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Chance the Rapper hits a hip-hop home run in Kansas City debut

Hip-hop fans who decided to be at the Midland theater instead of Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday night were validated by an outstanding performance by Chance the Rapper. The burgeoning star isn’t signed to a record label and offers his songs as free downloads. The unconventional gambit has paid off.
Hip-hop fans who decided to be at the Midland theater instead of Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday night were validated by an outstanding performance by Chance the Rapper. The burgeoning star isn’t signed to a record label and offers his songs as free downloads. The unconventional gambit has paid off. Invision/The Associated Press

Spontaneous chants of, “Let’s go, Royals” broke out during the breaks between opening acts Wednesday night at the Midland theater. Hip-hop fans had passed on the opportunity to watch the decisive playoff American League Division Series game between the Royals and the Houston Astros to secure prime spots at the general-admission concert headlined by Chance the Rapper.

An outstanding performance by the burgeoning star validated their decisions.

Born Chancelor Bennett in Chicago in 1993, the prodigiously talented rapper isn’t signed to a record label. His music receives virtually no support from radio stations. Bennett allows fans to download his recordings for free.

The unconventional gambit has paid off. More than 2,000 people paid $34.50 to attend Bennett’s Kansas City debut on Wednesday.

Although Bennett performed for only 75 minutes, a striking production that included video panels that created new settings for each song helped Bennett’s fans feel as if they received their money’s worth.

The Social Experiment — a limber band that included a trumpeter, a drummer and two keyboardists — allowed Bennett to perform with a spontaneity that’s uncommon at hip-hop concerts.

Bennett resembled a 1950s beat poet reciting verse with the accompaniment of a jazz band on “Brain Cells.” Bennett’s conversational style of rapping on the wistful set opener “Family Matters” was not unlike a book reading by the storytelling humorist David Sedaris.

“Pusha Man” featured lyrics about the brutal consequences of the illegal drug trade. Bennett lamented the lack of outrage about the ongoing bloodshed in Chicago with weary resignation on “Paranoia.” A reworking of the theme song for the television cartoon “Arthur” was as jubilant as “Paranoia” was bleak.

“Sunday Candy,” a gospel-based song on the Social Experiment’s new “Surf” album, is an instant classic. The festivities it inspired at the Midland were exceeded only during an ecstatic rendition of “Interlude (That’s Love).” The psychedelic explosion of positivity was worthy of the Flaming Lips.

Although Bennett said that the concert was “the third show of our Family Matters tour,” the Social Experiment sounded seasoned. The band played with convincing swing on “Long Time” and introduced cosmic jazz to the young audience during “Miracle.”

The baseball game had ended by the time the headliner’s performance began. Bennett congratulated the Royals and his hometown Cubs on their victories. The triumphant concert indicated that Bennett is well on his way to a different sort of championship.

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