Concert Reviews

Chance the Rapper's Whirlwind Career Came Full Circle at South Side Ballroom

Chance the Rapper
With D.R.A.M., Towkio and Metro Boomin
Southside Ballroom, Dallas
Friday, November 13, 2015

Chance the Rapper is arguably the most charming act in hip-hop going right now. His optimistic and playful catalog of music resonates the same with children as it does with teenagers and adults. His infectious smile elicits reciprocation, makes teenage girls swoon and would undoubtedly have your grandmother calling him a nice boy. He’s a prince in his hometown of Chicago, as evinced by his theatrical, over-the-top headlining set at last summer’s Pitchfork Festival in said city.

He’s also one of the smartest acts today. The 22-year-old has released three music projects to the Internet for free and, according to him, he has no plans to ever put a price tag on his music. With his music so easily accessible, it’s no surprise that he’s been able to amass a huge cult following since the release of 2013’s Acid Rap mixtape, which garnered universal acclaim and made Chance the underground star he is today.

He’s been busy getting the word out, though. Instead of generating revenue from his music releases, Chance has taken on a grueling touring schedule the past couple of years. Two years ago, opening for Mac Miller, Chance performed one of his first live shows in front of a sold-out South Side Ballroom audience. Since then he’s performed in the city several more times, with crowds at stops including Trees, a headliner slot at JMBLYA and a performance on SMU’s campus progressively swelling.

Friday night, Chance’s touring schedule came full circle with a sold-out headlining set of his own at the South Side Ballroom for his Family Matters tour. As the stage lights rose and the Social Experiment hit the opening notes to “Everybody’s Something,” Chance launched into the song with his full energy. The crowd followed suit and sang back the heartfelt chorus. Without hesitation, Chance jumped right into “Pusha Man” and “Smoke Again” back to back. After the tracks were over and he’d juked his way across the stage several times over, he had to take a moment to collect his thoughts and introduce himself — something he’d even forgotten to do two years ago, the first time he played the Ballroom, and almost did again. 

It’s hard to blame him, though. Energy is one of the those descriptors that gets tossed around when describing a concert, but for Chance it's the catalyst for his shows. It’s present in his music, which typically has optimistic, joyful themes, as heard in his famous rendition of the Arthur theme song or his newest song, “Angels.” Between songs, he ad-libbed, prompting the crowd to bark back just to keep the energy up. His energy is the reason he’s amassed such a huge following and continues to grow. His shows are a spectacle.

This all rings true when you consider that he hasn’t released much new music since the first time he performed at the Ballroom. A bulk of the material Chance performed during his roughly 90-minute set came from Acid Rap, and that’s the material that received the greatest reactions from the crowd. Tracks that he’s been featured on recently were sprinkled into the set, such as “Baby Blue” and a few from his latest collaborative release, Surf, with the Social Experiment, who act as his backing band on tour. Older material from his 10 Day mixtape was received fairly well but not in comparison to his Acid Rap work.

Once he does release more new work, which seems to be on the way soon, it will be exciting to see how much more the Chicago rapper can grow. While he’s proven that he can be an underground star producing outlier hip-hop music that’s heavy on soul and jazz instrumentation, he hasn’t received the radio attention that one of his openers, Metro Boomin, has attracted. While he’s only a producer and DJ, the Atlanta resident is nearly single-handedly shaping the current sound of hip-hop, producing hits for Drake, Future, Young Thug, Migos and more.

The back-to-back lineup of Metro Boomin and Chance the Rapper was an interesting dichotomy. It’s clear to see that there’s room for demographics like the crowd on Friday night to enjoy popular trap and soulful stylings, and it would be great to see Chance catch on with radio stations and mainstream audiences as he continues to ascend, which, according to this concert, he will do quickly.

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Mikel Galicia is a trap scholar, the softest writer on the scene and his photo game is jumping out the gym. His work has been published in Sports Illustrated, ESPN and every major Dallas publication.