By now, you know how I feel about Chance the Rapper. It probably won’t be a surprise to you that I screamed and threw my phone across my living room when he popped up during the Emmys opening musical number. My consistent reaction to Chance even when I know he’s going to be somewhere is an embarrassing display of pride that I should reserve for my actual family members. When it’s a surprise? Well, by the grace of Blue Ivy and the Holy Twins, my phone is OK.
Let’s pretend that it doesn’t mean that Chance is officially your dad’s favourite rapper if Stephen Colbert knows who he is and focus on how good this cameo was. The point of Chance’s bit was to acknowledge that television can be a distraction but it should also be used a form of action. He actually rhymed “distraction” and “action.” I would probably have rolled my eyes at anyone other than Chance and if the next line wasn’t, “I like Brookyn Nine-Nine, in fact I’m addicted/ but where’s the cop show where one gets convicted?” After that jab at the police officers who murder unarmed black men, he shows Laverne Cox some love and gives a nod to independent, family-run stores, probably a reference to this dumbass Bodega idea that’s been blowing up your Twitter feed. Chance ends off his verse by reminding people to show up to protest. The way it’s delivered, you may not have caught all the subtle references or serious calls to action. It’s catchy and cute but the message is clear.
Chance the Rapper is on the Hamilton mixtape. My second favourite surprise of the night came in the form of Hamilton’s OG George Washington, Christopher Jackson, who gave the In Memoriam performance. I think he was announced as a performer ahead of the show but I did not know this was coming. I was not prepared for Viola f-cking Davis to introduce George f-cking Washington who launched into a poem by Maya I-will-not-swear-out-of-respect Angelou before delivering a devastating rendition of Stevie Wonder’s As. If you didn’t know Christopher Jackson, now you know. This is where I get to be annoying and brag that I saw him first because I watched him on Broadway in In the Heights pre-Hamilton fame. This portion of the show is not supposed to be about the performer. Understandably, it’s a thankless job but someone has to do it and Christopher Jackson did it exquisitely.
As usual, there were some notable omissions and one glaring, questionable inclusion during the in-memoriam slideshow. The Emmys chose to include former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes over Dick Gregory and Charlie Murphy. Insert “hand on chin, thinking face emoji.” To go all in on the Hamilton Mixtape references in this post, Common was one of the first people to point out the absence of Gregory and Murphy.