Why Chance the Rapper seemed like an old-timer at the Day N Night festival

Why Chance the Rapper seemed like an old-timer at the Day N Night festival
Lil Peep performs Friday during Anaheim's Day N Night festival, which also featured Chance the Rapper and Lil Uzi Vert. (Scott Dudelson / Getty Images)

How fast is hip-hop moving right now?

Fast enough that 24-year-old Chance the Rapper, an artist who doesn't bother with releasing his records in physical form, came across as something of an old-timer Saturday as he headlined the Day N Night festival at Angel Stadium in Anaheim.


Backed by his agile live band the Social Experiment, Chance delivered intricate rhymes about family, religion and music over warm, propulsive grooves that drew from gospel and soul music.

He was carrying on hip-hop's sonic and lyrical traditions, even as the specific details of the songs — some from his 2016 album "Coloring Book," which this year became the first streaming-only title to win a Grammy Award — proudly reflected his youth.

Beyond Chance and a handful of other acts, though, Day N Night, held Friday to Sunday across three stages set up in the stadium's parking lot, was more in tune with a rapidly emerging aesthetic that has little use for those established values — that, indeed, seems determined to rid rap of its reliance on rapping.

Performing earlier Saturday, Post Malone paused his set at one point to tell the crowd that the next song represented his favorite part of the show.

Why? Because "Up There" doesn't have many words, he said cheerfully, and that means it gives him time to smoke.

The rationale no doubt resonated with some of the festival's other acts, including Lil Uzi Vert, Playboi Carti, Lil Peep and Lil Pump. (Friday's headliners included Travis Scott and Khalid, while Compton's Kendrick Lamar was scheduled to close the festival Sunday night.)

This gathering sensibility isn't about laziness or stupidity — though Post Malone could (and should!) be cast in a reboot of the slacker touchstone "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure."

Rather, these young rappers are rethinking how language transmits meaning; they're more interested in ad libs and vocal tone than they are in the type of densely composed lines that once demonstrated an MC's skills.

And why wouldn't they be? They (and their fans) are coming of age in an era when social media is making theater of ostensibly candid moments. So of course their art seeks to formalize an idea of in-between-ness.

The Internet's everything-at-once quality is also leading them to reimagine the sound — and the visual style — of hip-hop.

At Day N Night, the looped R&B samples that historically served as rap's bedrock were a rarity; Earl Sweatshirt, a once-disruptive member of Los Angeles' Odd Future crew, triggered memories of the 1990s with his rugged, head-nodding beats.

In contrast, Post Malone and Lil Uzi Vert pulled from rock and emo and dance music. "XO Tour Llif3," the latter's hit single that propelled his excellent debut album to No. 1 on the Billboard 200, had the whining melodic vibe of a song you'd hear at the Warped Tour, particularly as thousands in the audience sang along to his slurred but vivid lines about a romantic betrayal.

And when Uzi's DJ asked people to put two fingers in the air, the rapper said he did the familiar rap gesture his own way, then poked out his index and pinky fingers — the sign of devil horns, as all heavy-metal fans know.

Eager to meet these shifting tastes, Day N Night booked an actual rock band in the Neighbourhood, which did its best to channel the same turbulent emotion Lil Uzi Vert did.


But walking over from the Neighbourhood's modestly attended set to catch Lil Pump, a key figure on the streaming service SoundCloud who was performing for a larger crowd at the same time, it was clear the important thing wasn't that someone was playing an electric guitar.

What mattered was a certain heedless attitude, and Lil Pump had that down cold as he tossed what he said was $10,000 into the air.

It made for quite an image on Instagram, no long explanation required.

Twitter: @mikaelwood