The minute Chance The Rapper announced he was going to host an album release party in his hometown of Chicago, you knew it was going to be something special.

This is the same guy who once turned a local brewery warehouse into wanderlust-sprinkled playground, brimming with board games, juice boxes, and inflatable slides. This is also the guy who transformed the White Sox’s baseball stadium into a world of his own musical curation, while solidifying his place as the city’s next cultural icon. Among those lucky enough to have RSVP’d to the free event on Thursday night (July 25) and got selected to attend, there was a feeling that truly anything could happen. 

To herald the arrival of his latest project The Big Day – which he’s taken to referring to as his “debut album,” despite the existence of three stellar full-length mixtapes that preceded it, including 2016’s Coloring Book, which took home a Grammy for best rap album – Chance rented out the Garfield Park Conservatory, a lush, indoor botanical garden set in Chicago’s West Side. Upon arrival, visitors were carded, given wristbands, and sent on their way to navigate a lush maze of palm fronds and low-hanging ferns leading first to an open bar, and then to a hangar-like room dominated in the middle by a large stage.

Just before midnight, the man of the hour appeared, sprinting out of the wings to the rapturous applause of his diehard audience. Behind him, Chance was accompanied by a quartet of vocalists, a keyboard player, a live drummer, and his ever-faithful musical companion Nico Segal, formerly known as Donnie Trumpet. Superstars like his mentor Kanye West, or local friends like Vic Mensa and Valee, were nowhere to be found. Immediately, Chance ripped into “Groceries,” the Murda Beats-produced single he shared earlier this year. After that he quickly segued into a pair of Coloring Book cuts “Summer Friends” and “All We Got,” before busting out the Acid Rap standouts “Favorite Song” and “Cocoa Butter Kisses.” 

He also busted out an impromptu freestyle, loaded with off-the-cuff lines like, “I took the acid and took a trip, fell so hard I almost broke my hip,” and “I feel funky like an open pit, that’s stanky, all my raps was janky, I used to try to get a little hanky-panky, my girlfriend used to spank me.”

Those who showed up to the performance hoping to be regaled by the sounds of Chance’s forthcoming album probably left the humid, tropical paradise slightly disappointed. Rather than using this particular platform to showcase the fruits of his long-awaited labor, the rapper instead used the occasion to reflect on the journey that got him here. He shouted out his friends, his team, and his family, making sure to give special mention to his wife. He talked about the hard work it took to forge a career “100% independent, I did this on my own!” he roared. 

Then he thought back on his first-ever tour, which was headlined by his departed friend Mac Miller, before profusely thanking the small horde of fans pressed close to the railing for sticking with him through all of it. “I’m trying get some love tonight,” he said while slapping hands with those down front. “I bet somebody told you my shit was whack and you had to defend me at some point, so thank y’all.”

While the gathered mass still had to wait until the following day to hear all of The Big Day along with the rest of the world, Chance did at least perform one, unreleased cut from the record. Titled “Do You Remember,” Chano revealed that it served as the second track on the album. Opening with a simple drum pattern, “Do You Remember” quickly morphed into a sinewy, R&B burner, filled with references to Will Smith’s blue Genie from the new Aladdin, his own daughter, and an existential fear of joining the infamous 27 club that took so many other musicians at the height of their careers. Chance spent a majority of the time spitting the song’s intricate verses perched on a stool, and though there were a couple of stumbles here and there, he managed to get through most of it unscathed.

While the sonic contents of The Big Day still remained a mystery by evening’s end, Chance felt it was important for everyone to know just a couple of things before they departed into the warm Summer evening, smiles plastered on their faces, ears still ringing from the effervescent performance. “No matter what happens tomorrow,” he said of his latest record, “It’s really truly me in every sense of the word…I want you to know very well, I did this for you.”


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