End of April 2013. A 20-year-old Chance The Rapper has just released Acid Rap. It’s his second mixtape, coming a couple of years after the regional Chicago success 10 Day. He’s been mentioned in a few industry publications, and he’s opened for Childish Gambino, but odds are unless you’re from Chicago you’ve never heard of him. Even so, on the opening track, Chance announces “This your favorite fucking album, I ain’t even fucking done.” Acid Rap is downloaded hundreds of thousands of times and wows critics and hip-hop aficionados alike.

Lollapalooza ’13. Ask someone who Hip Hop’s Next Big Thing is and the name out of his or her mouth will immediately be “Chance.” Inexplicably, he’s playing on the smallest stage in Grant Park, but that doesn’t stop what feels like every teenager in Chicago from packing in until nobody can move. Daredevils are climbing lampposts and trees just to catch a glimpse of the upstart. I, for one, am sandwiched between two ecstatic couples separately making out, trying my best to yell back “Juice!” when Chance yells it from the stage. Not that I can even see Chance: so many bodies are ahead of me that I can do nothing but catch a silhouette when I jump as high as I can.

Hill Auditorium, March 2014. With his reputation experiencing exponential growth, Chance’s show at the University feels even more hype than the Chicago event. I’m way up in the top seats, but the music and the persona reach all the way to the roof. He comes out in a Blackhawks sweater but to the delight of the crowd switches into a Michigan basketball jersey (the Wolverines had beaten Texas in the NCAA Tournament earlier that day). The concert is short, and he doesn’t even play “Juice,” but the tracks he does play (essentially all of the other Acid Rap highlights) flatten the crowd with their energy. Chance is hyperkinetic and jumps all around the stage while rapping, but he does seem to take “leave them wanting more” to heart.

Fortunately for all those fans, Chance The Rapper is back after only a semester or so. He’s playing a Verge Campus Tour show at the EMU Convocation Center in Ypsilanti on Oct. 8. But don’t expect just a rehash of all the Acid Rap songs that made him famous.

“I think it’s a good time to test out new material,” Chance said in a phone interview with The Michigan Daily (right after playing a friendly game of soccer with some kids in California, he says). “You know I’m kind of phasing out of Acid Rap and into more stuff that I’m now doing with the band and choir.”

He’s kept fans on their toes in recent months, working with J. Cole, releasing a cover of the “Arthur” theme song and bringing out R. Kelly at a triumphant homecoming Lollapalooza 2014 appearance — all this in addition to a diverse set of earlier collaborations with Skrillex, James Blake and Justin Bieber. But despite the wealth of new songs, Chance has no idea when any of his recent work will see official release, saying only that it will happen “sometime eventually.”

“I’m not really a ‘record artist,’ ” he explained.

One thing that seems like a safe bet, though, is that the new songs won’t necessarily mimic the soulful, trippy jazz flow of Acid Rap.

“I just got a lot more sonically mature,” he said. “I learned a lot about what I like in music. I got more involved in my own production.”

When asked if he felt pressure to deliver on the expectations from his breakthrough mixtape, he said, “I don’t at this time. I did at first for a long time. I was kind of stuck in the aesthetic of Acid Rap. The way the human mind works, you get attached to an image, and I think for sure the acid isn’t part of my own psyche anymore.”

It appears, then, that the Chance at EMU will be a young rapper in transition, still finding his way and trying to learn and grow as he navigates a national stage. He thinks this is a great time to do an all-college tour because of all the support he gets from that type of crowd.

“We can try out new material with my main audience,” he said, “the people that are my age, 21-year-old seniors in college.”

That audience will likely show up in droves to get a glimpse at one of the most promising young artists in recent memory. It’s practically unthinkable that, without even a proper album to his name yet, Chance is playing venues as large as Hill and the EMU Convocation Center and garnering plenty of Kanye West comparisons. Listen to Acid Rap and you’ll realize that it’s a mixtape that can compete with any traditionally released hip-hop record.

But Acid Rap is now the past. With this fall run of shows, we can hope that we’re going to get to see Chance The Rapper grow up, experiment and, perhaps, even make something bolder and bigger than he’s ever done before.

Addition appended: This article has been changed to reflect the fact that Chance The Rapper’s performance at Eastern Michigan University will be a part of the Verge Campus Tour.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.