Here’s what went down at the 2018 Roots Picnic.
Fans, friends, family, and more gathered at Festival Pier in Philadelphia Saturday night for the return of the Roots and their 11th annual Roots Picnic festival. That night, beloved legends were embraced, while a new star’s light shined extra bright.
DVSN, 6LACK, Rapsody, Goldlink, Rich the Kid & Jay Critch, Sun Ra Arkestra, Tierra Whack, Badbadnotgood, and more hit the stage during the day, feeding the crowd’s appetite before the hefty and highly-anticipated evening lineup.
On the Podcast Stage, Noreaga recorded a live episode of “Drink Champs,” and Angela Rye recorded “On One.” As I walked across the venue, I stopped to listen in on the “Barrier Breakers” panel. What caught my eye was a stage occupied entirely by black women at the forefront of each of their respective fields— Bozoma Saint John, Chaka Pilgrim, Amber Grimes, Anowa Adjah, and Jemele Hill— speaking on their perils and passions while navigating industries set on shutting them up and shutting them out.
The musical pairings were equally poignant.
Black Thought debuted tracks from his first ever solo project, Streams of Thought, Vol. 1— an unexpected offering released earlier this week with 9th Wonder. During Black Thought’s solo set, he rapped endlessly, not skipping a beat or a breath, à la his now-legendary Hot 97 freestyle. He performed parts of his “Live Mixtape” series with J.Period before bringing out Fabolous, who ran through cuts from his Friday on Elm Street project alongside Jadakiss who, in turn, brought out Styles P. Question of how Fab would be received following the lurid news of his domestic abuse allegations arose before the show. The crowd answered in overwhelming support, cheering him on and rapping along to every lyric.
The Diplomats reunion was hardly that, but the Uptowner in me wasn’t completely disappointed. Cam’ron held the set down, solo, running through the group’s collection of culture-shifting hits. He was accompanied only by Freekey Zekey and his infamous dance moves, as Jim Jones was out of sight, while Juelz Santana is currently under house arrest following federal firearms charges. Cam lead a “Free Juelz!” chant that echoed across the crowd.
But it was Lil Uzi Vert who garnered a special type of attention and acclaim. Amongst an older demographic of rap consumers, Uzi has never truckled to critiques and condemnation of “mumble rap” or “Soundcloud rappers.” That night, Uzi stood firm in his position amongst the elders and the newcomers, and, for a moment in time, towered over them all.
Backstage, everything and everyone came to a halt when Uzi bolted through, donning a red leather body harness with skin-tight red leather pants, and a red patent leather cape to match. His visage surged he energy of the room tenfold.
Kids watched in wonder and adults were close behind. That evening, Lil Uzi was the cynosure of all eyes, young and old alike. While Uzi dominated the stage, strutting and shoulder shuffling in his red leather fit, an older man shouted, “That nigga look like Eddie Murphy!” This performance could very well be Uzi’s “Delirious” moment, solidifying him in the pantheon of a new school of hip-hop superstars.
Lil Uzi and his technicolored dreamcoat executed Blocboy JB’s “Shoot” dance with unparalleled fervor. While running through his chart-toppers and Soundcloud bangers, Uzi’s rock star flair and rap star bravado met at the crux of his cool. It was an estimable performance amongst legends of his city. Rapper Freeway stood on stage and watched in support, bridging the generational gap between Philly’s finest.
As an impending rainstorm loomed in the dark sky, his red cape illuminated the dark stage— an oriflamme of the new rap superhero.
Uzi bodied Roots Picnic pic.twitter.com/mDhZzsfnNy
— Ivie Ani (@ivieani) June 4, 2018
It seems Uzi’s red cloak of invincibility extended throughout the day as his duel with Rich The kid intensified. Multiple videos surfaced online showing Uzi and Rich exchanging words and punches in the streets of Philly. After Rich reportedly threw shots at the rapper online, Uzi pulled up on him offline.
Later that night, the picnic’s pièce de résistance — The Roots Jam Session— was met with excitement, impatience, and bated breath. Dave Chappelle graced the stage to host and introduce a bevy of special guests. But as 2 Chainz emerged, lightning struck, and torrential rain cut the long-awaited portion of the evening short.
— Sweet Baby Dee (@TrendeeRocks) June 3, 2018
Questlove took to Twitter that night to explain the decision to end the show early. “Of course I can play in ANY situation but lives are on the line and it’s a hazzard,” he wrote, adding, “The city told us to stop for a bit.”
Philly: this is a hazard. Of course I can play in ANY situation but lives are on the line and it’s a hazzard. If someone were to get electrocuted or worse —-I can’t have that on my head man. The city told us to stop for a bit
— Trash That Rizzo Statue (@questlove) June 3, 2018
In another tweet, Quest apologized for the abrupt cancellation, writing “Sorry y’all. I’d like to think myself as a renegade rebel, but lightning says nope.”
After all this, the words of André 3000 resound louder than ever in the forefront of my mind: “You can plan a pretty picnic, but you can’t predict the weather.”
Check out some highlight shots from Roots Picnic 2018 below:
Ivie is a Nigerian-American, native New Yorker, and journalist covering culture. Usually on-air, on deadline, and on point. @ivieani