Magnificent Coloring Day was surely a God’s dream. When Chance the Rapper—a south-side native who’s finessed a ten-day school suspension into a record-breaking music career—stood teary-eyed as a sold-out U.S. Cellular Field recited every lyric and ad-libbed Igh! from his three mixtapes, it felt like a victory for all of them, not just for Chance.
The 23-year-old had beaten the system. He’d already set his own terms—refusing to deal with record labels, pushing the Grammys to recognize streaming—on his crusade to prove that free music can be as good or better than music with a bar code. But the real triumph of Magnificent Coloring Day was to show the world outside Chicago—or at least the part of the world that saw Tidal’s live stream—that good can come from the city’s south side. It’s more than the guns, gangs, and violence seen on TV. It’s Chance’s home.
“It doesn’t feel real yet,” he said softly after jamming through “Angels,” “Blessings,” “Pusha Man,” “Smoke Again,” and “Cocoa Butter Kisses.” For the fans packed into White Sox park, it’s safe to say that lots of things about Magnificent Coloring Day didn’t feel real. So much of it seemed too good to be true.
Francis & the Lights (aka Francis Farewell Starlite, the mystical voice on the hook of Chance’s “Summer Friends”) kicked off the day, followed by rapper Lil Uzi Vert. Local clothing and food vendors, among them Harold’s Chicken Shack and streetwear boutique Jugrnaut, brought Chicago flavor to the venue, while NAACP voter-registration stations reminded festgoers of their rights as citizens.
However, it wouldn’t be a music festival without complications.
Young Thug, scheduled to perform at 2:40 PM, was a no-show. Word on the street, or rather in the photo pit, was that the Atlanta rapper arrived too late and would’ve cut into the set time allotted to Tyler, the Creator. So the show went on without him.
Tyler came out a minute early, at 3:34 PM, wearing a matching yellow leopard-print shirt and shorts. He didn’t have much nice to say about the catwalk stage design, though. “Whoever put this setup together is a fucking idiot,” he said. People who’d bought seating behind the stage could see the performances only on a monitor hanging off its side. But Tyler made sure to address the folks in the back, frequently walking behind the curtain to talk and rap to them.
At 4:11 PM, almost 40 minutes before John Legend was scheduled to start, someone shut off Tyler’s microphone. It seemed to be a technical difficulty. But no! Kanye West—Yeezus himself—appeared from backstage, rapping “Father Stretch My Hands,” and the crowd of 44,000 collectively lost its damn mind.
Fans from the nosebleed sections flew down any staircase they could find to get a closer look at Kanye from the lower levels. People already on the lower levels jumped over railings and porta-potties to get to Mr. West. Staff initially tried to control the crowd, but quickly resigned themselves to the crush—you could see in their eyes that fighting the masses was beyond their pay grade.
The scene was like something from a 1990s Michael Jackson concert. Some people fainted, and others were carted off the field on stretchers or in wheelchairs after injuring themselves trying to get to the stage.
“Chance! I’m so proud of this young man right here,” Kanye said, bringing out his protege. West had already done a medley of his own hits, and two giants performed “Ultralight Beam” together.
The festival resumed its regular program with Legend, who cruised through the sultry joints “Used to Love U,” “Tonight (Best You Ever Had),” and “Ordinary People,” to name a few. He and Alicia Keys provided some much-needed relief from the frenzy West provoked—and from the nonstop bangers by the ColleGrove team of 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne, who kept everyone out of their chairs rapping classics from Weezy’s mixtape days and hits from 2 Chainz’s current run.
But not even all that magnificence could keep the focus from Chance. He led us through a theatrical show with a puppet lion named Carlos, who seemed to stand in for the rapper’s conscience. “Take it all the way back to the things that matter,” Carlos begged.
Chance dramatized his real-life struggles with the distractions of partying, women, and drugs on songs such as “Juke Jam,” “Same Drugs” and “All Night,” but he eventually found his way to the heartfelt, gospel-infused music his grandmother encouraged him to pursue.
“Are you ready for your blessing? Are you ready for your miracle?” Chance sang.
After an encore of “Summer Friends”—he messed up the second verse and asked the Social Experiment to start over—he ended his day with fireworks and an EDM send-off by Skrillex.
“Thank you, guys,” Chance said as he turned and walked off the stage.