Fact – Chicagoans always give back their city. This statement is true as Chicago rapper Chance the Rapper announces a new free festival Teens in the Park dedicated to Chicago youth. Held at Chicago’s Northerly Island, the festival will feature performances from Donnie Trumpet, frequent collaborator and right hand man for Surf, notorious Chicago emcee DLow, and Donda’s House, Kanye West’s non-profit. Event is open only to those aged 13-24 with the exception of adults accompanying teens.
Exciting things are happening once again with Donda’s House as they partner with The Chicago Track and The Sean Anderson Foundation for a Q&A session with Big Sean. Held at the Chicago Cultural Center, the rising organizations took back the city from the subzero temperatures and gave us another reason to be proud of Chi-town. With featured performances from Donda’s House and The Chicago Track artists, it was great to see how both these organizations have grown within the past few years. With bigger, better, and even more culturally aware artists stemming from these programs, Chicago is going to continue its reign as the creative mecca.
Capping off the night was the Q&A session with Big Sean whose arrival on the scene has been anything but silent. From tracks like “Marvin Gaye and Chardonnay” to the catchy hit “IDFWU”, Big Sean kept it equally real with the folks of Chicago as he spoke about his humble upbringing, music, and his own advice to other music hopefuls. No stranger to the Donda’s House or Kanye West circle, this isn’t the last we will see of Big Sean and his social efforts. Much like his big brother, Ye, Big Sean is giving back to the community with his own nonprofit organization, The Sean Anderson Foundation, another organization aimed to provide the community with better educational and environmental resources.Now with two mainstream artists providing the community with an creative outlet and social purpose, the possibilities are abundant as the music scene continues to grow. Hold on tight, 2015 is just the beginning for the new age of hip hop.
In case you thought festival season was over in Chicago, think again. This weekend the Common Ground Foundation curated alongside sponsors Donda’s House Inc., and the Lupe Fiasco Foundation for their first AAHH! Fest in Union park. Upon initial observation this was the trendiest group of festival goers I’ve come across. The performers were also looking fashion forward, Jennifer Hudson and Kanye shared the same red and black flannel by the DONDA art director/Kanye consigliere Virgil Abloh, Lupe wore a patterned tribal print tunic paired with camo pants, while Common, as always, dressed very sharp and classy in all black.
The festival grounds featured VIP and artist guest lounges, food tents (we chose to grab some hot dogs from Chicago Dog House made of exotic meats like alligator sausage, duck, and infused cheddar bacon sausage), and a Miller Lounge featuring this years debuted drinks: Smith and Forge Hard Cider and Miller Fortune. It was nice to run into many familiar faces, network with talented people, and be surrounded around the who’s who in the Chicago Hip Hop scene. Acts included Jay Electronica, De La Soul, Jennifer Hudson, Dave Chappelle, Lupe Fiasco, Common, Twista, and Kanye West.
To many people’s surprise Dave Chappelle made a 10 minute appearance instead hosting the evenings show as anticipated, too bad because his set was hilarious, before heading off stage he told the audience:
Take a picture, cause I might be gone for another 10 years.
The main highlight of the evening by far was the surprise appearance of Mr. West himself, giving the longest performance of 16 songs. It was classic Kanye from how he dressed, to his delivery, to the song selection. This was no mainstream set, it was raw, Chicago rooted, and genuine talent showing the truest form of art. There was no facade or “too good for you” attitude like you see with most celebrities. No surprise then that photo/video crews weren’t allowed to document the performance from the pit, illustrating that this was a show for his hometown fans, not the media and entertainment industry. Chicago first!
Check out our video below of the full set from deep in the crowd:
Kanye also brought out Common to conclude the fest with a special performance of “Get Em High”.
(Filmed with the iPhone 6+ 1080p HD!) 0:00 “All Falls Down” 0:52 “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” 2:10 “Power” 3:49 “I Don’t Like” 5:40 “Mercy” 7:33 “New Slaves” 10:27 “All of the Lights” 11:40 “Good Life” 13:32 “Gold Digger” 13:59 “Homecoming” 15:25 “Blood on the Leaves” 16:42 “N****s In Paris” 18:00 “Get ‘Em High” with Common
(Note: “Jesus Walks” not captured.)
Go hard or go home. Nothing short of a surprise as Kanye West’s nonprofit opens up AAHH! FEST, the most talked about concert this summer between Common’s Common Ground Foundation and Kanye’s own organization Donda’s House.
Led by the creative director of Donda’s House, Rhymefest and music legend, Common, the community showcase answered the many questions the media has been asking and buzzing about with this music event. “What Chicago got that is not violence?” “How can this concert save Chicago?” “Chicago hasn’t made anything original in years, what do they have to offer now?”
The answer? We’re still producing talent. Now, cue the awkward silence.
Featuring a lineup of 25 artists representing every corner of the city, people from all sides of Chicago came to rep their neighborhood and all the talent this city is notorious for producing. From the tiny vocalists with huge voices, the enigmatic rappers, and the larger than life dancers, it was hard not to admire and give out love to all those who walked the stage. I mean, how many times will one witness three young vocalist sing in perfect harmony to Adele? Or rappers who have the caliber and insight to be the next Kendrick Lamar? Not too many.
Even Diggy Simmons even came through to Chicago to give kudos, commending the city for our overall talent while performing some of his hit tunes. Oh and making all the girls swoon in the 40 degree weather. You know, typical stuff. Yet nevertheless, not a bad compliment from the son of legendary hip hop artist Joseph Simmons aka Rev. Run of RUN DMC.
And with an influx of talent bordering all realms of the city, the creation of AHH! FEST and Donda’s House own individual efforts is exactly what Chicago has been yearning. Even with the show’s lengthy line up, cold morning weather, and occasional stage hiccups, the organization once again proves why Chicago still is the city to be. Don’t be surprised to see Donda’s House pop up once again. I foresee a great wave coming from the organization as they continue their stride to make Chicago even bigger and larger before.
As for AAHH! FEST, if you weren’t there well, I can’t say you didn’t miss out. Cause in all honesty, you REALLY did miss out. No worries though, coming straight from Rhymefest and Common, this event won’t be the last to come for the city of Chicago.
Released July 4th, Donda’s House teams up with Revive to bring us Empowerment, a short documentary featuring Rhymefestand the artists that make up the growing creative hub. Set in the city of Chicago, Rhymefest gives us a candid look at his work at Donda’s House and shares some of his driving life philosophies.
The saying is…”jump and the net will appear.”
Within the first minute of his documentary, Rhymefest’s words and overall realness sets the overall tone of the documentary. Whether it was sharing advice or jamming along to the artists of Donda’s House, Rhymefest gives us a great reminder that with anything in life that we choose, we must choose what truly fulfills us. Regardless if it’s to be creatively, physically, or spiritually whole, his honesty transcends beyond cultivating talent. It is about living, it is about growth, and it is about choosing what it is that makes our lives intrinsically complete. And you know what? In 6:00 minutes, Donda’s House and Rhymefest proves wholeheartedly how easy one can come to that decision.
Without spoiling too much (cause I ain’t no Wikipedia page), I highly suggest y’all check this documentary out yourselves. For those struggling to figure out whatever it is that you need in life, this short will be a great inspiration stepping stone to clarity. In the wise words of Rhymefest, “jump and the net will appear”. Trust. Jump and the net WILL appear.