Hip-hop concerts can be tough for the fan, the talent and the fan’s best friend who doesn’t really want to be there, but who comes anyway. And so it’s telling that Chicago’s own Chance the Rapper and his long time collaborators, the Social Experiment, held their own in a coveted closing Lollapalooza timeslot against other the acts (Kings of Leon, Skrillex and Darkside) that arguably have greater name recognition. Chance commanded the stage, and his producers utilized the full depth of lighting, lasers and digital tricks available for artists who performed on Perry’s stage, one usually reserved for the electronic dance music crowd.
He had a live band, a choir and exotic, I mean, background dancers. He also surprised his fans with an appearance by his Chicago homies R. Kelly (who sang three songs, including “Ignition”) and Vic Mensa, who also had performed Saturday at Lolla.
But before those guests took the stage, the set started off a wee bit slow as the lights seemed to turn off and the stage went dark between songs for the first ten or so minutes of the 90 minute set. (In retrospect, those slow times might have been when Malia Obama entered the concert, but that’s mere speculation on my part.) Then Chance finally turned it all the way up. He performed the songs off acclaimed 2013 mixtape “Acid Rap,” that made him a household name and made that mixtape a must-download for hip-hop aficionados. Highlights of his performance included a rousing, crowd assisted “Cocoa Butter Kisses” and, of course “Acid Rain.”
Chatham’s own, Chance The Rapper | Alex Wroblewski/Sun-Times Media
What’s refreshing about this South Side native is that he’s 100% Chicago and this performance was like a love letter to the city. Chance dropped the mic and did the footwork like he was raised on the West Side. (It looked like he had someone else up on stage with him to assist, perhaps Lll Kemo? Someone else?) And in an ode to thick chicks, he passed on employing skinny minnies for his background dancers. Rather, he did something a South Side man would do: hire the thickest-hipped dancers around. When these women gyrated, no one confused what they were doing on stage with whatever it was that Miley Cyrus (as just one example) attempted to do with her weak attempts at booty bumping.
Then, crazily, Chance encouraged the crowd to do the juke slide in the mud pit that had formed over the day of rain. (The crowd slide is great in theory but didn’t work in practice, as most of the suburban and not-from-Chicago teens and frat boys had no idea what it was, but I did laugh at the instructions he had scripted across the large teletron screens flanking the stage: step left, left left. Step right right right.) Vic Mensa came out to spit a verse or two and the Pied Piper himself, R. Kelly, sang three song snippets and got everyone bouncing.
“See my face in the streets or the tweets in the Reader or the RedEye if ya read Sun-Times”
The Social Experiment also brought an element of class in only the way that a live band can. Peter Cottontale’s signature ‘fro was all I could see from my far away vantage point, but he was grooving up there on stage, as were Nico Segal and Nate Fox. The horns were outstanding. And, again, only the Chicagoans intrinsically knew that Dj Clent’s house cut “Bang bang bang, skeet skeet skeet,” was being pumped on the drums as Chance launched into “Favorite Song.”
The crowd was wild, and coated head to toe in mud. Shoes were stuck six inches deep and many fans went home barefoot, learning too late that laceless Converse and cheap flip flops were the wrong footwear choice for Lolla. A few sat on top of Port-o-Potties, hoping to get a better view. Kids rolled blunts in the mudpit and passed them around. Even bigger kids started slinging mud through the air. Security never intervened. I personally kept moving around, trying to find a place to stand where college kids wouldn’t mistake me for one of their own, and where I wouldn’t get too dirty.
Last year at Lolla, Chance played to a midday crowd. Last night though, Chance played to a nighttime Lolla crowd — arguably more difficult to entertain due to heat, drug and liquor-addled brains. Yet, he held his own. He shouted that that he thought 60,000 people were at the concert. That remains to be seen. But the actual numbers don’t matter. More important is that he owned that Lolla stage and, from here, the only place left to go is even higher.