For the fifth year in a row, DC-based social enterprise Broccoli City Group hosted their annual music festival, Broccoli City Festival was at Gateway DC on May 6. This year’s festival was co-headlined by rap duo Rae Sremmurd and R&B icon Solange. In honor of the festival’s fifth anniversary, the group also hosted their first ever Broccoli City Week, consisting of various events during the week leading up to the festival on Saturday.
“Broccoli City is redefining cool by mobilizing and educating urban millennials on how to create a better world,” the self-described social enterprise proudly proclaims on their website, BroccoliCity.com. “Through our programs we are creating pathways to higher standards of sustainable living, environmental education, economic opportunity, and access to high quality food and shelter.”
The most exciting part of Broccoli City Week was of course the main event, Broccoli City Festival. Headliner Rae Sremmurd performed all of their hits including quintuple platinum single “Black Beatles” from their 2016 album SremmLife 2 as well as their breakout hits from 2015’s SremmLife album “No Flex Zone” and “No Type.” Solange also performed songs from her third album A Seat at the Table including her Grammy-winning single “Cranes in the Sky” and “Don’t Touch My Hair.” Her performance was extremely impressive. She was accompanied by about ten band members, each of which participated in a choreographed routine that spanned the entirety of their hour-long set.
“I don’t love Lil Yachty as an artist but as a performer, he was wild,” senior Nathaniel Rowthorn, who attended the event said. “The best performance Rae Sremmurd, hands down.”
Other acts at this year’s festival included 2016 XXL Freshmen Lil Yachty and 21 Savage; rappers/singers Smino and Kevin Abstract; a surprise performance from Chicago rapper Joey Purp; and local rapper Chaz French among many others. This was one of the festival’s biggest years since it began in 2013 as a celebration of Earth Day. In honor of the holiday, the festival and the events surrounding it focus on promoting environmental protection, particularly in urban areas and are geared towards millennials.
“The planning of the event was kind of subpar but the performances made up for it,” freshman Damir Pimenov, who attended the event said.
Broccoli City only featured one local artist this year, rapper Chaz French from DC. French recently signed a deal with Motown Records in March. He dropped a single with them entitled “Way Out” which he performed during his set and will be featured on his official debut in a few months. Broccoli City is a special festival for him because the first show he ever played was during the festival’s second year, 2014, before he had even released any music.
“When you first become a rapper, the first thing you think is, ‘I want a record deal,’ ” French said in an interview with the Washington Post. “But I always rapped like I had a record deal.”
Chaz brought a ton of energy with him to the stage, coming down to join the crowd more than once. He was surrounded by his friends and family and he brought out other local artists during his performance including his brother, Eddie Vanz, and Montgomery County’s own Innanet James. His daughter, Akai, and his mother both also came on stage during his set.
“Broccoli City was cool this year, it was a lot of good artists on the lineup so it was a good time despite the weather,” James said.
The festival featured performances by acts from across the country and around the world. Among them was rising rapper/singer Sir the Baptist from Chicago. Sir was raised by a baptist preacher and has been a musician since the age of six, when he learned to play piano. His performance included his single “Raise Hell” from his upcoming debut album Saint or Sinner, which came out on Friday, May 12.
“The festival is the model for hip hop festivals,” Sir the Baptist said. “Take the infrastructure to communities who need it economically.”
As his name would suggest, Sir’s performance had heavy religious themes throughout. Taking long intermissions between each song to talk to the crowd, the show felt very personal, it felt more like what I imagine a church sermon would be like than a regular concert. He may have had the very first set on the smaller of the two stages at the festival, but Sir did not disappoint. During his performance, he came down into the crowd to bring a small child who was standing next to me on stage (he knew all the words) and he gave everyone in the audience his phone number. Sir was very friendly and he took pictures with audience members after his performance.
“Music sucks these days. The quality, the musicianship, the education behind the lyricism,” Sir the Baptist commented on the state of modern hip hop. “We…as in me and you will change all of this!”
One of my personal favorite sets during the day was St. Louis rapper/singer Smino’s performance, which featured two backup singers, Grammy-winning audio engineer Elton “L10MixedIt” Cheung, Smino’s main producer Monte Booker, a guitarist, a drummer, a bassist, and a piano player who also sang backup. They performed many songs from Smino’s recent debut album blkswn including the album’s lead single “Anita.” Other highlights from the show included breakout Atlanta sensation Lil Yachty’s headlining performance on the smaller stage; a surprise performance from Joey Purp, a Chicago rapper from the SaveMoney clique, a rap group that also boasts Chance the Rapper and Vic Mensa as members; Kevin Abstract, a rapper/singer from Corpus Christi, Texas, an openly gay musician who performed songs from his sophomore album American Boyfriend; and Nao, a singer from London whose set was delayed by about 45 minutes due to technical difficulties, but she brought the house down nonetheless.
“I really enjoyed seeing Lil Yachty and I was surprised to enjoy Nao and Smino,” freshman Mikail Haroon, who attended the event said. “All of the vendors were super friendly and the food was superb.”