It was meant to be a breath of fresh air into the Chicago hip-hop scene, and it was, but it was more like a hot flame that heads gravitated toward and circled around in the early fall chill of the city of wind.
Common, the man who broke open Chicago hip-hop to the world over back in the 1990s, may have pulled off his greatest contribution to our city and its culture by leading the formation of the AAHH! Festival, its title a nifty use of onomatopoeia that would have seemed at home on one of Rashid’s first couple albums.
True, as the festival’s late session host Dave Chappelle said, it was chilly enough to seem more like the setting for a football game, but that only made it seem righter, like Com said a few albums back “where I was rose, we always said cold…”
Featuring two of today’s most prominent pop culture figures in Chappelle and our very own 21st Century Schizoid Man, Kanye West, on top of hip-hop legends both universal (MC Lyte, De La Soul) and cult-ish (Jay Electronica) and maybe future (Vince Staples), it was hard to not come away from this first-ever event feeling satisfied and like you were a part of something very meaningful and historic even.
It felt that way even before West came on stage, conferring the not-very-well held secret that he was the night’s “special guest.” ‘Ye is getting the majority of headlines coming out of the event and he should, putting on a 16-track set that I couldn’t imagine was any less satisfying than any set he offered during his “Yeezus” tour.
“I only had to do three songs, we gonna do a few more than that tonight tho,” he said. Sure, as if three songs were ever an option for the homie in this occasion. This was Caesar coming home, in all his glory and we ate up every grape he offered us.
Com acted as the gracious host, doing much like Chris Rock did when he got another Chi legend, Bernie Mac to guest star with him on “Head of State.” About that film, Rock said that it took balls to cast someone funnier than you in your own movie — Com got ‘Ye to come though knowing that the show would become his, but in actuality it was just the final trump needed to close out one of the best shows this city ever seen, involving luminaries across the hip-hop, soul and house categories (Lupe, Twista, Jennifer Hudson, DJ Twilight Tone, Chosen Few DJs) and creating a concert of this city and uniquely for it, something the more hyped and expansive shows of the warmer months like Lollapalooza and Pitchfork can’t do.
Lets hope we get to breathe in all this AAHH in new iterations each summer going forward. As its been reported in the run-up to the concert, this is only part of a greater social movement some of our city’s biggest stars are trying to get going and that makes a party like Sunday night’s all the sweeter. Lets keep offering them support and keep the goals we set for this city as high as our hands were that chilly, unforgettable night in Union Park.
Aahh! Fest Takes Union Park in Celebration of ‘One Chicago’ (DNAinfo Chicago)
AAHH! Fest delivers positive message through music (Fox 32 Chicago)
Kanye West steals the stage at AAHH! Fest (RedEye)
Kanye West crashes Chicago’s AAHH! Fest — watch (Consequence of Sound)
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