Novelty is defined as the quality of being new, original, or unusual. I went to the Rap Van expecting an experience that was novel. I had never heard of a rap show being held in a van while the van drove around for 20 to 30 minutes. This type of show, to me, was certainly a new type of show.
What I experienced, however, wasn’t just something new or different from anything I had seen or known before. What I experienced left me feeling like only a few other shows had ever left me feeling. The Lando Chill Rap Van experience was amazing. I’ve been to hundreds of shows in my lifetime. There are only a few that I walked away from feeling euphoric and desiring to never leave so that I could hold on to that state of being forever. Prince at Coachella in 08. Del the Funky Homosapien and Casual at the Green Room in 1999. Weezer on their comeback tour at Bostons in 2000. Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg at Coachella in 2012. I could list a few more experiences where I literally couldn’t stop talking about how incredible the show was. I put this Rap Van show up there with some of my favorite concerts of all time – it was a once a lifetime experience that will be absolutely difficult to replicate.
It’s important to start by detailing the arrangement because the setup, the closeness, and the atmosphere of the show helped create the experience. The show crammed 20 people into the cargo area of a 10 x 5 van. Four people sat against the wall in the back with three people sitting in front of them, three people sitting in front of them and so on until you got to the front of the cargo area where Lando Chill sat in the front left corner, on a straw chair, with a single light shining on him. One girl sat next to him with her back against the passenger chair but the darkness of the van meant for the most part I could only see Lando under the light. The van was draped in black sheets on all three walls and the chairs in front. I could not see the driver’s cabin or out the front window because of the sheets. The sheets caused the cabin to be even darker which helped remove the sense of sight except for visibility of the artist. The floor of the van was covered with a cushy pillow-type sheet, made of some sort of thick fabric that felt like it was filled with the same stuff that filled bean bags. The large cushion was comfortable with very little give. Given the amount of people in the van and the seating arrangement, people sat almost on top of each other. The girl in front of me sat with her back against my knee while I sat with my shoulder on the right wall and my back on the knee of the guy behind me. My friend sat in the middle of the van until he decided to lay back on the leg of the girl behind him. The attendees got close, for sure – the arrangement probably caused my serotonin levels to be higher than usual. The seating arrangement was comfortable for the first 15 minutes or so and then my foot fell asleep and my back started aching.
Both those feelings and my ability to perceive anything other than the sounds and the limited sight of the artist were temporary. The beautiful thing about the Rap Van and what made this experience so amazing was the setup, the closeness of the people, and the atmosphere all intentionally caused me to only focus on the show. I didn’t care that my foot was asleep – I perceived it for a second and then my mind focused back on the music. I didn’t care that I was kind of squished between two people – Lando Chill’s movements had my attention. I didn’t care that my back was aching – matter of fact I only felt it for a second. I literally could only feel happiness and euphoria from the sounds of the performance. It was surreal to have most of my senses be deprived, which was the artist’s and Tom Johnson’s – the Rap Van’s creator and driver - intention.
With the atmosphere creating a singular mood, the performance itself was the only thing to focus on and it was captivating. Lando Chill is certainly chill. When we entered the van, he sat in the corner relaxed and calm looking. Once he started speaking, he spoke slowly and barely above a whisper. Once he started rapping and singing, he exuded energy and passion. The show mostly centered around music from an unreleased album based on the book the Alchemist. The new album is called the Boy Who Spoke to the Wind and it features beats produced by Lasso, who also produced tracks on Lando’s 2016 album, For Mark, Your Son. I love For Mark but the decision to go with those new tracks was another brilliant idea. The unfamiliarity of those new tracks and the dense, rich layers of the beats shifted my focus to the experience. I couldn’t sing along or reflect on the first time I heard a song, instead I could only focus on Lando’s performance. When he wasn’t sitting there calmly yet passionately rapping or singing he was dancing and swaying from side to side. Everything from the music to the vocals to the dancing were trance inducing. At one point, when a song ended we even failed to applaud. Trust me though when I say we gave him props for the performance. When the ride ended and he took us into a sing-along of his track, The Coroner, everyone warmly sang the chorus then broke out into an affectionate applause.
Lando Chill said he didn’t want it to end and I felt the same way - what I had just experienced was beautiful. For 30 minutes or so, I only felt the intense feeling of happiness and nothing in my internal being or external world except for that performance and the feeling of euphoria. Lando told us it was the dopest shit he’s ever done and it didn’t sound like an exaggeration. Because for me, it was definitely one of the most amazing things I had ever experienced.