This story originally appeared for Billboard on April 17, 2017. You can access the original HERE.
Reflecting on a historical year-long run that saw him ascend to the national throne, win three Grammys and assert himself as one of the world’s biggest stars, Chance the Rapper comfortably raised a glass to the crowd at Studio Paris in Chicago’s River North neighborhood on Sunday night (Apr. 16). As the clock rounded midnight and bottles with sparklers flew in from every direction -- via waitresses dressed in brown overall and matching ‘3’ hats -- the MC toasted those packed shoulder-to-shoulder before him and turned his sights towards 24 alongside longtime friends, and Ludacris and T-Pain.
To be sure, Chance’s Jordan Year is one that won’t soon be forgotten, as evidenced on Sunday night, where a capacity crowd filled the trendy club for a celebration that seemed to be attended by representatives from all sides of the city. It was certainly a far cry from the family-style spread of Harold’s Chicken and Hennessey that marked the same celebration three years ago, in a modest north side apartment.Chance’s reality has changed drastically since that time: Back then, we were listening to Kanye West, and today he’s several collaborations in with our hero, Yeezy's number at the ready on speed dial.
Just as evident as his own shining star are the ripples of talent that Chance have given a platform to through his own success. Whereas ‘Ye has struggled as of late identifying his “Real Friends," his successor has taken cues, making sure to bring all of his friends and colleagues along for the ride. Towkio sipped drinks next to members of The Social Experiment while Eryn Allen Kane and Noname traded words. Nearby, fellow Chicago rapper Rockie Fresh -- who along with Mick Jenkins and Chance round out April 16 as the ultimate hip-hop birthdate -- held court with a number of gold-plated champagne bottles.
For a city that is less known for bottle service and late night clubbing than it is for hard work and gritty disposition, the scene on this particular evening was one that spoke to the burgeoning class of the Chicago Renaissance that has been forming in the city for years. While a small percentage in the city have paid attention for some time, it’s becoming ever more obvious that the local show is quickly becoming an international sensation.
One thing that has always been striking about Chance the Rapper is his ability to relate everything he does back to a central theme, a continuing story. Partying on Easter Sunday didn’t feel at all out of place for those that had spent the years before that rushing back from their family’s houses at Christmas and Thanksgiving for house parties, which became tradition. With the stakes raised, things have stayed linear, if perhaps becoming a bit more gilded along the way.
At Studio Paris on Sunday night, it was hard not to notice the sea of upper-crust financial types, trust-fund North Shore kids, suburban transplants, curious onlookers and more, all clamoring to get a glimpse of a group of kids who grew up in the city, attended its schools, utilized its resources when available and now stand at the forefront of their hometown culture. For a guy who emerged from a city and a scene that has long been dictated by its divisions, it seemed obvious that the selfless work he’s put forward -- in the last couple of years specifically -- has done much to bring the city’s fractured sides together, if only for one night.
Asserting himself above the Easter Sunday crowd, T-Pain, cloaked in all white took the microphone and offered his thoughts to the man of the hour:
“Your presence demands excellence, Chance. I don’t know what you could possibly do from here that’s going to be better than what you’ve already done, but I know it’s going to be great. Bless you, happy birthday.”
The crowd erupted in pure euphoria, their feelings reflected through the Auto-Tune legend, who in turn began a chant that worked its way around the club before overpowering the music: “Chance for Mayor”.
While it remains to be seen if that reality may be in Chance’s direct future, one thing seems certain heading into his twenty-fourth year: Regardless of electoral vote, Chance the Rapper is his city's unofficial mayor, the People’s Champ.