Chance The Rapper knew he wanted to try a different approach for his Tiny Desk performance, so he decided to do something he said he hadn't done in a long time. He wrote a poem. More specifically, he wrote a poem in the short time it took him to ride from his hotel in Washington, D.C. to the NPR Music offices. Calling it "The Other Side," Chance debuted it in the middle of his remarkable set, reading from his notes written out in black marker on sheets of typing paper.
"I still have all the keys that are of no use to me," he began. "They used to, though. On the other side was a mansion on a hill, complete with L.A. pools and fireplaces and a rim made specifically for people that lie about being six feet to dunk on."
Chance didn't get much further before he was interrupted by one of the hazards of performing in an actual, working office: a building-wide page for someone to call the mailroom. But Chance rolled with it, cracking a quick joke before starting over again.
The night before arriving for his Tiny Desk set, Chance performed for more than 23,000 people at Jiffy Lube Live, an outdoor theater in Bristow, VA. The sold out arena and amphitheater shows of his current tour offer a stark contrast to the first time I saw Chance in concert back in 2013. Then, he was a 19-year old upstart rapping and singing for a handful of people at a tiny club in Austin, Texas. A lot has changed since then, and quickly. Chance's most recent mix tape, Coloring Book, was widely ranked among the best albums of 2016 (some called it a masterpiece) and featured collaborations with a cast of hip-hop luminaries, from Kanye West to Lil Wayne and T-Pain.
Chance's poem "The Other Side" was sandwiched between an opening version of "Juke Jam" from Coloring Book and another special gift just for his Tiny Desk appearance, a moving cover of Stevie Wonder's 1974 song "They Won't Go When I Go."