On Saturday, Sept. 13, music fans flocked to Atlanta’s Aaron’s Amphitheatre for One Music Fest. The day-long festival featured three stages: Zeus (main stage), Hercules (small stage) and the DJ stage, Soulection. After Atlanta’s own Cody ChesnuTT kicked off the afternoon, fellow soul singer Bilal took the Hercules stage with a live band backing his yelpy riffs to “Reminisce” and songs from 1st Born Second.
Over at the Zeus stage, Alice Smith rocked out with those edgier. “It’s hot!,” she exclaimed, during multiple breaks. Still, the 90-degree weather didn’t seem to affect her performance. Smith belted out lyrics to tracks like “Fool For You” and others from her discography including, 2013 She.
As Smith wrapped up her set, hip-hop heads moved en masse to the Hercules stage to catch Isaiah Rashad. The 23-year old Top Dawg Entertainment signee brought the same type of fiery energy to the stage as Kendrick Lamar did less than five years ago, and again this year. He blew through “Menthol,” “Modest” and others from his album, Cilvia Demo, as the crowd recited the lyrics right along.
Amel Larrieux then took the Zeus stage. A veteran at performing live shows, the soul chanteuse dove into songs like “Sweet Misery” and “For Real,” only stopping for some heartfelt conversation with concert-goers; This was a trend that continued through the better part of the festival.
Daley picked up where Larrieux left off, over at the Hercules stage. “I’m still getting used to doing live shows,” he said in his London lilt. “But I’m so glad I get to share this experience with you guys.” Charming and engaging through his set, the audience hooted its approval. The Days & Nights creator had one of the best sets of the afternoon.
Daley’s velvety vocals glided through tracks such as “Good News” and “Those Who Wait” from his debut album, as well as songs from his Alone Together EP. At one point the singer sat behind the keys to deliever a rendition of Jill Scott‘s “He Loves Me.” “Oh, you guys know this one?” he teased, as the crowd cheered.
Jhené Aiko, next up, lookedflawless in a coral crop top and a signature flowy skirt. Still, her vocal performance lacked a bit. Her fans seemed fully engaged though, as the L.A. native ran through guest verses (Drake‘s “From Time”), a quick tribute to 2pac (“My favorite rapper of all time!”) and songs from her major label debut, Souled Out. “Do I smell weed?” she asked with a chuckle. “Let’s get a little higher…” she flirted, heading into “Can I Hit It Again.”
Redman and Method Man‘s set was one to see. A throng of attendees headed over to the Hercules stage to see if the two emcees still had the chemistry they exuded in the mid-90s. Despite having microphone issues, the two rocked out to classic solo and collaborative joints. Redman ran through tracks like 1992 “Time 4 Sum Aksion” and 1998 “I’ll Bee Dat,” never missing a step. Meth’s solo set was also on point. He ran from one end of the stage to the other, while spitting lyrics to fan favorites such as “Method Man” and “I’ll Be There For You/You’re All I Need To Get By.”
By the time the two performed their popular collaborations, the crowd thickened and pushed against the media pit barrier. Women screamed for Method Man to toss his washcloth into the audience. He only obliged after prompting an older woman to finish a line from “How High.” “So high that you can suck my dick!” she screamed into the mic. He grinned, and the two closed with an inconceivably energetic performance of “Da Rockwilder.”
As the evening was drawing to a close, there were two heavy-hitters left to take the main stage; Kendrick Lamar was the first of those two. The TDE rapper blazed through guest verses (A$AP Rocky‘s “Fuckin’ Problems”) to album cuts (“m.A.A.d. City,” “Swimming Pools”). His set and the images which flashed on the stage screens were well-thought out and crucial to the Good Kid, M.A.D.D. City story Lamar told onstage.
For the first verse of “Sing About Me/ Dying of Thirst,” shots of Blood gang members, throwing their sets up, flickered. The camera then landed on a powder blue casket as Lamar spit the last line of “Sing”: “Just promise me you’ll tell this story when you make it big/ And if I die before your album drop, I hope…” The gunshots, featured on the song, rung out and a black and white visual of an untouched sword popped up. Lamar’s stage presence lends to the belief that his soul is older than he is.
After the Compton rapper ended his set, Nas touched the stage to close the fifth year of One Music Fest. Hours before his own birthday, the Queensbridge rapper made it a point to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his debut album Illmatic. Barreling through “NY State of Mind,” “Represent,” “Life’s a Bitch” and “The World is Yours,” Nas seemed to catch his stride on the Zeus stage. There were no hiccups in his performance, a stark contrast to his 2014 Summer Jam performance.
“We gon’ conclude the first sh-t right? Let’s do it with this one,” he said over screams from the crowd. “Besides Sade and Bob Marley and a few other cool motherf-ckers I like, I love MJ.” An image of a young Michael Jackson flashed on the screen behind him as “Human Nature” cued up, and faded out while Nas blew through “It Ain’t Hard to Tell.”
Easily moving from era to era, the rapper bounced all over his catalogue, performing God’s Son‘s “I Can,” “Get Down,” “Made You Look” and Stillmatic‘s “Got Ur Self a Gun.”
“Any rappers out here,” he shouted, “take it farther than where we took it.” “One Mic” was the perfect summation of his statement.
The crowd stirred in anticipation for Nas’ final song, “Stay.” As soon as the instrumental from the Life is Good somber track dropped, Nas dazzled his way through the tightly woven lyrics. He finally took his shades off for a lasting effect — setting the tone for what One Music Fest ought to be next year.