Okayplayer's Top 20 Musical Moments Of Summer 2015
Summer 2015 officially ended on September 22nd, but the week that follows is officially the last week of summer denial. With the onset of October it's time to face facts: is finally, completely dead and gone. It was a damn fine one, though, filled with surprise shows, musical activism and the triumphant return of a number of veteran stars. Most of all, though, it was a season defined by rising young guns like Joey Bada$$, Ibeyi and Jon Batiste making good on the early promise of their talent. Thanks to our top-notch family of photographers, Okayplayer captured some of the best sonic moments of the summer, and now we've collated them here for your convenient review. Take a scroll down memory lane as we recap, in no particular order, the good old days of summer 2k15.
#1: Jon Batiste Starts A Spontaneous #LoveRiot In The Brooklyn Streets
We'll kick things off with a big one. On a bright afternoon in June, young jazz phenomenon (and new bandleader of the CBS Late Show) Jon Batiste lead a New Orleans-style march down Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn--not a stone's throw away from out own offices. We were quick on the jump and captured plenty of the action, which had Batiste, band and passers-by belting out "St. James Infirmary." In that loud and golden moment, all was right in the world.
(Photos by Scott Heins)
#2: Common Leads The Heads In a Hip-Hop Revival At D.C. Loves Dilla
One of Chicago's finest raised it up for Detroit's favorite hip-hop son when Common lead a star-studded bill in its musical tribute to J Dilla. Slum Village was also in the house, and with the help of a top-notch band of local DMV players, the roof got damn near obliterated as the night hit its peak. RIP, Jay Dee.
(Photos by Vickey Ford/Sneakshot Photography for Okayplayer)
#3: Run the Jewels Run Over Pitchfork Music Fest
The Chicago summer hit its boiling point in July when Killer Mike and El-Ptook the stage at Pitchfork Fest. Armed with both RTJ albums under the belts, the duo laid down banger after banger, proving that their almost-at-the-top/borderline headlining status was more than proper. Oh, to have been there when the beat to "Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)" dropped. What a thing of true open-air beauty.
(Photos by Gretchen Villaluna Baria/Moonhouse Productions for Okayplayer)
#4: OSHUN hold court with Erykah Badu at Broccoli City Festival
One generation of avant, artful soul collided and colluded with another at the Broccoli City Festival in Washington D.C. this summer. Specifically, New York rising stars OSHUN sat down with their heroine Erykah Badu to talk shop backstage, just before the latter headed out to DJ as Lo Down Loretta Brown. Even with other major players like Joey Bada$$ and Thundercat on the bill, this moment
(Photo by JazzShoots for Okayplayer)
#5: Janelle Monae Delivers an Impassioned Rendition of "HellYouTalmBout" at OneMusic Fest
It says something that out of of so much darkness, fear and even death, an artist like Janelle Monae can craft an anthem of empowerment. Monae stepped up for the Black Lives Matter movement at OneMusic Fest late this summer and gave a rousing performance of "HellYouTalmBout," leaving not a single spine unshivered across the entire festival grounds.
(Photo by Victoria Ford for Okayplayer)
#6: D'Angelo Brings The Second Coming Tour To The West Coast
Leave it to this guy to plot out an entire tour's worth of unforgettable moments. D'Angelo's "Second Coming" tour finally touched down on the West Coast earlier this year, and gave Oakland the pick-me-up it needed right then and there. It all hinged, as so much of the man's revitalized modern career does, on "The Charade," the Black Messiah cut that features chorus lyrics so iconic, we're certain we don't even need to spell them out at this point anymore. "Were gonna do this for Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Oscar Grant and a lot of others that we dont know the names of. This is for us, D'Angelo said before launching into the groove and never looking back.
(Photos by Ashleigh Reddy for Okayplayer)
#7: Miguel Sets His Wildheart Ablaze in New York City
With what seemed to be all of New York City hanging on his every crooned word, Miguel faced skyscraper-high pressure when he walked down into the depths of Le Poisson Rouge for his official album release show. Wildheart had been years in the making, a new work so integral to the young vocalist's life that he'd made it a kind of mission statement-turned mantra. As the livestream cameras buzzed and many more from around the globe tuned in, Miguel stepped up to the mic and simply, fiercely, elegantly and relentlessly delivered.
