Editorial: Chance the Rapper
Chicago needs Chance the Rapper. We do.
Chance was the Grand Marshal of the Bud Billiken Parade, the nation’s largest African-American parade and a celebration to mark the end of summer and the return to school for local students. The parade hosts a number of local marching bands, dance troupes, and floats hosted by local businesses, all dedicated to keeping kids in school and sending them back to the classroom in style. Chance brought along the volunteers at SocialWorks and handed out 30,000 backpacks, filled with headphones, notebooks, and other essential school supplies. While the kids were elated, Chance had a big announcement up his sleeve: following the parade, Chance would be hosting a free concert at Auditorium Theatre in honor of those going back to school. He gave free tickets to a ton of businesses throughout the South Side, and while kids and adults scrambled to get one, Chance assured his fans that the surprises wouldn’t stop there.
The 24-year old rapper has already done more for this city than most politicians have in their lifetime. Most of the schools that have suffered in recent years are in low income neighborhoods, which has caused a huge rift between families and lawmakers. Chance has always fought for the black community, particularly black youth. He founded his own charity, SocialWorks, and has used his platform as an international hip-hop star to bring attention to those issues that resonate the most with him. From donating over 1,000 winter coats to the homeless to donating $1 million to Chicago Public Schools, Chance has received immense praise for all that he’s done for our city, and this past weekend was no exception.
Currently, the City of Chicago is in trouble. Chicago Public Schools are in dire need of funding, violence (especially in lower-income neighborhoods) isn’t going away, and the state just passed a budget for the first time in over two years, an unprecedented amount of time. In 2016, more people left Illinois than any other state. However, many who live here are fiercely loyal to their city; even those who are suffering the most often talk about how much they love Chicago. For those of us who can’t leave or don’t want to leave, we want to fix this city. We see beauty and opportunity in spite of the statistics or what misinformation our current president chooses to scream into a microphone (and on that note, we’re incredibly proud that the first black president is from Chicago.)
Chance sees this beauty too.
While thousands gathered outside the doors of the Auditorium Theatre, the excitement began to build. What other surprises did Chance have in store? Who would show up at the #BBBash? The theatre slowly filled up after the doors opened at 5pm, and while the audience was primarily made up of high schoolers and college students, tons of elementary school kids were there with their moms and dads. One 8th grader, Elijah, came all the way from North Carolina. He showed off his breakdancing moves to a screaming theatre when DJ Oreo invited him up to put his moves to the test. The night was full of perfect moments like this. Kids were juking and showing off their footwork while DJs and rappers had people standing on their seats in excitement.
Surprise acts like DLow and MadeinTYO proved to us that Chance wasn’t pulling any punches when he created this super secret lineup. But, the real screaming didn’t start until Jeremih came onstage. The South Side crooner reached the top five of the Billboard Hot 100 in 2014 with his single “Don’t Tell ‘Em”, a soulful hit that was made for the dancefloor. No one knew he would be at the show, and when the first notes of his signature song came on, even those in the second balcony were jumping up and down.
Chance’s final guest star, however, had the crowd screaming so loudly, it’s a miracle the lights didn’t shatter. Hip-hop megastar Future came out and played a 35-minute set and blew everyone’s minds. The 33-year old Atlanta native has put out some of the biggest releases of the last several years, including What a Time to be Alive in collaboration with Drake. Since then, Future has released three albums, all of which have debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts. His set was incredible, and he thanked Chance several times for bringing all of these artists together for such a worthy cause.
When Chance finally came out onstage, all bets were off. The dark blue lighting that every artists had for their set was transformed into a rainbow of radiance. As Chance drove onto the stage on a Vespa, bursts of fire shot up from the stage behind him. While he rapped from a backing track, he had a drummer and keyboardist as well as a small chorus that helped bring his songs to life. Playing a plethora of songs from his newest mixtape, Coloring Book (which he famously released for free), the Grammy-winning artist took time between each song to remind us all why were there: Chicago kids. When he brought out the chorus to sing “Special,” it was clear he was talking to those kids.
One of the highlights of the night came from a friend of Chicago who couldn’t be there but sent a video for Chance and his fans. Barack Obama’s face popped up on the projector, and the audience screamed louder than they had all night. Obama wished Chicago schoolchildren a great school year and reminded everyone how important it is to keep traditions like the Bud Billiken parade alive. He even made a sly reference to Chance running for office: “I was Grand Marshal a couple of times, and I ended up being President, so you never know what might happen!”
Chance for Mayor of Chicago? I’d vote for him in a heartbeat.
Chance the Rapper is playing a number of shows across the country for the remainder of 2017. Don’t be surprised if he pops back up in Chicago a few times, too. For tour dates, click HERE.