August 13, 2021
by Carla Hay
Directed by Jake Schreier
Culture Representation: Taking place in Chicago on April 8, 2017, the concert documentary “Chance the Rapper’s Magnificent Coloring World” features a racially diverse group of performers and about 1,500 audience members (mostly white and black, with some Latinos and Asians), who are mostly young people, gathered for a concert by Chance the Rapper.
Culture Clash: Whimsical and carefree childhood themes are on stage, while the song lyrics sometimes address social unrest and drug use.
Culture Audience: Besides the obvious target audience of Chance the Rapper fans and people who like hip-hop, “Chance the Rapper’s Magnificent Coloring World” will appeal to people who enjoy high-energy concert films that are creative without being too extravagant and over-the-top.
On April 18, 2017, Grammy-winning hip-hop artist Chance the Rapper held a secret concert in his hometown of Chicago. About 1,500 people were invited to watch him perform songs off of his breakthrough 2016 mixtape album “Coloring Book,” plus other notable tunes. (Based on who’s in the audience, most attendees were under the age of 30.) The result is this concert documentary that doesn’t do anything groundbreaking in its production and staging, but it’s a lively showcase for Chance the Rapper and his charismatic showmanship.
At 64 minutes long, it’s a briskly paced film that’s perfect for people who want a fairly quick dose of Chance the Rapper performing live. However, if the documentary had been 90 minutes or longer, it would have benefited from more behind-the-scenes footage of how this show’s production elements were put together. According to what Chance the Rapper says in the movie, the basic elements of the production happened in just a few weeks. It took a lot longer than a few weeks to plan it though.
In an interview shown before the movie gets to the concert footage, Chance the Rapper says that he had a vision for years to do a show like this—steeped in childhood nostalgia but reflective of who he is as an artist who expresses adult experiences. In keeping with the “Coloring Book”/childhood theme, fans who were invited to the show were transported to the venue in yellow school buses. One of the stage props is a Sunday Candy store.
Before getting to the concert footage, the movie begins with some grainy, archival footage in black and white of Chance the Rapper (whose real name is Chancellor Jonathan Bennett) at age 8 or 9, performing at a talent contest by singing and doing some Michael Jackson-inspired dance moves (including the moonwalk) and being elated when he won the contest. Then there’s a standard montage of people who work with Chance the Rapper talking about how great and visionary he is. It’s fairly predictable commentary that you would expect from people on a celebrity’s payroll.
Tour manager Colleen Mares says that Chance the Rapper becoming a husband and father affected his spirituality in a positive way. Choir director Rachel Robinson echoes those thoughts, by saying, “His musical journey is parallel to his spiritual journey.” Other people who weigh in with their praise include film director Jake Schreier, production designer Michael Apostolos, drummer Greg “Stix” Landfair, sound engineer Jabari “Jack Red” Rayford and choreographers Pause Eddie and Ian Eastwood.
In all, there were about 100 people in the crew who worked on the show, according to what Chance Rapper says in the documentary interview. He says his first thought in deciding to do the concert was: “How do we mic the audience?” He adds that he didn’t want it to be the type of concert film where the audio from the audience was toned down. He wanted the concert to feel fully immersive. “I like creating experiences,” he says.
As an example of how important sound is in enhancing the visual experience, he demonstrates in a kitchen how hearing a running faucet before you walk into a room can affect your anticipation of what to see in the room. And then, the movie shows how perspectives change when you see faucet with running water, but you don’t hear the water. Chance the Rapper is obviously fascinated with the technical aspects of filmmaking, which is why if this documentary has been longer, it definitely needed more behind-the-scenes insight into his decisions for how this concert was staged and filmed. (He’s one of the documentary’s producers.)
Not much in this concert will be surprising to people who saw Chance the Rapper on his “Coloring Book” tour, since this concert was filmed during the tour. At times, there’s a choir on stage. There’s also a string orchestra led by a conductor. For “Same Drugs,” he sings and plays the piano while sitting next to someone dressed as a bird wearing a hippie-like headband. Even though Chance the Rapper has collaborated with many artists, there are no surprise guest apperances in this concert documentary.
Some of the concert highlights include his rousing renditions of “Blessings Part 1” and “Blessings Part 2” with the choir and getting the audience to sing along like it’s a church revival. A more contemplative moment comes with “Summer Friends,” where it’s just Chance the Rapper on stage accompanied by a keyboardist using a vocal effects processor, as they’re bathed in a soft white lighting glow. Other songs performed in the film include “D.R.A.M. Sings Special,” “Everybody’s Something,” “Windows,” “Angels,” “All Night,” “We Go High” and “All We Got.”
The show features high-energy hip-hop backup dancers. And there’s some theatrical acting on stage too, with a set piece constructed like the outside of a nightclub and a bouncer who won’t let hopeful patrons past the security rope. It’s a little corny and better-suited for a Broadway show, but at least it does not take up too much of the concert.
Chance the Rapper is not a highly accomplished dancer (he lets his backup dancers do the flashy dance moves), but he’s very good at commanding the stage. He also excels at connecting with his audience. One of the highlights of the film is toward the end, when he goes down to the audience level in the front row to touch people hands and give them high-fives. He also namechecks Chicago multiple times, and says at one point, “Chicago, thanks so much for all you’ve done for me!”
“Chance the Rapper’s Magnificent Coloring World” is self-distributed through Chance the Rapper’s House of Kicks company, exclusively at AMC Theatres for a limited time. It’s reportedly the first time that a music artist has self-distributed a film with AMC Theatres. Considering that Chance the Rapper is not touring in 2021 (he’s only scheduled to perform at Milwaukee’s Summerfest in 2021), seeing this documentary in a movie theater will be the closest that most of his fans will have to experiencing a full Chance the Rapper concert with some late 2010s nostalgia of how his shows were back then.
This documentary is not the type of giant concert spectacle that people will be talking about for years. Nor is it extraordinary when it comes to the concert’s production theme, set designs, costume design or choreography. However, it’s very enjoyable to watch, especially for people who are inclined to like hip-hop or at least have an appreciation for music with catchy beats. And it’s a good way for people unfamiliar with Chance the Rapper to get a sense of who he is as an artist on stage.
House of Kicks and Park Pictures released “Chance the Rapper’s Magnificent Coloring World” in U.S. cinemas (exclusively in AMC Theatres) on August 13, 2021.