Chance the Rapper does this thing for high schoolers every month where he hosts an open mic for teenagers to show off their talents, whether it’s reciting poetry, showing off choreography to a song they love, singing, or anything else. Throughout the show, between acts, as music plays loudly from the speakers, the auditorium is always abuzz with rumors of who the special guest will be. Chance, being the guy with connections, always brings out a special guest at the end of the night, sometimes an artist every person in the room knows and idolizes (such as Childish Gambino or Big Sean), and sometimes it’s an up and coming artist who deserves exposure. They walk on stage and sing two songs and give a short inspirational speech about staying in school or whatever and everyone goes home with their twitter feed blowin’ up.
I’m happy to volunteer for this monthly event– it lifts my spirit to feel the energy the teenagers project in the auditorium. You can see the glow on their faces when they walk in and Chance is there, ushering them to their seat. He’s their hero, and he’s making himself available. He’s showing up for them. It inspires the teens, and you can’t help but ride that high with them through the evening.
When I talk to the teens, they always try and guess who the special guest is. “Drake is in town on tour, it has to be him!” they’ll say. Or “Chance just posted on Instagram something about SZA, I bet it’s her.” And of course, the one that always gets a mention is Kanye. Kanye supposedly is always “in town” and everyone wants it to be him. He’s like a mythical creature, always on everyone’s mind but never seen.
On this particular evening, the special guest was an up-and-coming vocalist who recently played Pitchfork Festival. After the open mic part of the night was done, Chance introduced her and she came out and sang for the room and got a great reception. Throughout the night, i’d stood in the aisle, near the stage. When she was about finished with her second song, I walked out of the auditorium to the lobby to prep for all the teens exiting.
I turned to my right into the lobby and saw Kanye West and eight dudes around him walking my way. I immediately thought “these kids are going to go insane.” So I followed Kanye and his crew inside the auditorium. Kanye stopped halfway down the aisle, as far as he could go without anyone spotting him yet and watched the crowd. I walked ahead, towards some other volunteers to give them a heads up.
“Everyone in this room is about to go mental,” I said to a fellow volunteer. I had my phone in hand, and pushed it into my back pocket. As I said those words, I turned to my left, noticing Kanye’s crew walking past me. Directly across the aisle from me was a little spot for wheelchairs that was empty. I quickly slipped through Kanye and his crew to get to the other side in order to make room for them as they walked past. I reached for my phone in my back pocket, but it was gone. It had been five seconds since i’d put it there.
The room erupted in screaming. My ears stopped working. He’d been spotted and the teens were going wild. This was me coming to terms with the fact that someone just grabbed my phone out of my back pocket while chaos reigned around me. Could it have been someone in Kanye’s entourage? Kanye himself? Or did I drop it? Deep down I knew I hadn’t dropped it because it wasn’t a complicated matter. I’d been in control of it, and then it was gone. I didn’t even feel it slip from my pocket.
The screaming continued as Kanye went on stage. I put on a smile and pretended everything was OK in case the person who stole it watched me from the stage for a reaction. At this point I knew it had to be Kanye or someone in his crew. There was no doubt. They were the only people I was in contact with during those 5 seconds.
Kanye went on one of his infamous rants, this time about dictionaries and announcing that he was moving back to Chicago. This went on for fifteen minutes, and then just as he came, he gave the mic to someone and walked off stage, past me, along with his crew, and into the night.
Chance dismissed everyone and when mostly everyone had cleared the room, some stayed behind to help search for my phone, humoring them by looking under chairs where I might have dropped it.
Someone let me use their laptop to search for my iphone but it indicated that it had been turned off. My suspicions were correct. Someone had stolen it, and turned it off so that I couldn’t trace it.
Of course the story was unbelievable to everyone I told it to. Still even now people don’t believe me, and I can never casually bring it up in conversation unless I plan on telling this story I’d just written out here.
When I got home that night I checked the Find My Iphone feature again on my laptop but there was no movement. Still turned off. The next morning I went to the store to get a new one (shilling out $450 to pay off the one that got stolen. Hello credit card debt!) and when I got home and started setting everything up, an email from Apple notified me that my phone had been turned on and located. It was now on the south side of Chicago.
As I told the story to people in the following days, I showed them the email from Apple to really solidify an otherwise unrealistic story. As time gets further from when it happened, the more far fetched it sounds. I’ll never know if it was Kanye or someone in his entourage who took it, but either way, it’s a strange story that’ll probably follow me the rest of my life.