence and comparison, well, he's got a little John Legend in him, too. And a smidge of James Brown. The triple threat frequently burst into song and delighted with some dance-like-no-one's-watching footwork. The biggest surprise — besides the black-and-white pornography film that accompanied a couple tunes on a large screen behind him — was his quaint, off-key cover of Coldplay's "Fix You."
It's a shame Chance recently tweeted he will not be accompanying Kendrick Lamar and Eminem on their Australian tour in March due to "being mad tired." He could benefit from picking up a few pointers from two of the best live performers in the game.
Chance is not quite polished yet – a few too many songs were chopped abruptly after a single verse, and there were a couple awkward set breaks – but he's got that thing majors look for in prospects. Next time he rolls through, they're gonna need a bigger venue.