Grammy award-winning musician Chance the Rapper went from playing shows in small, intimate venues to selling out arenas all over the country, and even then, the 24-year-old Chicago MC uses his music as a platform to give back to his fans, his city, and his faith.
Nationwide Arena’s sold out show Tuesday night was the 16th stop of Chance’s “Be Encouraged” tour, and included support from fellow Chicago natives King Louis and DJ Oreo, both of which provided fans with a pleasant mixture of music from all over the spectrum.
Louis riled up the crowd with beats that shook the entire venue. Every track was narrated by the burst of an airhorn or the sound of a gunshot, and with time, the set began to sound monotonous, but that didn’t stop the rapper’s infectious energy from bleeding into the packed arena and getting the audience on their feet.
Fans didn’t have the opportunity to catch their breath, either. DJ Oreo quickly transitioned into something more fitting for the crowd, providing fans with hit after hit, blending some of the biggest names in Hip-Hop both new and old. Kendrick Lamar, ASAP Rocky, OutKast, and more blurred together to keep people dancing along in anticipation of Chance’s time in the spotlight.
As DJ Oreo’s set came to a close, the lights began to dim and fog engulfed the stage. The opening sounds of the Coloring Book standout “Mixtape” began to blare through the arena’s speakers as Chance rode onstage on a mini-bike as the lights shifted to a piercing red color to match the flames spewing in the background. The musician made sure to begin the show strong, only to quickly calm the environment with a smooth transition into one of the first of many gospel-rap tracks of the night, “Blessings”.
The venue immediately turned into something that resembled a church service. Everyone in the crowd sang along to every lyric, almost to the point where he could have gone the whole night without saying a word himself. Chance’s charisma and genuine happiness on stage translated through his performance, and there wasn’t a moment where he wasn’t smiling.
In between most songs, the musician took some time to interact with the crowd. “I’m not used to this,” he said, addressing the sea of people chanting along to his music, “I’m used to playing shows at Skully’s.” He then continued, performing a section of four songs from his second mixtape Acid Rap, the highlight being the colored lights and psychedelic backdrop during his energetic rendition of “Favorite Song”.
Before going into performing more tracks from Coloring Book, Chance provided the audience with a medley of tracks dedicated to one of his close friends Kanye West, who he collaborated with on several songs on last year’s The Life of Pablo. Fans were treated with Chance’s version of “Waves”, ending the three-song medley with “Ultralight Beam”. The stage was consumed by a soft orange glow as a platform lifted Chance’s up in the air.
Religious undertones are a large part of Chance the Rapper’s music as of late, but that didn’t make anyone shy away from singing along and giving praise, regardless of their religious affiliation. The atmosphere within the venue was one of togetherness, turning the concert into a collective musical sermon.
With backing drums, keys and brass from the Social Experiment and vocals from rising R&B trio Thirdstory, Chance the Rapper blazed through a hefty set, touching on almost every song on Coloring Book, emphasizing the importance of music and faith.
As the rapper performed the hit “No Problem” the screen behind him flashed names making fun of major labels, while alternating with images of three Grammy awards. If anything, the rapper’s tour served as an inspiration for fans. If an independent artist can win three Grammys from a streaming-only mixtape, what’s stopping them from achieving their dreams? “Be Encouraged” was all about using his platform to energize fans and remind them that anything was possible.
Toward the end of the hour set, Chance played “Finish Line/Drown”, a track that exemplified his lyrical talents and took the audience back to his roots. As quickly as the lyrics he was spitting, the venue was shushed for a stripped down take on “Same Drugs”, an ode to Chance’s growth as a musician and a person over the years. The song slowly built momentum, and eventually the arena was filled with thousands of voices singing along.
Chance closed the night off the same way he began, with a stellar blend of “How Great” and “Blessings 2”. A walkway slowly lowered and Chance floated above concertgoers as he beckoned for them to song along with him to the final lines of the chorus, “How great is our God.”
Chance the Rapper has an ability to bring people together with his music and his message to create a unique atmosphere, and there’s no doubt fans left Nationwide Arena with a new sense of worth, and a new attachment to music and faith.
Photography by Robert Berry
About Kris Perez
Kris Perez writes and reviews for NID Magazine.