Kanye West drew thousands of fans to Northerly Island Sunday morning for a gospel-friendly concert alongside his protege Chance the Rapper before performing to a raucous congregation at a service at a South Side Baptist church.
West, a hometown hero raised on the South Side, returned to Chicago to host his latest Sunday Service concert at the Huntington Bank Pavilion — bringing out an ecstatic crowd of hip-hop heads and others hoping to catch a glimpse of the iconoclastic artist and his famous friends and family.
“I’m just here for the vibe,” said Taylor Griffin, of the Southeast Side, adding that the Northerly Island show was “the hottest last-minute ticket in town.”
“He’s in his hometown, so I feel like he’s gonna bring some heat for us,” noted Griffin’s friend, Ray Townes, as they waited to get into the venue.
During the show, West played a roughly hourlong set and was joined by fellow Chicago emcee Chance the Rapper for a rousing version of their collaboration “Ultralight Beam.”
West later showed up at the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, 4543 S. Princeton Ave., where he performed to a packed house that included the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
West spent much of the performance dancing onstage while gripping what appeared to be a Bible. After intermittently directing the house band and singing along with the congregation, West invited Jackson onstage before breaking into a few songs, including his Grammy-winning hit “Jesus Walks.”
Bettie Pulliam — who has been a member of the congregation, known as “The Ship,” since 1969 — said this wasn’t the first time a high-profile celebrity has visited the church.
In fact, she and some of her fellow parishioners said, Sam Cooke, Mahalia Jackson and James Cleveland all sang in the church’s choir, and Johnny Taylor and members of The Staples Singers were members of the congregation. The church has also played host to former President Barack Obama and Louis Farrakhan.
“They used to say that if you went to Chicago and you didn’t go to Fellowship, you didn’t go to church,” Pulliam said.
West’s recent public embrace of Christianity appears to extend beyond his brief stop in Chicago.
West’s wife, the reality TV star Kim Kardashian West, recently tweeted the details of her husband’s latest album, which West later confirmed on his website. The album, due out Sept. 27, is tentatively titled “Jesus Is King.”
West’s first Sunday Service — which was at times more reminiscent of a hyper-stylized occult ritual than a church service — was held earlier this year at the Coachella music festival in Southern California. And last month, the rapper/producer/designer held another service in Dayton, Ohio, in the wake of the recent mass shooting that left 10 dead and 27 others hurt.
Jeremy Smith, an artist and songwriter who lives in South Shore, brought his daughter to Sunday’s show at Northerly Island hoping to expose her to a positive, unifying experience.
“Music is a universal voice that helps us resolve every other petty drama. This is just a unison thing, and that’s what I enjoy,” he said. “And it’s something with my daughter, just to show that diversity is something that we need to embrace.”
Another attendee, Tyree Smith, cheered the “a gospel-type experience” as he left the venue.
“It was just an uplifting time. All the people here, [and] no violence in Chicago,” Tyree Smith added.
Here’s the setlist played at the Northerly Island show: