You Need To Experience A Hip-Hop Festival At Least Once In Your Life
The warmer weather months are often filled with many large music festivals such as Coachella, Governor’s Ball, Lalapalooza, Made in America, and for the strictly hip-hop audience, Summer Jam, Hot 97’s annual summer event (also the largest hip-hop music festival in the world.)
Beyond the music, these concerts and festivals provide fans with the chance to listen to the music of their favorite artists, interact with different vendors/sponsors, meet fellow fans, and also dive into the summer music festival “sub-culture” of tailgating, drinking, and “feeling” the vibes.
Prior to attending this year’s Summer Jam concert, I interviewed Hot 97 executives Ebro Darden and Deon Levingston about what goes into planning the event and what their expectations/visions for the 2015 show are. Chatting with them prepared me for what content to expect, but it was the experience of what it must be like to be a first time festival-goer that intrigued me.
“The fans at Summer Jam are super-duper fans of the artists, music, hip hop and R&B. That’s important for an artist’s brand. [This] is where you can reinforce your position in the hip-hop culture,” said Darden.
Despite the rioting that occurred outside after a group of individuals tried to gain access to the concert without having tickets, Summer Jam was still a hit. Favorites from the festival stage included B.O.B, who got crunk with the audience and had an unmatched energy. Joey Bada$$ (who I admittingly have never heard before) wowed me with his lyrical flow and commanding stage presence. Overall, the Stadium stage performances which included surprise guests like Future, Redman & Method Man, Nicky Minaj, 50 Cent (and more), were equally impressing.
There are two main reasons why I believe everyone should experience a large summer concert festival at least once in their life:
Experience what “live music” truly means. Listening to a song on the radio versus seeing it performed live are two different things. Add people surrounding you engaged on all sides, and you have a very special situation. The energy that radiates from the stage during a good live performance (whether it be DJ or live band-backed) is something that is hard to describe. Even if you aren’t a hip-hop head, you’ll walk away with a deeper appreciation for what it takes to truly perform and produce crowd-appealing music. An artist’s ability to command a live stage can be a turning point for his/her career.
Learn to appreciate hip hop music as a powerful (and unifying) force. When Remy Ma stepped on stage with Fat Joe to rap her verse on “Lean Back,” the stadium erupted with cheers. It was as if Remy was all our personal friend who we were welcoming back home from a long absence. I may be a bit philosophical here, but I couldn’t help but think about how hip-hop music unites people of all backgrounds, if only for a moment. At any point during the day, you could look around and see individuals mouthing the words being performed on stage. As I observed, it’s easy to get lost in the collective magnetism of performance art.
One concertgoer, Crystal Adams, who I chatted with after the event was over, attended with her husband and teenage children. “My favorite performance was Fabulous’ set because I felt it truly repped the tri-state area,” she said. “I loved seeing so many people who have been at past Summer Jams rock the stage together.”
She continued, “I haven’t done Summer Jam in many years mostly because I felt I was too old. This year however, our teens wanted to go so I went to chaperone but ended up having a great time! Fortunately, we missed the melee outside and I certainly could have done without the weed smoke in my face all night, but overall it was a great time with the family. I look forward to taking them to future concerts.”
As Darden told me in our pre-Summer Jam interview, “Music is all about life and memories. Summer Jam is part of that music memory… that’s the most meaningful piece for people.”
Now, as an official Summer Jam attendee alum, I’ll have to agree with Mr. Darden. Throughout the night, I observed so many people making memories I imagine they’ll remember for a lifetime. Whether it be singing ,”I Don’t F*** With You” by Big Sean accompanied by a stadium full of screaming fans, chilling with your best friends walking the stadium grounds, or sitting down wondering why an able artist (*cough cough* Chris Brown) decided to lip sync his top hits and still expect the crowd to be pumped, the experience always trumps.
Though all are not equal in prestige, any music fan knows a good live music festival is one of the ultimate ways to experience the art form. Be sure to get out there and experience one for yourself.