Published Oct 20, 2015A good rap show requires just two things from a talented emcee: trying hard and having fun while doing it.
Chicago's Chance the Rapper — likeable, charismatic and creative — succeeds on both counts. It wouldn't be difficult to make a list of rappers from Chance's own city that are or have been just as technically strong or as artistically adventurous, but 22-year-old Chancelor Bennett has that relatable thing that draws us in and keeps us there. He's not taking his popularity, or his friends, for granted. He's accessible, and not just because pretty much every song he releases is free.
Outside the sold-out Sound Academy, lightning skated down from the clouds, the Blue Jays clawed back into their series, Star Wars nerds got a quick fix and Canada elected a new leader, but inside, some 3,200 fans were hanging on every Chance couplet or adlib and every Donnie Trumpet blast.
Back-splashed by five spotlight poles and a stage-wide video screen, and supported by the four-piece Social Experiment, Chance opened with his Kanye West-jacking "Family Matters," the theme song for his 34-date tour of the same name. One of the best album cuts from fellow Chicagoan West's College Dropout debut, the spirit of "Family Business" now better suits Chance's love movement, which was in full force Monday (October 19).
"I love you guys!" Chance blurted to the all-ages crowd, more than once over his 80-minute party. He seemed genuinely touched to hear the crowd scream all the words to "Everybody's Something," "Pushaman" and "Favorite Song."
Selections from his star-making 2013 mixtape Acid Rap coaxed the most frenzied response, and this year's summery Surf was well represented, but hardcore fans appreciated excursions into 2012's 10 Day ("Brain Cells") and a well-executed medley of recent cameo appearances, such as his scene-stealing verse on Action Bronson "Baby Blue" or the under-heard BJ collabo "Church."
The dancing, happy, warm soul in a White Sox cap that is Chance stood in stark contrast to the modern club bangers producer Metro Boomin — spazzing out joyously in a Marcus Stroman jersey — cued up to stoke the crowd. The guy is winning because, not unlike Kanye in '04, there aren't many like him out there.
"Every day it could be wonderful!" Chance preached. He wanted us to repeat that refrain, to believe it. "Somebody next to you is afraid to say it. Every day it could be wonderful."
Sometime after he and his Experiment killed "Cocoa Butter Kisses" for an encore, I recalled that Chance has still not released a proper self-titled studio album, whatever that is. As confident as he's getting, there's still another level to be reached here in terms of catalogue and performance.
"We'll be back," he promised before his walk off. "It might be a bigger venue or a smaller venue, but trust me, we'll be back."
It'll be bigger. Trust me.