Chance the Rapper’s Magnificent Coloring Day festival was a crowning achievement for Chicago’s most celebrated young artist. The 23-year-old Chatham native threw the day-long festival — it began at 1 p.m. with Francis and the Lights and ended at 11:30 p.m. with a performance by Skrillex — at the White Sox’s Cellular One Field in the heart of Chicago’s South Side on Saturday (Sept. 24).
Chance set an attendance record at the park — the Chicago Tribune reported 44,000 fans in attendance, and a spokesman for the festival claimed 50,000 tickets were sold, marking the first time the park sold every single seat. In one of the country’s most heavily segregated cities, throwing the party at “the Cell” was as much of a statement as the existence of the festival itself, the first of its kind in Chicagoland.
The lineup was especially diverse — comedian Hannibal Buress, who appeared after a performance from John Legend, joked that it seemed as if it was programmed by the shuffle button on Chance’s playlist. It also contained its fair share of surprises, including Buress’ set, an appearance by Chicago Bull Jimmy Butler, and a guest performance from Common. But the biggest moment was the well-publicized arrival of Kanye West, who ran through a series of his own hits including “Gold Digger,” “Black Skinhead” and Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” and was joined by Chance for a performance of their gospel-rap collaboration from The Life of Pablo, “Ultralight Beam.” Kanye’s arrival caused pandemonium throughout the park: enthusiastic kids jumped from Porta Potties and past security to get closer to the stage at Sox park, like a bizarro version of the park’s famed 1979 disco demolition night.
The unorthodox lineup turned out to be the festival’s strength: energy rarely flagged, and Chance’s curatorial flair — R&B from stars of an older generation, like Alicia Keys and John Legend, rubbed up against hip-hop from a slightly younger one, like Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz, which followed hip-hop from even more recent performers like Tyler, the Creator and Lil Uzi Vert. (Young Thug, perhaps the most anticipated performance from this new era, arrived late and was unable to perform.)
The most exceptional performances came from ColleGrove (2 Chainz and Lil Wayne’s combined set), Alicia Keys, and of course Chance himself. (Closer Skrillex put on a thrilling, high-energy show but the stylistic shift was so sudden it felt more like a festival victory lap than a full-on performance of its own.) 2 Chainz and Wayne ran through hits, mixtape cuts, classics and recent records from their joint project ColleGrove. Keys’ set, meanwhile, was a reminder not only of her powerful voice but the surprising depth of such catalog hits as “Fallin’,” “Karma” and “If I Ain’t Got You.”
Chance, who hit the stage in all-white as if Labor Day never happened, quickly made it clear why he was the main event as cell phone screens lit up the stadium like a star field during songs like “No Problem.” Chance focused primarily on the best records from his recently released project Coloring Book before fireworks were launched from behind the screen to “All We Got.” It was difficult not to recognize the historic improbability of it all: how four years earlier, when he was still just a teenager, he appeared before 400 teenagers on a freezing night in January just 25 blocks north.
Since 2012, when Chicago hip-hop first began to pop off in the city, much has been made about how so much of an artist’s operation can be homegrown in this new era. And Chance continues to support, offering local clothing spots (Jugrnaut, Fat Tiger Workshop) and restaurants (Harolds, Haire’s Gulf Shrimp) a chance to serve concert-goers.