This past Monday, Chance the Rapper partnered with luxury designer Ralph Lauren to invite his fans for a free online performance in his hometown of Chicago. It was no typical live stream, as the musician offered a performance with surprising grandeur. I got a taste of the in-person concerts I’ve craved since the pandemic and Chance’s concert gave me hope that online performances are only going to become more interactive and personalized.
Fans were first greeted with an AR-version of a Ralph Lauren-powered store through a Snapchat filter that was only available 24 hours before the show. I felt the nostalgia of lining up to wait for the concert venue doors to open. There, the Ralph Lauren store filter sat with its open arms, hovering above my window sill, filled with its garments and mahogany flooring. While the intro of Chance’s “Summer Friends” echoed, I explored the interior of the shop by walking with my phone held up high and bumping into all pieces of furniture in my cramped room.
Connecting the bookcases in the store’s filter was the classic concert headline marquee paired with a countdown to the performance. Clickable stars dazzled above the freckles of Chance memorabilia that were spread from wall to wall to provide viewers with fun facts or interactive experiences. A MIDI pad controller laid in the center of the coffee table where users could mix Chance’s song “Found a Good One (Single No More)” featuring SWV and Pretty Vee by pressing on the buttons for drums, bass, melody and vocals. Dangling above the MIDI pad controller were records that played sweet snippets of “Sunday Candy,” “Summer Friends,” “Let’s Go On The Run” and “Everybody’s Something.” In the left corner of the store stood a standing mirror with a Bitmoji reflection of Chance flaunting various colors of his popular “3” hat and Ralph Lauren fits. On the opposite side of the room resided Chance’s album covers for “The Big Day,” “Coloring Book,” “Acid Rap” and “10 Day,” together with facts related to each album. One of the facts mentioned that Chance made history as the first independent artist and mixtape to have won a Grammy for Best Rap Album in 2017.
Once it hit nine p.m. EST, the Snapchat filter closed and signaled it was time to launch YouTube to watch the live performance via Ralph Lauren’s channel. The Chicago Ralph Lauren flagship store panned across the screen with “Summer Friends” still in the background. As the rhythm got louder, Chance finally sat down to perform with the musical accompaniment of his posse, all prettified in polos.
The immediate close-ups of Chance within the dark space and the exuberance of his Jolly Rancher-kid attitude made the show feel as intimate and exciting as it would feel at an in-person concert. Chance reflected on how crazy it was for him to be executing a live-streamed show at Chicago’s Ralph Lauren location since he was already a frequent attendee of the store. He thanked his fans for allowing him this outlet to “do his favorite thing in the world.”
Although I think Chance’s latest album “The Big Day” lacked the certain punch that fans had grown used to in comparison to his previous releases, the Ralph Lauren live performance featuring the album’s tracks were brought to life and were as colorful as Chance’s previous musical landmark “The Coloring Book.”
He raised the roof with an infectious and buoyant presentation of “Ballin Flossin,” a song that originally featured Shawn Mendes. He busted out some of his newlywed dad dance moves along with his friends who joined in on the shenanigans. Chance continued to belt out “Let’s Go On The Run” and then recalibrated himself to perform “Everything’s Good (Good A** Outro)” from his 2013 album “Acid Rap.” His background vocals included angelic hums that meshed with his signature ad-libs and shrieks. Chance freestyled the rest of the song: “Shirpow / How you like the polo now? / Used to make the people in the store wear a frown / Now, I’m underground in the store after hours / Shir-pow / How you like me now? / I got the polo. I got the clout.” Considering the venue, it was a fitting choice for the setlist. Chance exclaimed that he loved his wife right before working himself into a sweat to punch out the bars of his last song of the night — “We Go High.”
The Ralph Lauren x Chance the Rapper collaboration exceeded my expectations. I initially thought I would be tuning in to a regular old YouTube live stream with only one camera angle when I first clicked on Chance’s Instagram bio, but it ended up as so much more than that. Aside from an exceptional virtual concert on behalf of Chance, the Ralph Lauren virtual reality environment I got to fidget with prior to the show was a surprisingly standout component. Unlike some of the past video-game and live music collaborations we have witnessed so far, this innovation was user-friendly and accessible at the palm of your hand — as long as you had Snapchat and a smartphone. I hope that this interactive idea gets adopted by in-person concerts when the time comes because waiting in line for doors to open could be more invigorating than ever before.
Email Holly Grace Jamili at [email protected]