This past Saturday, the place to be was Aaron’s Ampitheater in Atlanta, GA, where J. Carter (Founder and Curator of ONE Musicfest) blessed the city, for the sixth time, with what is quickly becoming known as one of the city’s must-see events.
The festival was fully loaded with Hip-Hop legends such as The Roots, Raekwon and Ghostface, 8-Ball & MJG, Scarface, and the one and only Ms. Lauryn Hill. But, the new era sound was not forgotten, adding A$AP Rocky, Wale, SZA, Raury, and The Internet. If that doesn’t sound jam packed enough, Janelle Monae brought her Wondaland crew for an electric set. Jidenna, Roman GianArthur, St. Beauty, and Deep Cotton hit the stage with their mentor bringing a diverse and uplifting set. To finish of a full meal of music, the festival goers ebded the night with a cherry on the Sunday. Ms. Lauryn Hill.
We would continue to name more, but you get the idea; ONE MusicFest was massive. So, big in fact it’s impossible to see every act, no matter how good you were with time management. To make things easier, ONE MusicFest divided almost 12 hours of music between three stages; the DJ Stage, the Hercules Stage, and the Zeus Stage.
The DJ Stage kept the crowd dancing and vibing with acts such as ADE Crew, Spread Love Crew, MJQ Crew, and El Bar Crew. Dedicated to catering to a city full of diverse music lovers ONE MusicFest made sure there was something for everyone; from Deep House, to Hip-Hop, to Reggea vibes.
The Hercules stage began the day with Atlanta’s own Raury who did not disappoint early festival goers with a set full of energy and hometown love. At 19, Raury seemed more than comfortable transitioning through selections from his debut project, Indigo Child. Songs such as “High” and “God’s Whisper” we’re a perfect start to a long day of music.
Odd Future’s The Internet, left their set a crowd favorite. Anyone in attendance who was unaware of who the band was left having fallen in love with Syd Tha Kid‘s caressing vocals and onstage charm, as well as the tightness of the jazz-like fusion sound the band has become famous for. Performing work from their summer release, Ego Death, such as “Gabby” and “Dontcha”, The Internet got everyone interested in hearing more from these young musicians.
Love for the Wu Tang Clan, was apparent for the drowning screams for Ghostface & Raekwon. The duo brought their lyrically polished and proven style to the Atlanta stage and had the crowd moved amidst clouds of smoke and chants of “Wu Tang Clan ain’t nothing…Well, you know the rest. Going through to classics such as “Ice Cream” and “Black Jesus” were big croud pleasers, but a cover of Mobb Deep’s “Eye for an Eye” was a fun crowd surprise.
Hip-Hop’s baddest band, The Roots, closed out the Hercules Stage with one of the tightest sets of the whole festival. Beginning their set right on time, everything from Quest Love’s drum solos to Captain Kirk’s vocals were on point. The Root’s ability to feed their classic hits to dedicated fans while mixing in hits of today such as Fetty Waps “Trap Queen” is a testament to why they will always be relevant and must-see performers. “The Next Movement”, “Proceed”, “The Seed (2.0)” were hits with the crowd. The only thing better than the set was Questlove gifting his drumsticks to the crowd and Damon hopping offstage to take selfies with fans.
The First Lady of TDE, SZA, sashayed onto the Zeus Stage in a black midriff top and grass ghillie suit skirt and proceeded to enchant the crowd with her smooth vocals. By the time she reached her hit songs “Babylon” and “Hijack”, there was no doubt she had the audience right where they wanted them. She seems to be only getting better as she smashed yet another festival set.
Wale made sure he was in his zone as he came on stage blazing, in more ways than one. Wale had the crowd singing his classics such as “Ambition”, while not neglecting to push new material from his latest project “The Album About Nothing”. “Girls on Drugs” and “The Body” were crowd highlights, while an acapella version of Musiq Soulchild’s “Just Friends” had everyone in the auditorium singing along.
Janelle Monae and her Wondaland Collective gave one of the festivals best performances of the day. It was clear from the first song (a cover of Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy”) that Janelle planned to showcase the young talent on her label, as they all crashed the stage. What was perhaps more unexpected was the collectives ability to hold and electrify a crowd that was mostly unfamiliar with their music. St. Beauty wowed with a cover of Sheryl Crow’s “Strong Enough”, while Jidenna brought the house down with “Long Live the Chief” and “Classic Man”. Janelle Monae, of course, claimed her thrown on stage performing “Tight Rope” and “Yoga”. Running out of time Janelle warned the crowd that their last song would be cut short, but there was no doubt that the performance of the Black Lives Matter anthem, “Hell You Talmbout” was one of the best moments of the night. All of Wondaland, plus Raury hit the stage, leading the crowd in chants of the names of Police brutality victims such as Sandra Bland. Even when the sound was cut, drums continued to beat and echo to chants of “Say her name, say her name”. That moment was a perfect closer to an overall uplifting and unifying set.
As the evening winded down, Harlem’s A$AP Rocky, hit the stage to open for Ms. Hill. Showcasing music from Long. Last. A$AP., Rocky had the ATL crowd turnt by the time he reached his hits “L$D” and ” Shabba”. He also made sure to show Atlanta love, bringing out one of ATL’s newest voices, Playboi Carti (check him out, he’s blowing up) who performed his new song “Lost” for the crowd. Perhaps, this was an apology from the NY rapper for saying “ATL rappers sound the same” a few weeks earlier.
Ms. Hill was the closer of the night and made sure everyone knew that a Diva couldn’t be rushed as she arrived on stage almost 30 minutes after she was scheduled. But, it was simple work for her to win the crowd over as she seated herself on a plush white bench with her guitar in hand. Though, we could do without the lateness and the sound check adjusting Ms. Hill had to do during the first two tracks no one could deny that Lauryn Hill’s vocals and rhyming ability were as crisp as ever. By the time her fingers flicked over the strings of her guitar, beginning “The Mystery of Iniquity”, the crowd had seemed to have forgotten any wrongdoing Ms. Hill had allegedly committed and were cradled in the legendary songstress’ hand. “Lost Ones” and “Doo Wop” were expected crowd favorites, but a re-worked emotional rendition of “Ex-Factor” was an ear catcher for long time fans. An extremely tight band brought new life to Fugees hits such as “Ready or Not” and “Killing Me Softly”, giving fans just about everything you can ask for from a Lauryn Hill set. Everything except punctuality, that is, but when it comes to a legend such as Ms. Hill a great performance is all we really needed to forgive. She even stayed a bit after to take pictures and interact with fans.
All in all, we must tip our hats to J. Carter on another successful showing at ATL’s most ambitious music festival yet. It is clear why ONE MusicFest is the city’s fastest growing music festival to date.