(Photos by Vickey Ford/Sneakshot for Okayplayer)
#8: Jungle & Ibeyi Heat Up Central Park's Summerstage
Whether you came for the Ibeyi or stayed for the Jungle, this year's Okayplayer showcase at Central Park's Summerstage was a perfect mix of rhythm and harmony, family and friends, beats rhymes and life. The Ibeyi sisters had us positively swooning with their acoustic arrangements, tender piano chord changes and, of course, those voices, and then just as we'd finished putting our hearts back together, Jungle appeared and proceeded to blast our knees, elbows, and hips into oblivion. We've never teared up and almost pulled a dance muscle at the exact same show, but there's a first time for everything, and we won't be forgetting this one anytime soon.
(Photos by Oluwaseye for Okayplayer)
#9: Spike Lee Dedicates Do The Right Thing Way In Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn
It was the most beautiful day in Brooklyn when damn near all of Bed Stuy showed up to celebrate not just the commemoration of Do The Right Thing Way, but also the universal holiday that is Michael Jackson's birthday. Meats were grilled, knees were broken (just b-boy style, mind you) and at the pivotal moment hundreds cheered as a bit of hip-hop cinema history made its mark on New York City forever. By the time the soul train line had formed, we knew it was guaranteed to be a classic afternoon. Spread love.
(Photos by Scott Heins for Okayplayer)
#10: Grace Jones Teleports Afropunk To Her Own Personal Dimension
You might be one of those witty types who quips "I hope I'm as spry as Grace Jones when I'm in my 60s," but hell, we hope we finish out our 40s with the kind of energy and unbridled confidence that she brought to Afropunk 2015. A thousands-strong crowd waited all day and night in the hot sun for Jones, who delivered hit after hit after hit while performing most of her set wearing, well, barely anything. But then, Jones could have been wearing an Inuit parka and it wouldn't have slowed her down a single mph.
(Photos by Vickey Ford For Okayplayer)
#11: De La Soul Maintain Their Supremacy at Philly's Made in America Fest
What's that they said, "It ain't hip to be labeled a hippie?" Well, with a new crowdfunded album on the way and a top-notch set at Philadelphia's Big Labor Day celebration that is Made in America Fest, De La Soul can feel pretty damn good about whatever they get called, so long as they continue doing things their own way.
(Photos by Vickey Ford for Okayplayer)
#12: Ms. Lauryn Hill Performs Live in Nigeria for the First Time
What can you say, really about an occasion that's auspicious, historic and funky-as-hell all at once? We'd be hard pressed to try, but Okayafrica's own Abiola Oke knocked it out of the park with his live from-the-grandstand recap of Lauryn Hill's Nigerian sojourn. Here's how he put it:
"After giving us one of the greatest works of art ever created in the last 25 years, Miss Lauryn Hill's greatness needs no introduction. People often deride her for her late shows, in some cases bad sound or performances of unrecognizable songs. I haven't witnessed any of these things to confirm, nor will I deny they happened, one thing was sure, she gave Nigeria everything she had last night.
It's not hyperbole when I say it was simply DIVINE!
To quote Talib Kweli, "Lauryn Hill gave us two Fugees albums, The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill and MTV Unplugged 2.0. How arrogant would I be to say she owed me anything? What kind of self absorbed, entitled nonsense is that?"
That said I feel sorry for all the people that left early. This made Arik Air postponing my flight a bit more tolerable."
#13: Erykah Badu + The Roots Pay a Tender Tribute to J Dilla in Los Angels
Common and the D.C. crew weren't the only ones raising it up for the fallen Yancey boy this summer. In a very special (and difficult to get into) show, Erykah Badu lead The Roots through a double-armed bundle of classic Dilla material, letting the band take over and do their instrumental-type thing wehnever the moment felt right. Lauryn Hill, Busta Rhymes and Bilal were also on-hand for the auspicious occasion, which nearly exploded once Questlove lead his band through the gentle slink of "Didn't Cha Know."
