Governors Ball Festival is considered to be the calmer presentation of artists, food and brands during festival season, but this year’s mix of rap, pop, alternative and rock acts made it one of its most unique and dynamic rollouts ever.
The high octave energy was dispensed evenly thanks to the die hard fans who showed up every day (June 2- June 4) to see acts like Chance The Rapper, Lorde, Childish Gambino, Logic and Wiz Khalifa. Ferry and bus rides helped transport fans from Harlem to Randall's Island, a relatively quiet space with an eerie origin story. While the weather wasn’t completely cooperative, it didn’t stop festival goers from breaking out the fringe, the glitter and noticeably, the Chance’s signature “3” hats.
With so much to cover, like Logic pointing out his fans by name from the stage, Wu-Tang’s celebration for the 20th anniversary of Wu-Tang Forever to Donald Glover announcing his soon-to-be retirement from his artist moniker Childish Gambino, here are the best moments from the festival.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention some of the moments that left us shaking our heads and at times, leaving us speechless.
Check it out below.
Kehlani Sends Love To The LGBTQ Community
Kehlani, the R&B incarnation of a warm hug, blessed the Gov Ball stage on Friday, bringing nothing but good vibes. The Cali songstress delivered hip-hop soul to the masses with jams from her critically-acclaimed studio debut, SweetSexySavage. From “CRZY,” “Distraction” to “Do You Dirty” the singer had the attention of many, including her LGBTQ fans. With June declared as Pride month, the singer took a moment to show love the devoted community and reminded everyone to keep spreading love.
Hip-Hop Mosh Pits Just As Great As They Sound
Believed to be just a practiced nuance at rock concerts, the art form found life throughout the entire weekend. Schoolboy Q’s Honda Stage set was the place to be for those looking to push and shove to “Gangsta” and “Collard Greens.” On the grand scheme of things, it’s truly refreshing to see carefree folks jam hard to the music that normally floods aux cords at house parties.
The mosh pits didn’t stop there as they continued through A$AP Ferg, Stormy, Danny Brown and Skepta’s sets. The Bacardi stage also brought waves of pleasant chaos thanks to Rae Sremmurd. The duo brought a significantly larger crowd than their 2015 Gov Ball debut, thanks to to the success of SremmLife 2 cut, “Black Beatles.” Spreading across the grounds, Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi brought their own Shrem-mania as fans climbed fences, pillars and even each other to be apart of the moment. It may seem minutiae compared to hip-hop’s latest triumphs, but it’s still an feeling like no other.
Wu-Tang Clan Celebrates Wu-Tang Forever’s 20th Anniversary
RZA, GZA, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, U-God, Masta Killa and Cappadonna helped bring the same amount of boisterous spirits to the Gov Ball stage on Saturday with the celebration of the 1997 classic, Wu-Tang Forever. Deep solo cuts like Ghostface Killah’s “Fish” (Ironman) and GZA’s “Duel of the Iron Mics” (Liquid Swords) also filled the set lists to fans’ surprise. RZA and Method helped sent verbal memos heard over the festival, reminding those unaware of Wu’s influence. Classics like “C.R.E.A.M.” and “Triumph” were also performed on the stage that included an homage to the late Ol' Dirty Bastard via “Old Dirty Bastard’s Chinese Restaurant.”
Special guests included ODB’s son Young Dirty Bastard and Redman, who joined Method Man for a take on their 1999 classic, “Da Rockwilder.” It was a trip back in time any music fan would’ve loved to be apart of.
White Young Adults Saying The N-Word In Drunken Glee
Sure, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard the slur at a festival, let alone hip-hop shows by a predominantly white crowd. Nonetheless, it was pretty awkward for presumably liberal whites to chant “n***a” during the sets of Schoolboy Q, Chance The Rapper, Rae Sremmurd and YG. After peeping disrespect in Harlem (a group of white fans refusing to make space in the MetroCard line for an older black blind man to walk by), the blanket of love heavily promoted during festivals was burned in a matter of minutes.
While jamming to Schoolboy, I witnessed “n***a telephone” happen in real time. A group of friends trying to leave the front of the crowd repeated it during “That Part” with one girl getting permission after only seeing her gal pal say it with sheer happiness. From there, the group of white women in front of me jumped on the line to say “n***a” as their fringe sashayed from left to right. Wu’s set had the same amount of white fans but not many eager to say the n-word.
Chuck it up to the generational gap in white hip-hop fans we suppose.
Kendrick Lamar and the Surprise That Could've Been
This isn’t so much as a low as it is a moment that probably happened in another timeline. Schoolboy Q announced Kendrick Lamar was supposed to be his special guest, but sadly had to pull out at the last minute. Citing a family emergency, Schoolboy Q played “Humble” in his honor. We can only wonder the magic that K.Dot and Groovy Q would’ve shared on stage.
