AOC Does Hopscotch 2017
Frank: I have attended and photographed the last 4 Hopscotch music festivals and I was more excited about this year’s overall lineup than ever before. The top of the lineup features a heavy dose of hip-hop, no pun intended Big Boi or Killer Mike and BAM acts. My 2017 Hopscotch kicked off at the Lincoln Theatre where PAT Junior, a New York native who relocated to Raleigh took the stage for a high energy opening set. His grounding in spoken word is evident in his lyrics and his focus on inspiration makes his music relevant and uplifting.
Chelsey: Hopscotch never fails to transform Raleigh into a whole new world each September. I’ve heard stories of packed shows at the largest venues in Raleigh, and the multitudes of people converging in hand crafted stages, sounds pouring through the packed Raleigh streets. I headed into Raleigh late Thursday night, excited to experience my first Hopscotch experience. I settled on the tried and true Lincoln Theater, to see NC native G Yamazawa open for Oddisee and Good Company, alongside NoName. G Yamazawa has risen to fame from his single “North Cack”, so the crowd was hype waiting for the song to play. I made my way through hipsters, hip hop heads, and local artists and personalities to near the front of the stage, where I watched G Yamazawa entertain the audience with a childish grin and positive vibes. He spit some lines reminiscent of old poetry slams I’d seen him perform at years before in Chapel Hill, then got into what the crowd was waiting for: the performance of “North Cack”. The energy was electrifying as everyone sang along with him. The energy came to a head when he brought out bhangra dancers as a finishing touch, and left the crowd speechless and wanting more.
Frank: G Yamasawa is always a treat. His recent performance at the NC Museum of history as part of The Rhythm of Race exhibition set the stage for tonight’s stellar performance that also included some of our area’s finest joining him on stage, notably Alan Thompson of ZooCru and Defacto Thespian.
Frank: I was also able to stick around and check out Odisee for the first time and really enjoyed his performance. Odisee, born Amir Mohamed, has never shied away from big-picture questions about race, politics, wealth, religion and love in his music and this breadth of content was apparent even in an hour-long set
Frank: After a great opening on Thursday, Friday looked to be just as exciting and even more diverse in the AOC artist lane. Friday did not disappoint. I started Friday at the K97.5 Day party at the Pour House. The lineup was hot - Danny Blaze, Mballa, J. Rowdy & the Nightshift, The Deeepend, Nance, Jooselord, 3AM, Freedom Infinite, Imani Pressley, and AVL Battlegrounds Presents -- Checka Fred vs Silhouette. With Mir.I.am hosting and DJ RNB spinning for a stellar lineup of fresh faces in hip hop, the party was moving from the first act.
Frank: Adam Lindsteadt and Jac Cain of the Pour House sure know how to throw a party and After that I made my way down to the Red Hat Amphitheater where I parked myself for the next 3 acts. The first act at Red Hat was Busdriverr, which in the true spirit of Hopscotch, was an interesting sonic journey with zen-like meditative overtones.
Busdriverr is a very engaging performer but was radically different from the stellar hip-hop acts which followed. Rapsody took command of the Red Hat stage with her band the Stormtroopers and legendary 9th Wonder and kept everyone captivated. No wonder she was the only rapper on Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp A Butterfly” She performed a brand new hot joint from her upcoming release from Def Jam records, “Laila’s Wisdom.
The closing act at Red Hat on Friday was Run the Jewels, RTJ is an American hip hop duo formed in 2013 by rapper/producer El-P and rapper Killer Mike. They did not disappoint bringing the energy from the opening salvo to closing out the set. If the crowd’s reaction is any indication they nailed it.
Frank: I ventured into a new venue for this year called the Basement to put a bow on Friday. Hopscotch converted exhibit hall A in the convention center into a pop-up party / rave type party spot with it’s temporary stage and lights dwarfed inside a cavernous space. It really worked especially for one of the highlights of the festival for me - Kaytranada. His dance rich grooves fit exceeding well into the aura created by the Basement. I spied AOC Co-founder CIcely Mitchell putting down some serious dance moves during Kaytranada’s set. He won the 2016 Polaris Music Prize for his album 99.9%. The album released on May 13, 2016 through XL Records. Why would AOC fans care? He collaborated with Syd the Kyd of the Internet and Anderson.Paak, both Art of Cool Festival Alums on that album.
Frank: Hopscotch is known almost as much for it’s free day parties as it is for the paid line-up and this year they started their paid shows at Red Hat starting in the afternoon. When one of the scheduled acts was a last minute cancellation they did move the start times from 2:15 - 3:15 still much earlier than in festival’s past. It will be interesting to see if Hopscotch makes this a new scheduling standard or goes back to the old format. I personally felt it hurt attendance at both Zensofly and Sir the Baptist, which is a shame because they both brought great energy and strong sets. Two of the acts leading up to the headliner Solange, Zensofly and Tei Shi featured strong and talented female leads along with Sir the Baptist who took everyone in the amphitheater on a gospel-oriented ride to church!!
Chelsey: Saturday I ventured over to City Plaza to check out Big Boi, and truly marveled at how Raleigh transforms during Hopscotch. Streets were shut off to make an impromptu stage, and both festival attendees and patrons leaned over railings to hear Big Boi’s verses a bit more clearly.
I then trekked over to the main attraction, Solange, and lectured myself internally about not wearing more comfortable shoes (AOCFEST should have taught me right?) . I wrestled my way to the side of the stage, and waited patiently for Solange to emerge. Her set was lively and invigorating - from performing songs from her new album, to throwbacks like the “Proud Family Theme Song”, the audience was dancing,singing and enjoying the vibes. From there I headed over to Cam Raleigh (after changing my shoes), to check out a local favorite, Jooselord Mangus, perform. Cam is a creative space, so it was great to see it utilized so well. After grabbing some food from next door, I settled in to discover Lunice - and he was one of my top performances I’ve seen in my years of festival attendance. One half of TNGHT, he’s a producer and DJ from Montreal His sound can be described as trap music on Red Bull, and definitely got me shaking my tailfeather on the dancefloor the rest of the night.
Chelsey: Hopscotch was one of the festivals I wanted to cross off my bucket list, and it really exceeded my expectations. I really enjoyed the fact that even though Raleigh is so large, it truly felt tight-knit walking to venue to venue with friends. I loved the open aspect of the festival, and the idea of using such a central space as City Plaza as a venue.