Chance the Rapper Hosts Open Mic Night Favorite 



Feb 1 2015


Chicago IL

Before Chance the Rapper performed at sold-out concert venues, he practiced his rhymes in front of an intimate crowd of roughly a dozen people at Harold Washington Library. Now the rapper is trying to return the favor, one open mic at a time.

These days, the 21-year-old hip-hop sensation is one of the people behind an ongoing open mic series, the third of which will take place at the University of Illinois-Chicago on Monday evening, as past becomes present. Chance has the nickname "Mr. YOUmedia" after the multimedia, youth-learning space that was an incubator for the talent of him and many others, including of Vic Mensa, Saba and Noname Gypsy.

"That place saved our lives," said poet Malcolm London, 21, of Chicago's Austin neighborhood. "When we were upset and angry that was our place to go. We went to the library to write."

YOUmedia coordinator Mike Hawkins, affectionately known as Brother Mike, served as a mentor to the aspiring lyricists, including London and Chance. The dreadlocked poet who told his proteges to "turn moments into movements," died suddenly in December at the age of 38.
"(Mike) gave us a stage, a mic, recorded us and stepped out of the way," London said. "He is still, in my heart, the most humble person. "

Chance and London set out to fill the void caused by Hawkins' death when they hosted the first free open mic night in February for high school students at the Chicago Cultural Center, a space provided by the city's Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events. The event, named "Open Mike" in honor of Hawkins and sponsored by Young Chicago Authors, is expected to be held every other Monday.

After word spread on social media, hundreds of teen artists made the journey to downtown Chicago from places including Baltimore, Michigan and from every zip code in Chicago in hopes of snagging one of the 299 seats in the auditorium, according to organizers. One young performer began waiting outside at 10 a.m., London said.

Wearing a shirt bearing cloud-shaped lettering that read "Open Mike!" topped with a halo, Chance found himself centerstage, emulating his late role model when he raised his fist to shout "Power to the people," to which the capacity theater of high-school teens who raised their own fists in solidarity, snapped back in unison "Right on!"

Chance performed alongside Grammy-nominated Chicago songwriter King Louie and local comedian Hannibal Burress. The majority of the 2 ½ hour program focused on performances from the teens, which ranged from guitarists to a public speaker emphasizing education reform.

"It was not about self-promotion," London said. "In spirit of our mentor, we wanted to collectively reimagine Chicago to let young artists grow at their craft."

By Tony Briscoe

Posted by Annalisa Ciro on

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