The Hall theatre brimmed with excitement as hip hop artist Chance the Rapper regaled his fans
Hundreds of Concordians lined up outside the Alumni Auditorium in Concordia’s Hall building on Oct. 21 for a chance to see hip hop artist Chance the Rapper discuss art and life before his show at L’Olympia that same night.
The talk, which was held as part of Concordia’s very own class titled “Hip Hop: Past, Present, Future” and organized in collaboration with the Concordia Student Union, was held by Yassin Alsalman, an artist also known by his stage name The Narcicyst, and professor of the aforementioned class.
The lineup coiled like a snake from the front doors of the auditorium, out onto the sidewalk and up onto Mackay Street. As the doors opened, hundreds of anxious bodies shuffled their way into the room excitedly. This very crowd exploded in cheers just as Chance stepped out onto the stage, smiling and waving at those who called out to him. He greeted Concordia’s students with a casual yet joyful “hey guys,” before taking a seat, all the while attracting dozens of star struck eyes to his position.
Chancelor Bennett, better known by his stage name Chance the Rapper, was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Though he began releasing music in 2011, it was his widely acclaimed 2013 mixtape Acid Rap, a psychedelic, bombastically scatter-brained journey, that quickly cemented Chance’s position as one of the most potent contemporary hip hop artists.
An independent artist, Chance reached international stardom almost solely through the release of free mixtapes and a slew of guest appearances. His most recent release, a collaborative mixtape with rapper Lil B, came out in August while his jazz rap collaborative project Surf, which he released in May of 2015 with his band Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment, currently ranks highly among review aggregator Metacritic’s highest rated albums of 2015.
Chance’s unique approach to his craft has made him an eclectic and curiously interesting performer, his distinctive singing voice and proficient rapping skills joining forces over jazzy and soulful instrumentals. Bennett said gospel and soul music were frequently being played in the house when he was a child and became strong influences on his work.
Chance grew up in the West Chatham neighbourhood of Chicago’s South Side. His father, Ken Williams-Bennett, is the Regional Representative for the U.S. Secretary of Labour for the Great Lake States of the Midwest. “My dad always wanted me to follow in his footsteps,” he said. “What people don’t seem to understand is that, in politics, the torch doesn’t get passed down like that. You have to work your way up.”
Chance’s love for music manifested itself from a young age, and his decision to pursue his passion ultimately brought him to where he is now. However, Chance has used his artistic platform and political ties to launch social activism initiatives in his hometown of Chicago. One of these was the Save Chicago movement, which was done in collaboration with his father in May of 2014, during which the MC took to Twitter to help organize a successful 42-hour city-wide ceasefire in an effort to prevent violence in the city and promote a sense of community for Memorial Day weekend.
The widespread violence in Chicago was a topic of discussion during the event. “Chicago really is that crazy when it comes to violence,” said Chance. “Like, every summer, it’s almost like a tradition for kids to get shot. I remember coming back to school in September and kids I used to have in class had gotten killed. I just recently came to terms with the fact that other places don’t associate the summertime with murder.”
The positivity the young artist often articulates in his music was reflected in the aura and the attitude he projected. He generated laughs from the students on numerous occasions through his natural charm and quick wit and even surprised crowd members by pointing out Donnie Trumpet and Peter Cottontale of his band The Social Experiment, who were sitting in the front row. They regaled the audience with stories about how they met and the mutual respect that they’ve shared for each other’s talent since high school.
Chance discussed fatherhood during one of the more touching moments of the conversation. He welcomed his first child into the world in September, and explained how the birth of his daughter has changed him thus far. “It [has] taught me how to love better,” he said. The audience simultaneously let out a collective “aw” at the unmistakably genuine answer to The Narcicyst’s question. He also elaborated on the struggles that come with spending time on tour away from his family. “Every time I finish a show, I know I’m just getting one step closer to being back home.” He added that this newly existent reality was the inspiration behind the name of his current tour, “Family Matters.”
The final portion of the event was a Q&A. Ending on a humorous note, one student stood up and challenged Chance to a rap battle, to which he nonchalantly replied, “um, no dude.” The auditorium erupted with laughter one last time before transitioning into a torrent of cheers and applause as Chance waved to students and made his way off the Hall theatre’s stage and onto L’Olympia’s.