Unwrapping summer festival season was this year’s Governors Ball 2018, with a mixed bag of legacy artists and new faves bringing out a bevy of music fans to New York’s Randalls Island. Throughout the three-day festival there were plenty of surprises, like Eminem’s special guests like Royce da 5’9 and 50 Cent to Pusha T’s performance of “Infrared.”
No stone (or storm cloud) was left unturned given the weather, but it proved to be a perfect setting for Travis Scott’s set. As the rapper performed “Through the Late Night” late Saturday (Jun. 2), the rain came down. No one seemed to be bothered since it was a perfect fitting to his electric set.
There was also gratifying feeling of bliss to see acts like Halsey and Kali Uchis, as festivals continue to drop the ball when it comes to women on the their lineups. The women, along with Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Lauren Mayberry of Chvrches dominated their respective sets, reminding us all the power of women in all music genres.
There were plenty of good, bad and the surprisingly political moments that filled the weekend. Check out the highlights below.
6LACK Announces New Album
It’s almost surreal to think that 6LACK released his debut project FREE 6LACK two years ago. As the Atlanta native grooved through his Grammy-nominated tracks like “Prblms,” the artist shared with the fans he’s currently working on his sophomore album. While his debut album had no features, 6LACK promised fans this time around there would be some very special guests on the tracklist.
Damian Marley Lights Up The Crowd
Festivals of a high caliber normally vie for pop and hip-hop acts, but Damian Marley reminded us that reggae acts are a must have on the festival circuit. The legendary artist hit the Bacardi stage Friday (Jun 1) to a very full crowd performing standout jams from his recent album, Stony Hill.
Jr. Gong was met on stage by Ziggy Marley and his Ethiopian Lion of Judah flag waver as the crowd lit a few in the air. Marley opened to crowd to some of his genre-breaking collaborations like “Make It Bun Den” and jams like “Medication.” The elder statesman in the crowd were treated to a cover of his father’s classic tunes “Could You Be Loved” and “One Love” before he closed with the ’05 classic, “Welcome To Jamrock.”
A note to all festivals–put some respect on reggae and get them in the game.
N.E.R.D.’s Mosh Pits Are Friendly & Inviting
The most high-octave set went to Pharrell, Shay Haley and Chad Hugo of N.E.R.D., whose reunion was well received by fans. After a small wait, young trainer and viral star Demarjay Smith introduced the band with a speech about determination and will power.
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With Hugo behind the boards, Haley and Skateboard P took the crowd with standout from their nearly 20-year career. Opening the set on the Honda stage was “Anti-Matter,” followed by a melody of Pharrell productions like Snoop Dogg’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot” and Lil Uzi Vert’s “Neon Guts.” Between tunes like “Spaz” and “Rockstar,” Pharrell let the crowd know he was losing his voice. But with a some tea on stage, the artist kept rocking in the free world.
The best aspects of the set had to be Mette Towley’s towering moves throughout “1000” and “Lemon.” The dancer and choreographer kept the crowd jumping well into other songs performed from No One Ever Really Dies. There was also the countless mosh pits created in the crowd. Like the rest of the set, they were inviting, warm and pleasantly giddy.
Where Were the Women?
Especially the femcees. As we noted last year, as festivals continue to capture hip-hop’s towering power in music, organizers have done little to include female rappers on the bill. Many artists who’ve had success on the Billboard charts and the streaming world like Azealia Banks, Leikeli 47 and Snow Tha Product would’ve been welcomed with open arms by all fans. Even budding acts like Maliibu Miitch and 070 Shake have made enough noise to be featured on any festival.
The Little American Eagle Stage Was Too Little For Lil Uzi Vert Fans
Just after N.E.R.D.’s set on Sunday (Jun 3), Lil Uzi Vert’s set on the American Eagle Stage kicked off. While it was the smaller stage out of the festival, the crowd wasn’t as it reached capacity just ten minutes before Uzi hit the stage. Perhaps his fan fare was underestimated, but the artist kept the crowd hype with his singles, “XO Tour Llif3,” and the fan fave, “Do What I Want.”
2 Chainz Lends A Helping Hand
Yes, the rain and low temps cooled things down on Sunday (Jun 3), but Saturday’s heat wave almost left fans leaving in gurneys. During 2 Chainz’s set, the rapper paused several times to address those falling out in the crowd. As staff members issued cases of water to those in need, the rapper subtly released a PSA, by noting he doesn’t do “festival candies” like cocaine or prescription pills to have a good time.
Amine Sends A Message Of Self-Care
Part of what makes Amine’s performances so special are the constant messages of affirmation. His chant, “You’re beautiful” kept the crowd in a happy and loving spirit as they jammed out to “Spice Girl,” “REDMERCEDES” and his hit single, “Caroline.”
Eminem’s Special Guests
One of the big headliners of the weekend was Eminem, who didn’t disappoint. Em’s set felt cinematic as he toyed with songs from his very lengthy career. Mirroring his Coachella set, the rapper set to repeat history as he covered tracks from Revival all the way to The Slim Shady LP.
His special guests made things that much sweeter as he exchanged bars with Phresher (“Chloraseptic”) Royce Da 5’9 (“Caterpillar”) and 50 Cent for “Patiently Waiting” and “Crack a Bottle.” 50 also stuck around to perform some of his respective hits like “I Get Money,” and “In Da Club.”
While making his loving claim to Nicki Minaj, Em brought out the lovely and talented Skylar Grey for a special melody of “Stan,” “Love The Way You Lie” and “Walk on Water.”
For any Eminem fan, the wait (and rain) was well worth it.
Travis Scott Is For The Fans
Travis Scott’s Saturday set was uproarious with a special dose of fan love. As the rapper took over the Gov Ball Stage, one eager fan jumped the barricade to get a bit closer to the “Goosebumps” artist. As security tried to usher them out, Travis jumped into the photo pit and invited the fan on stage for the rest of the set.
Vic Mensa Brings Awareness To Emily Weinman
The unlawful incident between Emily Weinman and a New Jersey police officer has caught the attention of many, including Vic Mensa. In between his set Sunday at the American Eagle Stage, Mensa called out the practices of Wildwood Police Department for using excessive force with Weinman, who was punched multiple times during their interaction. He then went into “16 Shots” a song dedicated to the fatal police shooting of Chicago teenager Laquan McDonald.
Where Were the Latinx Artists?
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Like the absence of femcess, very few Latinx artists were on the lineup. As Stereogum points out, artists of the Latinx sphere like J Balvin, Bad Bunny and Cardi B have taken over the charts and playlists. It’s only right we see folks breakouts like Maluma and legacy acts like Ivy Queen bring in massive numbers (and diversity) to festival season.
Pusha T Reworks the Art of Hip-Hop Beef
Pusha T’s album DATOYNA has proved to be his most important in various ways. The album reached No. 1 on the Billboard Rap charts and R&B/Hip Hop album charts, as well as No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart. After last week’s toe-to-toe with Drake, Push prevailed as he arrived at Gov Ball to perform the album for the first time, including the fiery “Infrared.”
In addition to the new music, Push reminded attendees of his lyrical mastery with appreciated jams like “Grindin,” “New God Flow” and “Mercy.” His moves like we previously mentioned, were chess-like and allowed fans to either love or hate Push even more.
Everyone is Sleeping on James Blake
We’re ready to start a campaign for James Blake. As one of the headliners for Friday, Blake’s crowd was rather small. Despite the low turnout, Blake kept the euphoric vibe going and thanked the crowd for the “genuine love” felt from the Honda stage.