Photos by Rich Martin of Infinite Ghost Machine for Okayplayer.
It’s rare for a musical artist to have a festival coined after their namesake. It’s even more rare for one to be named after an artist who’s still a bit wet behind the ears. However, Raury isn’t your average artist. The Atlanta born-and-bred rapper / singer / revolutionary started his annual Raurfest event as a showcase for his own music and to connect with fans and friends in the industry. In its third year, the festival has grown from just being Raury, a mic and a few local Atlanta acts, into a premiere summer festival dedicated to the youth of Atlanta.
Some of Raurfest’s featured guests included Joey Bada$$, Lion Babe and Kilo Kish. In addition, the concert also served as a showcase of local Atlanta talent, with unknown and up-and-coming local acts Wreck-Shit-Club, Johnny Apollo, Hero the Band, Berhana, Ziggy2playa, Kodi Shane, JID, TRU, Zip Kennedy, Tommy Swisher and Nick Grant in attendance.
ATL’s chosen son teamed up with local Atlanta creative agency, LVRN (pronounced Love Revolution), to curate three days of events, including a Shark Tank, Yoga, parties, clothing drives and even raising money to fund arts programs at Atlanta Public Schools. It’s the XXL Freshman Class ‘15 member’s way of giving back to the community that raised him and inspiring kids in the community who may not be exposed to various aspects of the world to shoot for the moon.
While Raurfest included a weekend full of events, the centerpiece was still the concert on Saturday. Storms of young adults, teens and tweens with parents in tow stormed the hot, crowded venue for an event tailor made to inspire, uplift and entertain the doctors, lawyers, musicians and tastemakers of tomorrow. The opening acts ranged from groups involved in classic hip-hop to trap to rock to even a combination of the two. Some performers had the hearts and minds of the crowd from the word “go”. Some took a minute to find their groove with the kids. Others leaned on doing popular chants such as “ATL Ho!” and “Fuck Trump!” to get the crowd going. All showed up and showed out with an eclectic mix of music.
After the initial set of opening acts, up-and-coming ATL-representer, Nick Grant, came through and rocked the crowd with the swagga and stage presence of an OG, mesmerizing the crowd with an a cappella freestyle before launching into a track from his 88 mixtape, “Black Sinatra”. The kid also performed the tracks, “Just in Case,” “Higher,” and “Royalty”.
The first non-local act to perform was Los Angeles native, Kilo Kish. Kilo came on stage in a haze of pink smoke, which complimented her laid back alternative grooves. Next up was Lion Babe. The dynamic duo made a quick pit stop at Raurfest before running across town to perform at their own show later that night. However, they did not disappoint. The group performed well-known songs such as “Wonder Woman” and “Treat Me Like Fire,” and even a cut off of their Sun Joint mixtape, “Tina Turner”. Armed with just a mic and an extra long ponytail, Jillian Hervey gave the crowd what they wanted while Astro Raw provided the beats.
Finally, at the midnight hour, Raury made his triumphant walk to the stage. Decked out in his patented straw hat, the “Cigarette”-singer addressed the sweaty crowd about the importance and evolution of the event. He was overjoyed at being able to make the event free and enthused to enlighten and entertain his audience. However, Raury was more than just talk, moving the crowd with performances of “Revolution,” “Superfly,” “Crystal Express” and “CPU.”
In addition to his own collection of hits, b-sides and rare grooves, Raury also invited other artist and good friends to hit the stage, including local artist, Black, and the special guest everyone had been waiting for, Joey BadA$$. Fans had been waiting for the Brooklyn-born rapper all night. He and his Pro Era crew rocked the stage with a slate of songs, including “Big Dusty,” “Christ Conscious,” “Knight Time” and “Devastated.”
After Bada$$ and his Pro Era crew rocked the crowd, Raury returned to the stage to bring it on home with one final round of songs, most notably “The Devil’s Whisper,” an uptempo number in reference to the trials, tribulations and temptations the singer has experienced, and a call back to the single that put on the map “God’s Whisper.” This served as an inspired coda to an amazing night of talent.