By Nailah Andre
On the train ride there, it was hard not to tell that everyone was headed to the Chance the Rapper concert because they were all wearing the infamous “Chance 3” hats – headwear you never see Chance without.
The excitement was palpable; everyone was trying to guess what songs Chance would perform or who he was going to bring out on stage. Once I got off the train, even though I was blocks away from the venue, the line already seemed to wrap around the entire town. This concert in particular was special because Chance had never done a show in New York City that wasn’t a festival.
The first musical act we saw was DJ Oreo; he played plenty of popular songs to get the crowd hyped like “Magnolia” by Playboi Carti, “XO Tour Llif3” by Lil Uzi Vert and the best part was when he gave a shout-out to New York for consistently putting out top-notch hip-hop. DJ Oreo concluded his set by playing the number one song on the Billboard chart, “Bodak Yellow” by Bronx native Cardi B. Even though the show was running late, his set put the crowd in a pretty good mood.
DJ Oreo was followed by Francis and the Lights – a solo singer who has collaborated with both Chance and Kanye West. Although a lot of the crowd wasn’t too familiar with Francis’ work, we appreciated his showmanship and enthusiasm. It takes a special kind of artist to kill it on stage in front of a crowd of people who aren’t really there to see you. He sang, ran back and forth on stage, danced and even gave us a pretty awesome keyboard solo.
After Francis and the Lights, we were all just ready to see Chance. The lights went out, followed by the speakers blasting the fan favorite “Mixtape,” then all of a sudden we saw the Chicago rapper run across the stage followed by explosive pyrotechnics.
Chance the Rapper seems like the type of person to light up a room when he walks in. That’s what he did Tuesday night at Forest Hills Stadium. The vibe of the entire venue had changed to pure joy. Despite running beyond venue curfew, time restraints did not stop Chance from performing nearly every song from his debut project, “Coloring Book,” an album so famous that it seemed like everyone knew all the words to every song.
One element to Chance’s performance that many rappers lack is a live band. He works with The Social Experiment, a band comprised of musicians like Donnie Trumpet, who always backs Chance the Rapper with phenomenal trumpet playing. They even performed “Sunday Candy,” the hit song of the collaborative album “Surf,” the album that the Social Experiment and Chance the Rapper co-created.
One of the more memorable moments of the show was when Chance performed “Juke Jam,” which is one of the slower, R&B-influenced songs on “Coloring Book.” This song is also the most romantic of the songs. In it he tells the tale of a romantic rendezvous at the local roller skate rink. The at-capacity stadium shone bright as every single person had taken out their phones and turned their flashlights on. It was amazing to share such an intimate moment with thousands of strangers.
I’d say the best part of the entire concert experience is Chance the Rapper’s ability to turn a stadium into a row of pews in a Baptist church. Chance raps about a myriad of topics, but one cannot deny the role that faith plays in his music.
“Coloring Book” is not only a phenomenal album, but it was a transitional album for Chance the Rapper. Before he recorded his three-time Grammy award winning project, Chance was pent up in a mansion he was renting in California doing drugs and nothing productive in his life. Then he found out he was going to become a father and it changed his life. He found God and after that, he was never the same again.
These series of events led him to record the album he performed that night and you could feel that transformational energy every time he rapped about his religion. The crowd could feel it when he told us to raise both hands when he performed his more religious songs. I’m sure there was every religion under the rainbow in the stadium that night and still, the crowd was completely united singing these songs.