Coloring Book was the first ever streaming-only mixtape to win a Grammy. It has been more than two years since its release and it’s only now that Chance the Rapper finally toured Asia to perform it live. To make you appreciate how long that’s been, when Coloring Book was released, Obama was still the president of the USA. But I digress.
His performance in Singapore is the first hip-hop concert I’ve been to. I’ve been transparent about not being the genre’s biggest fan. But his record sounded nothing like what I’ve been used to. I thought it was worth shelling out money to see him in the flesh.
As a refresher on how significant Coloring Book was, it infused influences of gospel that made his sound accessible. The songs speak of hope, gratitude and spirituality, where angst, violence and vices tend to be commonplace. And he gave the middle finger to record labels that have made artists work for them and not with them.
Now, after a shitty work week, this was the show I needed. Granted, time has passed by since the magic of his music graced my playlists. But seeing him on stage was a welcome change from the laptop I’ve been staring at for most of my recent existence.
The first thing I observed is how much energy he had when he came out and how well he managed to sustain it. It was almost like he was on drugs, except when he performed “Same Drugs”, which is quite ironic. That momentary pause from his high, seeing him vulnerable and his music stripped down, was one of the show’s highlights.
As the show went on, it’s evident he sources his euphoria from his personal life and the passion he has for music. “Blessings”, both as one of the show’s opening tracks, and the reprise at the end, was infectious. It took my mind away from the frustration and disappointment that once took over. All of those negative emotions got converted to gratitude and satisfaction. By simply being with the crowd and hearing them cheer on, I’m fairly certain those same sentiments resonated with everyone else.
Throughout the hour, I was reminded of how much talent he has, even outside of Coloring Book. He performed two of his new tracks, “Work Out” and “65th and Ingleside”. He didn’t shy away from the oldies when he performed “Acid Rap” from his second mixtape released back in 2013. Now, I haven’t gotten around to listening to the “classics”. But the concert gave me a push to put it on my playlist.
As with most rappers, he has his fair share of collaborations. It could be like “I’m the One” that pushed an artist like DJ Khaled to the top of the charts. Granted, reaching number one probably had to do more with Bieber than with Chance. But giving it airtime was a victory for my mainstream heart.
One of the show’s memorable moments was doing Kanye West’s most critically acclaimed masterpiece to date, “Ultralight Beam”, a track Chance was featured in. Unlike Kanye, who Chance considers as his influence, the 25 year old rapper lacks the arrogance and entitlement his idol is full of. It makes his combination of talent and attitude close to perfection.
Besides the commercial and critical partnerships, his most recent and fresh pairing with Reeseynem “What’s the Hook?” got some attention. Reeseynem accompanied him during the song. I had no clue who he was or what the song was about. But it looked like they were having fun and so I had fun too.
He reached “All We Got” and it dawned on me that this song best encapsulates what his artistry is about. It’s about his passion for music in its purest form, the people that matter to him that he constantly talked about every chance he had, and his spirituality which he’s not ashamed of. All of it seep into his sound and the rest seem to be nothing but distractions.
If I had to be critical about the show, I would say he pulled the plug on majority of his songs too soon. I guess it makes sense for him not to rap verses he didn’t record – say Wiz Khalifa’s or that of 2 Chainz. But maybe he should cave in to what the audience was craving for. “All Night” and “No Problem” deserved more airtime!
Overall, for a new artist who has demonstrated so much potential in his first few records, Chance the Rapper has proven his brilliance also transcends to his live performances. Granted, only time will tell if his career has longevity. But if his first few years are any indication, as well as his first visit to Asia, he is definitely here to stay.
Coloring Book Link: