Maybe there’s something in the water of Chicago. Maybe it’s the natural influence of a city that was once the black capital of the United States. During the Great Migration, over 6 million blacks left the South in hopes of a better life in the North. Many of those blacks ended up in New York, Detroit, and Philadelphia but maybe the most soulful made a new home for themselves in Chicago. Chance the Rapper is from Chicago and his Trillectro set this past Saturday was soulful as fuck. Chance headlined the diverse music festival with his band, The Social Experiment, which is a fitting name, given that they are a jazz band backing a rapper at a music festival designed to merge different genres and, subsequently, different demographics. Historically, rap has always been a direct descendent of Jazz. The best rappers get their flow from trumpet players; Biggie Smalls is probably the best example of this. There's a cadence that he uses, a way he ends his lines and pauses before he starts into another that makes me wonder what the world would have been like if picked up a trumpet instead of a mic. The use of drugs, specifically psychedelics is another classic trademark of jazz. Chance is known for his experimentation with acid so it’s expected that his set would be full of adventurous musical moments, from his staccato-like delivery to the trip-influenced graphics that displayed in the background as he performed. What I was not expecting was to be taken to church.
The song “Sunday Candy” is an ode to Chance’s grandmother and samples Marvin Winan’s gospel classic “It’s Gonna Rain”. He must have been raised Methodist, like me, because the imagery in the lyrics made me feel as if we grew up in the same church. Chance sings in the song, “You singing too- but your Granma ain’t my Granma.” Yet everything he describes in the song, from the way she smells to having the best peppermints, could be used to describe the average Black American Grandmother. Chance performed this song in front of a crowd of mostly white suburban white teenagers, who were more than likely all under the strong influence of drugs and alcohol. And he went complete Kirk Franklin (whom he sites as a major influence) on them, with dramatic pauses, hand movements and commandments; “Put your hands together!” “Sing it one more time!” He turned the audience into a mass choir, and we actually sounded really good. He even reworked the lyrics to the Arthur theme song in the aptly titled song, “Wonderful Everyday: Arthur”; a moment, that when Chance premiered this song at the Sasquatch! Music Festival last May, went down in history. Arthur is a new age spiritual for this generation. He has a stage presence comparable to Cab Calloway: high energy, slightly goofy yet very cool. It’s no wonder everyone loves him. Only Chance could move a crowd of intoxicated white teenagers with a set that would have been just as solid atAfroPunk.