Enlisting a strictly Chicago-bred crew of emerging artists, opening acts included rappers Melo Makes Music and Brian Fresco with Radd Simmons and Mike P. Bennett’s official tour DJ, taking over spin duties during the evening’s set changeovers. But it was the night’s penultimate performer and Taylor’s new label signee, Bianca Shaw, that captivated the audience with her spitfire lyricism and swaggy vocals — not to mention an insanely talented full live band dubbed “Attack the Sound” that helped amplify and complement Shaw’s empowered sensibility.
Entering the stage on drums equipped with LED drumsticks, the musician’s 30-minute set included originals like the supercharged “Elevator,” the psychotically chilled “Bi-Polar” and even a feisty and flirty cover of Amy Winehouse‘s “Valerie” which saw the crowd bounce with unwavering approval and Bennett observing intently from the green room.
Backstage after her performance, Shaw told Billboard that she was discovered by Taylor and Chance’s father, Ken Bennett, who serves as TBE’s label supervisor. “He discovered us performing one night and I gave him a CD of my music,” she detailed. “They say CDs are dead but because of that CD, I got signed.”
Proving he’s much more than Chance the Rapper‘s younger brother, Bennett re-energized the sold out crowd after an already two-hour show for one final 45-minute lyrical baptism. With his head held high, the 21-year-old proved to have the distinguished artistry of an emerging tastemaker and the persuasion of a preacher.
Closing out the eclectic cypher-meets-showcase, Bennett performed records off one of his 2017 EPs, Restoration of an American Idol, and his solo debut album, Broad Shoulders. Among them was a powerful interpretation of his Chance collaboration featuring Jeremih titled “Grown Up Fairy Tales,” sticking the microphone out into the audience commanding fans to rap back his sibling’s verse. Bennett preluded the performance with an uplifting off-the-cuff speech about inclusivity, diversity and love.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re straight, gay, black, white, brown, this is a space where all are welcome!” he shouted. “Put your hands up in the sky right now and vibe with me.”
In celebration of Bianca’s signing, Bennett had the rising star return to the stage for the live debut performance of their unreleased collaboration “So High,” which could potentially end up on Shaw’s forthcoming debut effort on the label. The synchronicity and chemistry between the magnetic duo are what indie dreams are made of. Bennett introduced their performance with “I was looking for somebody to sign, and I could not think of anybody more perfect. You’re what I was looking for.”
“I’m different from most artists, I like to meet and connect with my fans,” pronounced Taylor. “I want to thank you all for believing in me and helping my dreams come true. I love you.” He then insisted on all his fans in attendance meeting him for a post-show meet-and-greet in the parking lot outside of the venue where he indulged and spent time with many.
Bennett’s passion extends beyond his infatuation with music and transcends to a place of genuine empathy, brutal honesty and a call-to-action that inspires a fragmented generation to wholly celebrate being themselves.