For third anniversary, Chance the Rapper brings OpenMike back to Cultural Center

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Chance The Rapper speaks at SocialWorks’ holiday event, “A Night at The Museum,” at the Field Museum in December. | Max Herman/For the Sun-Times

Hundreds of high school students showed up at the Chicago Cultural Center late Monday afternoon in hopes of performing or seeing Chance the Rapper himself at his charity’s OpenMike night.

Chance the Rapper, along with his brother and fellow rapper Taylor Bennett and artists Queen Key and Bianca Shaw also showed up, attendees said.

The event ended about 6:45 p.m., earlier than the planned 7:30 p.m. time.

After the OpenMike, students said the event had a positive atmosphere.

“It was my first time but … it was really inspiring and … it’s so good to have an environment where like nobody feels the pressure and everyone can just … say what they want to say without being judged,” said 15-year-old Grace Conrad, a Francis Parker student.

Kylen Green, 17, said seeing Chance was a highlight, along with watching students perform. “I like to see other people doing different types of poetry and different types of music and it’s all just fun just to see people express [themselves] in ways they don’t usually get to because of the pressure from society,” the King College Prep student said.

University of Chicago Charter School student Jadah Gibson said she’d never been to the OpenMike event before but heard about it on social media. The 14-year-old was hoping to sing an Aaliyah song titled, “Journey to the Past.”

Prince Depillars showed up ready to sing, dance or rap for the event that is only open to high school students. He said he’s dance captain of Gage Park High School and goes by the stage name D-Artist.

“I heard about it through social media and it was on Chance the Rapper’s page, and so I’m like, ‘He’s from Chicago, maybe he’ll be here,’ ” the 16-year old said. “But overall, I’m an entertainer, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to come and perform in front of a group of people.”

Others were there not to perform but for the chance to see the Grammy-award winning rapper in person.

“It’s also a cool opportunity that you get to see all these young Chicago artists perform,” said 17-year-old Glencoe native Mae Garland.

Chance tweeted about the event earlier in the day: “For three years straight @OpenMikeChicago has been a townhall and think tank for young creatives in the city. Today we celebrate a special OpenMike by taking it back to where we started: The Chicago Cultural Center.”

OpenMike is a monthly event sponsored by Chance’s not-for-profit organization, SocialWorks, in collaboration with the Chicago Public Library. The event features randomly selected students who may then perform three-minute pieces of their choice, according to the OpenMike website. It also has been held at Cindy Pritzker Auditorium in the Harold Washington Library Center.

Dozens of high schoolers waiting in the Chicago Cultural Center Monday afternoon in hopes of performing and seeing Chance the Rapper at OpenMike. | Julie Whitehair/For the Sun-Times

Dozens of high schoolers waiting in the Chicago Cultural Center Monday afternoon in hopes of performing and seeing Chance the Rapper at OpenMike. | Julie Whitehair/For the Sun-Times

At OpenMike, professionals take the stage after the students; past guests have included comedian Dave Chappelle and rapper Kanye West. There was no word early Monday afternoon about whether any big names would show up this time.

Chance the Rapper, whose full name is Chancelor Bennett, is a Grammy-award winning Chicago native who’s been an outspoken supporter of Chicago Public Schools, giving more than $2.2 million to CPS from both his personal funds and from his New Chance Arts and Literature Fund.

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