Day 4 of SXSW 2017 was the point of no return. With only a couple more days left in the annual music bacchanal, fans, bands and everyone in between turned up the intensity to wring every last drop out of what Austin had to offer. Hot coffee and cold water abounded throughout the lineup of recovering party people up and at ‘em early enough for VIBE’s day party and were handsomely rewarded with an afternoon packed with great music and positive vibrations.
The OG rapper took over the Mazda Studio at Empire with a lethal live band in tow as he took fans on a journey throughout his storied career. Touching on his Reflection Eternal days with tracks like “Down for the Count” and “The Blast,” Kweli veered away from his own work to celebrate a boundless panorama of music from other artists. A shout-out to legendary Detroit producer J Dilla and Slum Village turned into an inspired version of “The Look of Love.”
A cover of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” led into a pumped up take on the Beatles’ classic “Eleanor Rigby,” followed by a Sun Ra tribute. A fiery rendition of A Tribe Called Quest’s “We the People” was the springboard for an impassioned political statement, with the rapper calling out heads of state and declaring, “Hip-hop is protest music!” Wrapping up with Black Star’s “K.O.S. (Determination)” and one of his signature singles, “I Get By,” Kweli and his band put on a master class in hip-hop showmanship.
The North Carolina MC captivated the crowd straight away with her powerful and clear-eyed rap. Dialing up tracks like “Mad” from her most recent full-length, Crown, Rapsody kept things lively with her engaging demeanor, hyping her March Madness pick (Duke) and pulling a fan named Rudy from the dance floor for an extended (and hilarious) routine. With famed producer 9th Wonder as her DJ, she explained how she landed on Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy-winning To Pimp a Butterfly album, with a take on their collaboration, “Complexion (A Zulu Love).”
Coming straight out of Minnesota, this fierce vocalist blends a message of self-love with booming dance beats and a high-energy performance that demands the attention of anyone within earshot. “When the beat drops, I want it to look like a Drake and Rihanna video,” she ordered. Supported by a pair of dancers in matching black leotards, Lizzo roared through tracks from her major label debut, Coconut Oil, including “Phone,” “Scuse Me” and “Good as Hell,” galvanizing the audience with her warm personality and sheer persistence.
The Orlando native kicked off the show with his warm and heartfelt take on classic soul. Armed with a rich, soaring voice and formidable guitar skills, he rolled out a captivating set dusted with pop hooks and romantic ballads reminiscent of early Prince. The highlight of R.LUM.R’s performance was his single “Frustrated,” which has racked up a staggering amount of streams.