Article by Taylor Davidson
Last week, I was given the extreme privilege of seeing Chance The Rapper live for the sixth time since 2014. Having been a die-hard fan since the 2013 release of Acid Rap, I’ve never missed an opportunity to catch lil Chano on tour, however I knew this show was going to be like no other. The first time I saw Chance was on his 21st birthday. He had not yet done a full nationwide solo tour, however he was stopping at a few special cities to celebrate his big day. Tickets took until the night of to sell out, and I remember desperately trying to push my way to the front of the crowd at the small San Francisco venue. Since that small show in April of 2014, Chance The Rapper has grown immensely as an artist and a person. From having a beautiful baby girl, to making it possible for unsigned artists to win a Grammy, Chance grew up a lot faster than the average millennial. The 24-year-old is making a historical mark in the hip hop industry, and his show last week was a large indication of his growth. In under ten minutes, Chance sold out Red Rocks, the famously huge outdoor amphitheater nestled in between large, booming slabs of sandstone in Morrison, Colorado. Having so much success with these ticket sales, Chance added a second show at the rocks, and again had it sold out in minutes. Seeing as just a few years ago he was struggling to sell out average sized venues, this night was bound to be an unforgettable experience for both Chance and his fans. While I made my way towards the stage to photograph this rapper whose music absolutely changed my life, a sense of pride welled up in me so intensely that I fought back tears through my entire photo set.
Opening with Blessings 1&2 off of his most recent project Coloring Book, Chance had the crowd engaged from the very start of his set. I prepared my camera (and my emotions) for what was to come as I heard a familiar “oooowee!” coming from backstage. As Chano later explained to the newer fans in the audience, this adlib is something he has been doing since his early shows, and is something that his older fans are quite familiar with. When Chance coos “oooowee” into the microphone, it means that he wants more from the crowd. As expected, the crowd will always chant it back to the rapper, indicating that they want more from him as well. It is Chance’s way of keeping the audience both engaged and excited during his entire set.
“As some of you may know, it’s national Acid Rap week,” he stated after the first two opening songs, “so if y’all don’t mind, I’m going to bring it back for a bit.” Many fans, including myself, broke out in screams and cheers at this statement as we knew the set list was going to stray from the rest of the tour as Chance and his fans celebrated the four-year anniversary of the mixtape that kick started his success. Song after song, he continued to honor and thank those who had been there for him from the start. Then, after playing the best songs from the 2014 mixtape, Chance knew it was time to enchant the crowd with his gospel hymns and passionate verses from Coloring Book, and with that he took the crowd to church. Looking around, I saw people from all ages and backgrounds, completely immersed in the music and singing along to every word. I could see that each individual was relating to Chance’s music on a personal level, and the performance touched each of us in different ways.
Going back and forth from his best features to his own songs, Chance threw in a tribute to Kanye West halfway through the show. He played to original version of Waves which did not make it onto Kanye’s The Life Of Pablo album, as well as Father Stretch My Hands pt. 1. When the familiar little girl’s voice from the intro to Ultra Light Beam came on the speakers, I was immediately hit with water works. Chance put every ounce of emotion into his verse as he sang, “I met Kanye West, I’m never going to fail,” and instantly the verse about his growth was spoken into existence as he took in the 10,000 people around him.
As the night went on, Chance’s shadow was cast against the colossal rocks of the amphitheater, which really resembled the way he was so huge and above the crowd. Chance took to the stage alone with The Social Experiment (his band), and left the puppets, props, and extra pieces from his 2016 tour behind. Lil Chano was just himself, in his purest form, with no guidance from anyone but the audience. I left the show a song early in order to get on the bus and was overcome with chills as I could hear Chance’s voice echoing for what felt like miles across Colorado. Being able to grow with an artist and physically see their success over the years is a truly remarkable experience, and Chance has done this completely on his own. He has no label, no financial profit from his music, and nobody controlling his career but himself. His incredible ability to build such a large name while remaining an independent, and amazing artist and human, proves his excellence. That night at Red Rocks is something that myself, and I’m sure Chance, will remember for the rest of our lives.