All Things HOT
Chance The Rapper Goes Stadium Status: The Magical Magnificent Coloring Day
Almost four years ago to the day, I dropped Chance The Rapper off at the CTA L train after a meeting, so he could catch a ride home. Now he couldn’t step foot on the train without causing a small riot, as he’s arguably the most famous human living in Chicago. He just threw his own day-long music festival at US Cellular Field – home of the Chicago White Sox – which broke an attendance record previously held by iconic British rockers The Rolling Stones. Yes, I’ve watched the man named Chancelor Bennett takeover the world in four short years. An extraordinary feat for an independent artist who never signed a major label record deal. It’s been fun to watch, but almost unfathomable at the same time.
But Chance has never been one to play by the rules – even when I first met him I knew there was something special about the kid. He was uncharacteristically focused for a teenager, who had a clear vision of where he wanted to go and how he was going to get there. This was evident in my first encounter with Chance years back. He was thinking three-steps ahead, and seems he knew where he was going to land even before dropping his debut project, 10 Day. He had a clear-cut path, and everything he said he was going to do he’s done it – but even bigger than he imagined.
September 24, 2016 will be a day the city will never forget. It was the day a 23-year-old brought the first and largest music festival to the Southside of Chicago – a side of town plagued by violence, school closings and social injustice. But Chance wanted to show the world a different side, the one the media won’t show you. A side of town filled with pride, love and the best and most unique culture in the United States. The Southside of Chicago is a beautiful place, and Chance made sure it shined bright on Saturday.
And he brought plenty of friends along for the ride. Lil Wayne, 2 Chainz, Alicia Keys, John Legend and Skrillex were just a few of the A-list Grammy-winning and nominated stars who signed on to participate in the day-long festival. Kanye West, one of Chance’s biggest supporters, chartered a private jet to make a surprise performance mid-day, before his Pablo tour date in Nashville. One of my favorite moments of the day was watching fans rush the stage as Kanye emerged from the back to perform “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1.” It was pure pandemonium, and security was essentially powerless until reinforcements could restore order. Yes, it was Chance’s day – but if Chance is the King of Chicago, Kanye is still the overlord. No one man should have all that power.
At one point during his set, Kanye stopped to take it all in. You could tell even he was in shock of just how crazy, engaged and excited the crowd was at Magnificent Coloring Day. The crowd erupted as he shouted his “Southside, Southside, we gon’ set this party off right” line from his 2004 hit “All Falls Down.” I don’t think Kanye ever saw the Southside of his hometown quite like this. He choked up a bit, then added “I’m so proud of Chance.” He was passing the baton, giving Chance his blessing as the new Chicago ambassador to the world. He was overly-impressed with what he was witnessing, and we’re guessing it’s hard to impress Yeezus. Moments later, Chance drove his manager Pat Corcoran and Kanye away from the stage in a golf cart, almost hitting this writer in the process – which was probably the most surreal moment of the weekend for me.
Lil Uzi Vert, Tyler, The Creator, Alicia Keys and John Legend all had inspired sets, with both Hannibal Buress and Common making guest appearances. But next to Kanye and Chance, the fans were most excited for Collegrove, the supergroup of Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz. In many ways, Lil Wayne is the most influential and important rapper for the new generation of artists. Wayne changed the game, and they look to the New Orleans legend as the greatest rapper alive (sorry Hova). He is their Biggie. He is their Pac. A man who rose from the ashes to become one of the biggest and greatest rappers of all time, despite naysayers and a number of obstacles in his way. Seeing him live in the flesh in front of 45,000 was a moment. Fans sung along to every word, and lost their minds when songs like “Duffle Bag Boy” and “Go DJ” rang out through the stadium. Chance was in the suite next to mine where he took in the Collegrove set. He watched in awe. Yes, Chance was set to hit the stage in a couple of hours, but even he had to witness this first hand. Fans were watching Chance watching Wayne. It was a sight.
2016 has been a tough year for the United States. We’ve been plagued with countless acts of violence towards African Americans at the hands of police officers, proving racism is very much alive in our country. But for one day, everyone at Magnificent Coloring Day put tragedy to the side to have fun and enjoy the moment and each other. People of all ages, races, colors and creeds came together to celebrate love – and the love was in the air. It was a magical day that went off without issue. It was special, an unlike any other music festival the city has ever seen. There’s a new era in Chicago, and Chance The Rapper is leading the charge – and he’s leading by example – proving positivity trumps all.
Chance’s closing set was next level. Not one human in the building was sitting down, and they watched intently as Chance brought live theater to the stage with puppets, and visuals that made his show one of the most creative I’ve ever witnessed. Chance continues to push the boundaries of what hip-hop is and what music can be. There is no one in the business doing what he is right now, and for that he’s earned icon status in the streets of Chicago. This is his city, forever.
When I first met Chance years ago, he cited Kanye West, Lil Wayne and Michael Jackson as his biggest musical influences. Two of them performed at his first-ever music festival this past weekend, and I’m fairly certain that if Mike Jack was still alive, he would’ve been there as well.
Chance is stadium status now, and there’s no turning back. I’m already excited for next year.