RBC Bluesfest Press Images
It was a perfect sunny day in Ottawa to catch two of Chicago’s finest hip hop exports. With the masses piling in, for one of RBC Bluesfest’s biggest ever crowds, there was no way I was going to make it to any of the other stages. The two acts I saw though, were worth it.
Chance the Rapper brought his optimism and enthusiasm to a surprisingly large crowd at 7 p.m. The hour-long set was the perfect amount of time for a rapper only just starting to hit his stride, performing gems from his two mixtapes Acid Rap and 10 day, with some of his collaborative efforts (from Donnie Trumpet release “Surf” and his guest feature on Action Bronson’s “Baby Blue”) sprinkled in. Bounding across the stage with some infectious live accompaniment from his band, The Social Experiment, Chance sparkled with the energy of a star that’s only going to get brighter. For an artist that has had little mainstream support, he thanked the crowd: “No one pushed this down your throat, this is your room, this is your iTunes, get comfortable.” The lively crowd took that cue. Highlights of the show included his jazzy take on the theme from Arthur, “Wonderful Everyday”, his hit “Cocoa Butter Kisses” and his new single “Sunday Candy”.
Next it was Kanye. “I want you to tell your kids about this one day!” exclaimed Kanye West during one of the few lulls during his blistering two-hour set in front of a crowd of more than 25,000. And while that statement might seem preposterous, I think it’s a perfect encapsulation of the way Kanye West lives his life. Bluesfest, on no one’s radar on the major North American festival circuit, seemed like an odd choice for Kanye West. In front of a sea of adoring fans, ones able to ignore online petitions and detractors, he could have mailed it in. But that’s one thing that none of his detractors can accuse him of — he leaves everything he can on that stage.
Starting 20 minutes late, he realized halfway through his performance that Ottawa’s noise regulations were going to cut his anticipated set short. He began cutting songs off at the half-way mark to get through more songs saying, “I’ve got too many hits for y’all.” He bounced from the earnest, somewhat-modest College Dropout on “All Falls Down” and “Through the Wire” to the Yeezus of late on “All Day”, “Black Skinhead” and everything in between. Kanye didn’t even really have time for one of his signature rants, save for a short interlude where he discussed not compromising his artistic vision and reporting there’s only “one motherfucking Kanye West.” It’s hard to choose highlights but off the top of my head “Runaway”, “Blood on the Leaves”, “Heartless”, “Jesus Walks”, “Diamonds from Sierra Leone”, “Good Life”, and “Touch the Sky”, all had the crowd, who were packed in like sardines, moving.
A change of pace from vilified personifications, Kanye smiled and even fit in some jokes. Before starting his smash hit “Gold Digger”, he faked out the crowd by telling them he was about to perform something extremely underground. Closing his set singing in auto-tune from the perspective of his dead mother on “Only One”, he showed raw emotion and sincerity.
Kanye West is capable of creating great things, whether that’s music, fashion, or even controversy. He delivered a set to the Ottawa crowd that was indeed world-class and only few would say otherwise.