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Wednesday
Sep062017

Bumbershoot 2017: Part Two

It was earlier than I wanted to be off of the couch, but the reason I found myself at Bumbershoot early on Sunday was to see my sis. Stasia Irons, AKA, Stas THEE Boss, current KEXP Street Sounds host, former one half of the prolific ahead-of-the-wave Sub Pop queens THEESatisfaction, one of my favorite people. Weeks ago she dropped her debut solo mixtape’ #SWOMEN, caught love for it in places like Pitchfork, and was asked to open up the main stage on this, the same day as Solange. Pure Black Girl Magic from the feet up. Stas’ lowkey, aqueous vision was slick with one liners and delivered with an icy cool; she was joined by singers Jus Moni and Dee Butler, DJ Kween Kaysh and dancer Takiyah Ward. A mix of women’s Olympic swim meets, surf footage and classic rap and r&b videos spliced together by local hero OCnotes looped behind them, keeping everything topical as THEE Boss ran her laps. My heart was proud.

Now, Atlanta-made rapper Lil Yachty is someone I was once conflicted about. Even though he seemed to be little more than a jokey troll, custom-made to infuriate anyone old enough to have been excited about EPMD, his debut mixtape Lil Boat was an objectively-pretty-good bit of dessert-first Teletubby nursery-trap. He hasn't really done anything that good since, yet his profile has soared—more on strength of his willful “King of Teens” rage-baiting than his art. I stopped being conflicted a long time ago. Going to his mainstage show was an experiment in seeing how he could perform beneath my already-low expectations, and in that sense he didn't disappoint. As a live MC, he's pretty worthless, deigning to rap into the mic for about 20% of his material, letting his hypemen do most of the work—it would seem Lil Boat has as much regard for his work as his own detractors. Did he really make 50-or-so K for that? I would be mad. The kids, raving on, couldn't care less.

Or at least maybe they didn't have any illusions about Yachty’s work ethic—any of them wanting to see some world-class live rapping were surely in Key Arena later for Long Beach MC Vince Staples, who delivered a thrilling clinic in lean bombast, ripping though cuts from Big Fish Theory as well as older favorites “Blue Suede” and “Norf Norf”. Vince is unquestionably at the opposite end of the millenial rapper spectrum from Yachty, in terms of how he carries himself on and off the mic. There was no forced banter, no water-bottle-chucking, nobody but Vince stalking the stage like a black-clad Panther. (His spare aesthetic and athletic rapping very much reminded me of seeing Kendrick Lamar open up the Yeezus tour, also in the Key, back in 2013. Here's to Vince enjoying a similar glow-up in the days to come.)

I was pleasantly surprised by The New Respects while getting drinks by the Mural Amphitheater stage. This Tennessee-bred quartet (three siblings and a cousin) delivered some hard-charging, old school rock & roll with all the bluesy, soulful trimmings. This was no amateur hour bar band—they made it all sound fresh, fierce and free.

What is there to say about Solange? She was a radiant sun, her band a solar system rotating around her in flawless synchronicity. Solo performed some choice songs from earlier in her career but it was the songs from A Seat At The Table, naturally, that made it feel like the rapturous event it was. For being a universally hailed masterwork, you have to be willfully blind to miss the explicit pro-Black intention of that album—and as she sang “F.U.B.U., she actualized those intentions as she crept to the edge of the barrier and sang it directly to a young Black girl, holding her hand the whole time. When the big screens showed this lucky fan’s face, she was in tears, and the crowd lit up with a cheer for her. It was a detail of an arena show that felt intimate, a detail that was quietly revolutionary. Solange’s bar-raising Black love was a singular sight to behold, and one of the best performances I've ever seen at Bumbershoot. Sorry if you missed it.

 

Words by Larry Mizell Jr.

Photos courtesy of Bumbershoot

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