Chance The Rapper Takes Us To Church
Surrounded by a live band and fashionable backup singers, Chance The Rapper’s set on the Gov Ball stage was just a peek into the artist’s “Be Encouraged Tour.” Several renditions of “Blessings” were performed throughout his set, alluding to his recent career highs. Friendly and and inviting, The Coloring Book creator did his new fans a favor by taking it back to his Acid Rap cuts, “Cocoa Butter Kisses,” “Lost” and “Juice.”
Several shout outs to the man upstairs were heard from Chance, especially during his performance of “Angels.” He also joked that critics call him a “Christian rapper” for his Grammy-winning project. It didn’t stop him from showing love as he jumped into renditions of “Waves” and “Ultralight Beam,” his contributions to Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo.
After an intermission led by Francis and the Lights, Chance brought out Ty Dolla $ign to close the show with “Blessings.” “You should be hearing your own voice,” the rapper reminded everyone. Pyrotechnics filled up the once-clear night sky with much adored melodies from Ty in the background.
As it turns out, Chance was the stamp of happiness we needed.
Childish Gambino Creates A Safe Space For Lovers
The fact that the field was nearly filled to capacity two hours before Childish Gambino took the Honda stage tells you everything you need to know about the mesmerizing set. Waves of Gambino fans with memorabilia from his 2011 “IAMDONALD” and 2014 “Deep Web” tours were more than ready to see the “Redbone” artist perform what would be his only show of 2017. Jumping right into “Me and Your Mama,” the crowd was sent into a trance of celestial bliss with Gambino’s combination of soft and soul cleansing harmonies. After a few Awaken My Love! cuts, Gambino took a trip to Because the Internet with “Worldstar,” “Crawl,” “Sweatpants, “Zealots of Stockholm” and “The Worst Guys.”
Gambino enjoyed the crowd participation of “California” when several joints found their way on stage. Strangers broke into American Bandstand mode for “3005” and “Telegraph Ave,” continuing the sentiment with “Sober” and his viral cover of Tamia’s “So Into You.”
Making a U-turn to Awaken My Love!, Gambino gave a tender shout out to his son Legend before breaking into “Baby Boy.” Music Director and producer of Awaken, Ludwig Göransson, let his guitar cry throughout the show, giving Gambino ample opportunity to grind and caress the air.
As a closer, Gambino played out one of the viral covers of “Redbone,” with a monologue about impressing the perfect girl. Endless make out sessions happened like it was New Year’s Eve in Times Square, even before Gambino could get to the hit song’s chorus. It was definitely the place to be if you wanted to share a moment of romance with a fellow music lover.
Donald Glover Announces His Retirement From Childish Gambino
As “Redbone” came to an end, Gambino thanked the fans and announced that his next Gambino album would be his last. Another bummer but not quite a low, Glover’s decision to close the chapter on Childish Gambino was evident, considering his artistic journey so far. "Last Childish Gambino album announcement. He will pursue an apprenticeship making pasta in north Italy," Atlanta writer and creative director Ibra Ake shared in his behind the scenes gallery of Gambino’s Gov Ball set. Glover is much less a master of none and more like the architect for the next phase in his innovative career.
Method Man’s Trust Fall Is A Fail
During Wu-Tang’s performance, Method Man proved to be the most interactive with the crowd as he encouraged everyone to feel powers of Shaolin during the show. His trust in the crowd was admirable, even when his stage dive didn’t go as planned.
YG & Rae Sremmurd Played At The Same Damn Time
Don’t make us choose between the two ever again.
Logic Spots His Fans By Name During Performance
Logic’s performance at the Big Apple stage was all about “love, peace and positivity” as he called out his biggest supporters by name. The moment, which happened at the beginning of his set, felt like a family reunion for the rapper and his die-hard fans. He also made sure to start the show with jams from his latest album, Everybody before taking a trip to The Unbelievable True Story and Under Pressure.
Gov Ball Special Guests Were Inflatable & Helpful
The festival brought music fans from all over and while some weren’t human, the ones who were seemed to be pretty helpful. Before joining Method Man on stage Saturday, Redman acted as a golf cart driver for Artist Transportation and helped guests avoid the crowds. He didn’t stop after hopping on the Gov Ball stage–he also transported Gambino’s Royalty collective to the stage.
Redman wasn’t the only appreciated special guest. A$AP Ferg brought out Flatbush Zombies and Ty Dolla $ign surprised both Wiz Khalifa and Chance’s fans. Eric Andre shared his love for Chance via his Instagram Stories and Kelly Osbourne hung out by the press tent after enjoying The Orwells.
Skepta kept an inflatable alien on the Bacardi stage as a reference to his “Banned From America” tour and Wiz passed inflatable joints from the Honda stage to the crowd. Other festivals might want to take notes from Gov Ball, who presented an enjoyable experience for both the fan and the artist.