Chance the Rapper Brings Shades of 'Willy Wonka' & 'Edward Scissorhands' to Coloring World in Chicago
To celebrate the release of Chance the Rapper's Coloring Book, the Chicago rapper and his team threw four consecutive parties on Saturday (May 21). A school bus picked up guests at Pulaski International School and headed to a secret location of his Magnificent Color World, which turned out to be the Goose Island Beer Company's barrel warehouse in Humboldt Park.
On arrival, the large group of supporters (Chance's manager Pat Corcoran said 350 people attended each session) milled around outside until they were led into the warehouse, picking up tall cans of beer on their way through the door. Most of the hangar-like room was blocked off by a large white sheet with the floor fixed as artificial green turf. Bushes cut in intricate shapes adorned the corners, including a grass-y replica of a galloping horse and an airplane.
Chance's voice boomed over the intercom introducing the night. "A few rules: chill, listen, and love," he said before his verse to the second version of "Blessings" played in the background as a film projected onto the white sheet showed footage from whimsical children's favorites like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and Edward Scissorhands (the latter explains the manicured bushes at the entrance). Footage of a young Chancelor Bennett dancing to Michael Jackson was greeted with cheers. When the sheet dropped away, everyone surged forward and the Coloring Book experience began.
The choice of Willy Wonka was an appropriate one: the burst of energy from the crowd felt similar to the Golden Ticket winners in the film's candy factory as everyone rushed haphazardly from room to room to take in the carnival-esque atmosphere. Each space was separated by colored screens hanging from the ceiling. The extensive lighting washed the warehouse in a reddish purple tinge. There was a high striker for aspiring strongmen, a man dressed in red making balloon animals on demand, an oversized chess set and a small church set-up replete with pews. There was a faux art gallery with copies of the Chance 3 portrait splashed in paint. There was a living room scene, where a family spanning generations played games while the action swirled around them. There was a wall covered in paper with marker and crayon markings scrawled across it, including a day's worth of messages and autographs -- someone named Eboni had scrawled her name largest across the middle of the board.
Then there were the dancers. Spread throughout the entire set was a team of 50 dancers from Chicago's Happiness Club, hired expressly to contribute to the raucous atmosphere. At one point, one woman jumped up on a table previously reserved for crayon-based sketches, and put on a one-woman show to the sounds of Chance's "Same Drugs." When the Young Thug and Lil Yachty-assisted "Mixtape" came on, the crowd began rapping and dancing along as an inflatable killer whale balloon floated above the heads of the crowd. A full-sized bounce house began to collapse under the enthusiasm of the adults who had launched themselves against its walls.
According to Chance's manager, the entire event was put together in under five days by a team of nearly 100. Corcoran spent the night among the people in the crowd, chatting with Francis Farewell Starlite of Francis and the Lights—who contributed vocals to Chance's "Summer Friends"—and Hebru Brantley, the world-renown Chicago artist who helmed the music video for Chance's "Angels." Chance, however, did not make an appearance until the event's conclusion following a performance from the Chicago children's choir. He appeared in a Bulls jersey atop the church to thank everyone for attending. Every time he began to say a few words, his voice was overwhelmed by the response.
Despite its party ambiance and extensive beer supply, Chance's themes of family, religion, and childhood nostalgia gave the event a pervasive sense of innocence, reflecting the cheerful enthusiasm of the album. Beer cans, which typically would have ended up scattered across the floor, were quickly transported to recycling bins, offering a sense of responsibility that possibly came from the partygoers themselves. Chance's presence was enough to make true believers out of cynics.