Original image courtesy of Phoebe Lauer
Review by Peter Goldman
On September 24th, Chance the Rapper hosted Magnificent Coloring Day!, a day-long love letter to the city of Chicago and the first music festival held on the Southside, at U.S. Cellular Field. In a day that featured sets from John Legend and Alicia Keys, a Skrillex dance party, 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne rapping hit after hit together, and a surprise Kanye appearance, no star shone brighter that 23 year-old Chicago-native host himself.
Chance’s emotionally-charged headlining set had the Southside stadium shaking and capped off a day of joy, music, and social awareness. Backed by The Social Experiment, a band made up of his longtime friends Donnie Trumpet, Stix, Peter Cottontale, and Nate Fox (among others), Chance rattled through the many hits of his short but illustrious career. His theatrical performance featured backing by the Chicago Children’s Choir, multiple puppets (including Carlos the Lion, voiced by Coloring Book narrator HaHa Davis), several costume changes, and an overwhelming message of staying true to yourself and becoming the person you want to be.
The day began at 1 pm with a set from Francis and the Lights, whose frontman Francis Starlite returned to the stage for Chance’s encore, a jaw-dropping rendition of their Coloring Book collaboration, “Summer Friends.” His afternoon set was followed by a high-energy performance by up-and-coming rapper Lil Uzi Vert, wherein Uzi joined the crowd in the general admission pit for a rendition of “Money Longer.”
The surprise cancellation of Young Thug’s set was more than made up for by Tyler the Creator’s signature humor and captivating stage presence. He rapped along with friends and fellow Odd Future members Taco and Jasper Dolphin. He spent a good portion of his set behind the main stage, performing for the fans who had purchased obstructed view seats who at most times had only a view of a large television screen.
Immediately following Tyler’s performance, the instrumental for “Father Stretch My Hands” began to play. A buzz enveloped the stadium, reaching a fever pitch as Kanye West walked from backstage with no warning. The surprise appearance of Chicago’s other native son stirred the Cell into a frenzy. Fans sitting in the seats rushed onto the field, bypassing security workers and barriers alike just to get closer to Yeezus himself.
Kanye’s 20-minute set had him running through both classics (such as “All Falls Down” and “Gold Digger”) and recent hits off of The Life of Pablo. It was capped off with Chance joining him for a soulful rendition of their Gospel-inspired hit “Ultralight Beam.” This performance signified to me the passing of the torch of Chicago from the legendary West to the up-and-coming Chance. On “Blessings (Reprise),” Chance raps, “Kanye’s best prodigy / He ain’t signed me but he proud of me / I got some ideas that you got to see.” This lyric rang true as Kanye stood beaming in admiration as Chance rapped his verse, at the festival that months ago was simply his idea, and the two men ended the set with a long embrace.
Following Kanye’s performance, the buzz and energy continued into sets by John Legend, Collegrove (2 Chainz and Lil Wayne), Alicia Keys, and finally Chance’s headlining set followed by a late night dance set from Skrillex. The day was a celebration of Chicago, with guest appearances by local favorites such as Common, Hannibal Buress, and Jimmy Butler.
Chance’s imaginative headlining set focused on him and his personal path, as he bounced between old songs and current hits, features and songs of his own. It featured life size puppets, a variety of props, the Chicago Children’s Choir, and told a story of resisting temptation and finding one’s own path. The emotional set culminated with the help of Francis Starlite, in a crowd-pleasing encore of their hit “Summer Friends.”
Throughout the day, Chance’s desires for social justice and to make his hometown a better place were evident. Advertisements on the video screens reminded and educated attendees on voter registration, and Chance used the forum as a chance to announce the founding of his non-profit organization, Social Works Inc., designed to unite and protect Chicago’s youth.
These topics turned up in the music itself, as well. On “Ultralight Beam,” Chance changed one of the lyrics in his verse from “Look at Lil Chano from 79th,” to “Please don’t forget about Jason Van Dyke.” This is referencing former Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, currently awaiting trial for first-degree murder in the controversial on-duty shooting death of the black 16-year-old, where 16 shots were fired. Common joined John Legend for a performance of “Glory,” their Oscar-winning song from Selma, and requested the audience listen with their fists raised in solidarity.
In a day full of emotion, music, and activism, nothing was more evident than the mutual love between Chance the Rapper and the city of Chicago. As the day drew to a close, one lyric lingered on into the night: “I’m in love with my city, bitch I sleep in my cap!