Is Chance the Rapper now too big for his own good?

By Lindsay Kosma

June 9, 2017

There is no need to warm up the crowd. The PNC Pavilion is packed, filled with resounding chatter and anticipation. The following Chance the Rapper has accumulated over the last several years is vast and rightfully so. His sound is a unique blend of traditional rap and hip-hop set to jazzy hooks while his lyricism is nostalgic and innovative. It’s an award winning combination, with his most recent album Coloring Book (2016) earning three Grammy Awards including Best Rap Album.

Enter Chance the Rapper to the tune “Mixtape,” accompanied by balls of fire and fireworks shooting out of the stage behind him. Oh, and his band, Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment, can sort of be seen through the smoke and fire. And the crowd, well, their anticipation comes to a head and they explode along with the stage. The energy is reciprocal and it’s pretty powerful.

Photo by Kurt Shackelford for CLTure

“Are there really this many Chance the Rapper fans in Charlotte? Can we turn all the lights on? Man, there are almost too many people here,” said Chance. Indeed.

In typical Chance fashion, he quickly trickled in some of his gospel-heavy songs like “Blessings” and “Angels.” With each track there were various stock graphics playing in the background, most of which didn’t add much to the performance. During “Ultralight Beam,” a mashup of home-video-esque footage of Chance and Kanye West lit up the screen which was a bit cool. But the coolness was quickly overshadowed by the music video that followed, which was DJ Khaled’s “I’m the One” and was every part stereotypical-rap-video featuring girls in bikinis, a few too many product shots for Bose headphones, Kandypens vapes, and Justin Bieber. The video does have over 280 million Youtube views though, so there’s that.

As the show progressed, Chance performed a nice mash-up of songs from all of his projects including “Lost,” “Favorite Song,” and “Cocoa Butter Kisses” from his second official mixtape Acid Rap (2012). This is some of the music that really put him on the map and it’s apparent, as the lyrics bellowed from the crowd, that they are well-loved favorites. He also played songs like “Sunday Candy,” from his first studio album with Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment, Surf (2015) which he calls “a collaborative album with me and my friends, the teamwork album.” Backup singers including Elliott Skinner, Richard Saunders, and Ben Lusher (cumulatively Thirdstory), also did an acapella number which was a refreshing twist to the night.

Photo by Kurt Shackelford

Across various projects, Chance has collaborated with Kanye West, Macklemore, Saba, Hiatus Kaiyote, Childish Gambino, James Blake and others who are notorious boundary pushers. Chance has been a pusher himself, refusing to sign with a label and insisting his music be accessible for free. Though he also insists through his lyrics that he doesn’t make songs for free, he makes them for freedom. A nod to both his encouraging messaging and to some of his philanthropic work in support of The Chicago Public School Foundation.

Contrary to what his name may suggest, it is more than luck that has secured his success. Since the beginning, he has consistently demonstrated an original combination of talent, skill, and innovation packaged by his distinct tone of voice. Though his talent is undeniable, much of what made him famous was lost in his live performance. Perhaps it was due to the scale of the show. The venue was large and, as Chance said, filled with “too many people,” that the intricacies in his sound, which are integral, were blown out and didn’t translate. After some of his more artistic and theatrical music videos (recall “Sunday Candy”), one may have also hoped for a bit more dimension to the performance.

Photo by Kurt Shackelford

An emblem flickers on and off the screen throughout the night and reads “Chance the Rapper Be Encouraged Tour.” What Chance created with his music has been influential and what he has achieved is very impressive. He’s set the stage for many artists to come and hopefully, moving forward, he is more intentional with exactly how he sets the stage, we’re encouraged.

Read next:

In this article