When he appeared in a featured slot at last summer’s Rock the Garden (the one that took place on Boom Island Park, not in the Sculpture Garden), Chicagoan Chancelor Jonathan Bennett executed a mutual revelation. On the one hand, the man who calls himself Chance the Rapper professed the Twin Cities to be a happy surprise on his first visit; on the other, the audience was enrapt with Chance’s deftly playful lyricism and musical blending of hip-hop, soul, and gospel in a transcendent and complicated mix.
He’s back, at Xcel Energy Center tonight, featuring his compelling and obsessively enjoyable streaming-only release Coloring Book, one of three releases that he refuses to term “albums” (although Billboard considered it one, and its charting was a first for a digital release).
If you haven’t heard of Chance, this might be why: he’s charting his own course, and hasn’t even signed to a conventional record label. He’s very much his own man with a vision—which includes pledging $1 million to Chicago public schools from the take from this tour (challenging others, including the city government, to put their money where their mouth is).
In terms of tonight, it should be an electrifying performance. In his mid-20s, Chance is one of the most vibrant and intriguing artists in music today, and he’s engaged and generous onstage. Here’s a chance to see him while he’s still (just barely) an up-and-comer.
Chance the Rapper: Xcel Energy Center, 8 p.m. tonight