Show Review: Chance The Rapper At Sound Academy

By Gilad Lippa & Jairus Machado

The night of October 19, 2015 will go down as a landmark for Canadians. The triumph of the Liberals and the outing of Stephen Harper, the fact that the Jays dominated Kansas City to keep their playoff hopes alive, and Drake reminding us of his lovably goofy and endlessly memeable dance moves via the release of his Billboard dominating “Hotline Bling” video made it seem like things couldn’t get much better for us. That is, until Chance the Rapper stepped on stage for those lucky enough to be at his sold out Family Matters show at Sound Academy.

Upon arriving, we were faced with a lengthy wait at the Sound Academy, one of the most shunned venues in Toronto. It did not help that once we actually got into the venue, it took another half an hour for the first act to go on. On top of this, upon entering, a slightly discomforting frisk from security took place. The tough task of tempering the crowd’s impatience and slight annoyance fell into the hands of Towkio, an up and coming rapper from Chi-town. All in all, he did a decent job of it. He provided a medley of songs that were largely characterized by strong, groovy electronic beats undergirding his raspy rhyming voice. Unfortunately, most didn’t really seem to know them, and thus some of his energy on stage felt slightly unreciprocated. That is, until he played his closing track, “Heaven Only Knows” featuring Chance. While it would have been nice to see Chance and Towkio do the song together, it provided a taste of the uplifting futuristic gospel to come.

Next up was D.R.A.M., who made headlines almost immediately after the show by accusing Drake of stealing the rhythm from his breakout hit “Cha Cha”. Given Drake’s history, and his pretty explicit reference to doing this (in the Fader interview), as well as the song’s very similar melodies, it’s hard not to see the likeliness of this claim. Drake aside, this song stands on its own as a sunny and infectious track that could see even more airwaves following this controversy. D.R.A.M. also came across as a very personable, warm and friendly guy with far more genuine stage presence than Towkio. Instead of getting the audience to chant back his name in an act of ego stroking like Towkio, he would get them to chant, “I love my momma!” This emphasized the familial theme running throughout the show, and provided a nice segue into his song “$”, a “git-up, get-out” style motivational track.

Following D.R.A.M. is where things really started to heat up, as Lord of the Bangers Metro Boomin’ took the stage. Appearing in a Blue Jays uniform with the number 6 only added to the excitement and appreciation of the crowd, who shortly proceeded to lose their shit as Metro dealt out a selection of his lethal catalogue, as effortlessly and prodigiously as one feeds crumbs of bread to pigeons. His production credits run deep in the current landscape of hip hop, and this is the main thing that could be taken away from his set, other than how much he knows Toronto loves Drake. He pandered to his audience well, while also showing his lengthy repertoire and strong understanding of the art of turning up, throwing in some Future, Migos, Chief Keef, and even throwback hits such as Rihanna’s “Love the Way You Lie” for good measure.

Now came the moment we’d all been eagerly waiting for. Prior to this show, Jairus and I have only been to one other show in which a live band backed a rapper, and this was Kendrick Lamar at WayHome. Needless to say, these were some high standards to live up to. Overall, Chance’s back up band, the Social Experiment, deserves a lot of credit. They added an element of authenticity that led to a more organic, spontaneous, immersive musical experience that is hard to match with solely a DJ. These bandmates were not merely background players. They were engaging, energetic, and would often goad the audience to clap along with the beat, dance with arms flailed about, or chant lyrics. Chance even threw the spotlight on them at times, and most notably on his trumpeter and close musical affiliate Donnie Trumpet. Donnie and Chance clearly have a strong musical relationship as they worked together, along with the Social Experiment, on their debut album Surf. Although this album wasn’t the follow up to Acid Rap that most anticipated, it showcased a new direction Chance was taking with his music, conveying his unconventional and uncompromising attitude to not sticking with a formulaic sound. The chemistry between the bandmates and Chance was so strong that it was hard to believe we were watching a relatively newly formed band.

Chance the Rapper performs a song from 10 Day

Chance the Rapper performs a song from 10 Day

Beginning with a psychedelic, jazzy intro, which transitioned smoothly into the Acid Rap hit “Pusha Man”, the precedence was set for the rest of the show. From there, he went into a few songs off his first mixtape 10 Day. Chance was amiable enough to ask for the audience’s permission to play songs from this, seeming to know instinctively that it was less recognized than the sensational Acid Rap. However, even if Chance had not asked, it would have been totally excusable to play these songs, as they were not only jubilant and characteristic of so many other Chance songs, but they also gave the audience a good idea about what kind of artist Chance is; an idiosyncratic, too smart for his own good, lovable trouble maker, as well as a socially conscious, extremely self aware artist who cares too much about his craft to play just crowd pleasers. This came across again when Chance opted to perform an “experiment” on the crowd, playing a cover of the Arthur theme song “Everyday Could Be Wonderful,” which Chance implored everyone to take part in and sing, dance, and all around let loose to. This felt like a genuine attempt at getting the audience to connect with not only him and his band, but with each other, to form a bond and create a sense of family that can only truly be accomplished in such unique circumstances as concerts and intimate live music events.

That’s the great thing about seeing Chance live. Even if he had been performing at the ACC or some bigger venue, it would have still felt like an intimate gathering, as if he was at his high school open mic event performing for his friends and the people he knew most. He has a way of making everyone feel comfortable with themselves, and thus with each other, as the unabashed youthful energy and oddball charm he emanates is simultaneously unlike anything you’ve seen and also something completely compelling and inviting. The ecstatic instrumentation kept pace the entire way with Chance’s uninhibited stage persona, all leading to what ultimately felt like a cathartic experience that everyone could take part in.

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