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Chance the Rapper set for ‘landmark’ Lolla gig

Hip-hop artist Chance Rapper tours sites around West Mart Center building Friday November 16 2012 Chicago. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

Hip-hop artist Chance the Rapper tours sites around the West Mart Center building on Friday, November 16, 2012 in Chicago. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

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» 6:50 p.m. Friday

» Lollapalooza in Grant Park

» BMI Stage

» Sold out

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Updated: September 3, 2013 6:21AM

Since March, when a particular email arrived in his inbox, Chancelor Bennett — who performs as Chance the Rapper — has been numb to his many successes. The email said, “Lolla sent over an offer. We confirmed. Headlining BMI stage.”

For Bennett, reared on the South Side’s Chatham neighborhood, and privy to the way in which the three-day music festival “is the biggest thing for our city,” it was an unparalleled moment. Says the rapper, now just 20, of his impending Lollapalooza gig Friday: “It’s probably one of the landmark moments of my life.”

Coming from Chance, it’s a big statement: in the time since receiving this offer, he has become one of the brightest music talents to emerge from Chicago — and more impressively, one of the most highly touted new names in all of hip-hop. His recent mixtape, “Acid Rap,” demonstrates his trademark whiplash wordplay (“the most brokest cold stock broker winter solstice”). It’s also an impressive grab bag of genres that lays down equal parts of jazz, soul and ghetto-tech juke beneath his winding, dexterous flow.

The mixtape’s widespread success is palpable: Chance is currently in the midst of a 36-date tour with fellow young MCs Mac Miller and Earl Sweatshirt, and he heads to Europe in the coming weeks, where he tours with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and opens for Eminem. (Before his Lolla gig, Chance also will perform at 3 p.m. Friday at artist Hebru Brantley’s pop-up store Penny Candy, 902 S. Wabash.)

In 2011, during his senior year at Jones College Prep, while suspended for marijuana use, Chance wrote his debut mixtape “#10Day.” It made waves locally, but his father, Ken Williams-Bennett, a regional representative to the U.S. Secretary of Labor, who served as an aide to former Chicago mayor Harold Washington before working for then-U.S. senator Barack Obama, was unconvinced of his son’s future potential as a rapper — particularly after Chance dropped out of Harold Washington College after only a week. He gave his son a year to make it as a rapper or head back to school.

“I just knew I wanted to be doing better than I was,” recalls Chance during an interview last week from his tour bus.

Now nearly every major label now wants Chance’s signature. The MC, though, is in no hurry to ink a deal. “I’m not worried about that,” he explains. “I was thinking about it maybe for a second back in April. I’ve still just got so much on my plate every day.”

He feels lucky just to be on the road, where he’s constantly making new music — most recently, while holed up at an indoor-waterpark hotel on a recent afternoon somewhere between Cleveland and Toledo. In short, he’s “living out his dreams.”

He makes that statement proudly. “That’s not even corny to say because people don’t get to say that,” he confesses. “Some nights the set doesn’t go how I wanted it to, but I’m on tour right now. I’m having the best days of my life.”

Dan Hyman is a locally based free-lance writer.

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