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Chance the Rapper at First Avenue, 12/9/13

Chance the Rapper at First Avenue, 12/9/13
Photo by Erik Hess

Chance The Rapper

with DJ Rashad and Spinn
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Monday, December 9, 2013

Chicago's Chance the Rapper made a huge impression this year with Acid Rap, a tightly realized mixtape that floored critics and fans alike. In the midst of his Social Experiment Tour, Chance justified the hype with a solid performance at First Avenue, complete with a backing band.

DJ Rashad and Spinn opened the evening from the upper level, out of sight, as they blasted uptempo footwork and juke remixes and controlled the trippy visuals that played on a screen onstage. Several notches faster than the typical club fare you'll hear in Minneapolis, the duo reworked songs by Future and Notorious B.I.G. to remove the syrupy slow-burn slap and replace it with jacked-up pummel, finding the rave-leaning energy hidden inside familiar rap bangers. The set played off Chicago scene traditions that may have been lost on the audience, who seemed to be saving their energy for the main event despite the DJs' explicit goal of getting the place amped. Their music set the scene for Chance, whose own work incorporates a number of the styles Rashad and Spinn displayed in full force, but the vibrantly colored animations that played in the background grabbed most of the attention as the pair played the background.
Chance the Rapper at First Avenue, 12/9/13

Chance the Rapper at First Avenue, 12/9/13
Photos by Erik Hess

When Chance literally leaped onstage to the familiar opening of "Good Ass Intro," the cheers and screamed lyrics began and didn't cease through the duration of the show. He started out solo, running around the stage and spitting his fluid raps with the trademark snotty melodies and spitfire energy that propelled him quickly to the deserved position he earned this past year.

Having honed a style that naturally walks the line between bar-heavy chop-rapper and from-the-soul harmonic crooner, he effortlessly played both parts and highlighted each aspect depending on what would make the particular song stronger. Perfectly synced to every song, the background visuals varied from black-and-white T&A to cartoons to Chief Keef videos. He left briefly after a few songs and returned with a band, including two keyboardists, a drummer, and a trumpet player. The vibe shifted to find Chance playing bandleader, belting lines to the rafters and getting jazzy with his melodies. Bands can sometimes take attention off rappers that utilize them, but Chance maintained his formidable stage presence with Chi-town dance moves and continued joviality. 

 

The band provided some drama that made certain songs more powerful as well, especially the heavy hidden track "Paranoia," which Chance gave extra weight by downplaying his typically manic approach and highlighting the song's denouement ("I know you're scared / you should ask us if we scared too"). At times he would sit down and let the band take control, and it helped that they were a bit stripped-down and incorporated drum machine pads in addition to the acoustic instrumentation. Their presence boosted the beats rather than taking anything away, thanks to originals that often leaned towards jazz influences.
Chance the Rapper at First Avenue, 12/9/13


Chance the Rapper at First Avenue, 12/9/13
Photos by Erik Hess

Chance left and returned solo again for "Smoke Again," "Juice," and "Favorite Song," a stretch that brought the audience to a frenzy. The bass was gigantic and Chance proved that he could operate without assistance, although he pulled the move of letting the crowd finish his lines too often. He left once more but came back for "one more song" that turned into several more, and he closed the set on some of his best tracks to huge cheers. A consistently energetic and fun presence, Chance the Rapper held the crowd and put on a solid, impressive performance from front to back. DJ Rashad and Spinn returned to close out a gigantic night.


Personal Bias: I'm sometimes skeptical of rappers with bands, but Chance's style fit perfectly and he used his appropriately.

The Crowd: Young, enthusiastic.

Overheard In The Crowd: Too many white fans playing fast and loose with the N-word while singing along to songs.

Setlist:

Good Ass Intro
Brain Cells
NaNa
Pusha Man
Everybody's Something
Lost
Paranoia
You Song
Fix You (Coldplay cover)
Smoke Again
Juice
Favorite Song
Interlude (That's Love)
Untitled New Song
Cocoa Butter Kisses
Everything's Good (Good Ass Outro)

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