There have been a lot of issues with Spotify, streaming, and many other aspects of the digital music age lately. Big name artists have become more outspoken about music corporations and their ability to make money off of someone else’s art without paying them back for it and a lot of people seem to be left in a state of “how do I make money?” U2’s response was to forcibly download their album onto every iPhone on the planet, which supposedly proved that they were not in it for the money, but left no one particularly happy. A certain country/pop artist who is not exactly in desperate need of any more publicity had her world famous remarks about Spotify, but in the midst of all this controversy, there’s one particular genre that has truly embraced the mentality that artists do not make music so that “people can pay for it;” hip hop. From Run The Jewels’ crowdfunded, for-charity remix album to Big K.R.I.T.’s insane datpiff collection (a free mixtape downloading website), many a hip hop artist has taken it upon themselves to put their audience and art in front of their chart placement and moneymaking. Perhaps at the forefront of this mentality, is the collective Social Experiment ensemble headed by Donnie Trumpet and the one and only Chance the Rapper. I had a chance to see this group play last week and the amazing results of their live set are rooted in their grassroots, “not in it for the money” mentality.
Every artist in every concert ever played has thanked the audience for their support and claimed that they love their fans in one way or another, but the wholesome effect of this statement reigns no truer when coming out of the mouth of the head of the first band to put an album on iTunes for free. His wholesome statements transfer to his lyrics and the lyrics induce a greater feeling out of his soulful, backing musicians and the end effect is a powerful 90 minute set of pure love and devotion to the fans, the other musicians, and the whole musical experience. Many of Chance’s words revolve around his positive outlook on life. He encourages his audience to love their family and find safety in the fact that everyone means something to someone out there. There’s an obvious tendency in music to write sad, dramatic songs and it sometimes seems like all the truly great songwriters in the world are constantly fighting demons. Chance himself analyzes issues with race in modern America and discusses his addiction to cigarettes, however, the focus of the night was on the positive thus proving the validity and value of a good happy song.
The other musicians on stage are quite possibly the most important part of Chance’s setup. Drum fills, trumpet solos and keyboard interludes are not exactly common in hip hop concerts, but the added musicality perfectly amplified Chance’s off the cuff attitude and energetic stage persona. I was especially impressed by Donnie Trumpet’s performance; his trumpet hits filled out the music in the way an entire horn section would a funk band and his many intense solos made for quite the marathon. Despite the endurance contest, Donnie’s musicality reigned true throughout his performance and added a perfectly selected, bright element to the happy soul aesthetic of the ensemble. The acoustic drum sounds of Greg Landfairm Jr. were also particularly satisfying. There’s simply more energy in a real drum kit. It adds another musician on stage putting all they have into the success and overall sound of the ensemble. This is not to understate Landfairm’s chops, which also impressed me greatly in his brief solo, but he also plays an important architectural part in the Social Experiment. Overall, the energy of the night was spectacular and I would attribute this aspect of the music to the instrumentalists on stage.
My personal favorite highlight of the show was the performance of the song Interlude (That’s Love). Introduced with the statement “I’m gonna play a love song,” this truly beautiful piece of music doesn’t just sample soul, it bleeds it. Beginning with classic organ sounds moving onto Chance listing things he doesn’t find as good as love, and finishing with an all-out soul chorus with backup singers, hand claps, and a guitar solo, the song is simply perfect and the live performance was made even more special when Chance took it upon himself to tell as many members of the audience as possible that he loved them. This was not the end of the concert, however, this was the moment that the entire audience got goosebumps and realized they too were in love. Chance, you put on a fantastic show and I would like take this opportunity to say I love you, Montreal loves you and everyone in the world who has been affected by your music in one way or another loves you too.
-Review by Donovan Burtan