(Photos by Ricky Horne Jr. for Okayplayer)
#14: Floetry Reunite at Long Last
We weren't sure if we'd ever see the day, but the skies parted and greatness shone down. Floetry reunited B.B. King's, and our trusty confidant Cali Green was there live. We'll let her refresh out memories on why it was one of the summer's finest hours:
The sentiment of a family vibe was mutual throughout the room, as well when Natalie told everyone to sing as if in youre in your shower or car with the windows rolled up during Hey You, the audience was happy to oblige and join in. When Marsha confided that she was a little ratchet (and should be pronounced ratch-AY because shes British and sophisticated), her kindred in the room laughed as she continued, Im always the one who wants to turn up and the first to go to sleep. But Im about it in the moment!
(Photos by Elliott Ashby for Okayplayer)
#15: Phantogram Shine Like Diamonds In Philadelphia
One of the most vital aspects of The Roots Picnic is its diversity. To be sure, hip-hop dominates, but each year we do our best to bring a wide variety of rhythmically-inventive acts to the table, if only for the sake of putting people on to something new and slightly outside their familiar frame of mind. Enter: Phantogram. The indie electro-rock-beat duo from Greenwich, NY took the stage in front of thousands of Okayplayers and wasted no time tearing it all down. With cuts like "Running From The Cops," "When I'm Small," and, most of all "Mouthful of Diamonds," Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel had Philly reeling. Do you want more? Well then get yourself some Big Grams.
(Photo by Mel D. Cole for Okayplayer)
#16: The Weekends proves to The Roots--And The World--That He's Earned It
Those of us present at the Roots Picnic 2015 were mighty understanding when Erykah Badu took what appeared to be an encore break. The soul legend had just delivered one of the single most astonishing performances we'd ever seen (more on that later), and it seemed only right that the entire team of performers on stage take five. Right? Wrong.
Just as Badu hit stage left, Questlove launched into a slow and fiery waltz beating. Soon strings were laid on by James Poyser. Before we knew it The Weeknd himself had approached the mic stand and we were in the middle of "Earned It," his so smoove-you-can't-help-but-love-it single off of the 50 Shades of Grey Soundtrack. You could make the argument that "Earned It" was the song that made young Abel Tesfaye's current pop explosion possible, but at the moment size didn't matter. One silky run after another was piled over The Roots' backdrop, and the best part was, after all was said and done, we went right back to rocking with Erykah. Encore...perfected.
(Photo by Mel D. Cole for Okayplayer)
#17: Joey Bada$$ + Little Simz Tear Paris Apart
Two of the ver hungriest and most promising voices in hip-hop, Joey Bada$$ and Little Simz plit a bill back around the summer's opening, and it just so happened to be in Paris. From Joey's mesmerizing rendition of "Paper Trails" to a whole, whole lot more wild crowd situations than what our trusty shooter Mr. Mass captured, this who really did have it all--most importantly the proof that he next generation of MC talent is already thriving. Oui oui.
(Photos by Mr. Mass for Okayplaer)
#18: Jill Scott is the Queen of Brooklyn's Kings Theater
Soaring on the lift given by her new LP Woman, Jill Scott pulled into Brooklyn trailing clouds of glory and showing us just how powerful she is. That power manifested itself on stage, in collaboration with her band, and also the strong political stance she chose to carve out for herself during the set. Allow Cali Green to recap it:
Jill also took a moment to remind us to wake up as she murmured my mouth say Sandra Bland, my mouth say Sandra Bland, my mouth say Sandra Bland speaking to the woman who recently died in police custody. One of her most poignant statements of the night: Revolution is not done in the light. Revolution is done in the dark. There are no cameras allowed. - See more at: https://www.okayplayer.com/news/jill-scott-is-haunting-magical-on-tour-with-help-from-bj-the-chicago-kid-recap-photos.html#slide9
(Photos by Elliott Ashby for Okayplayer)
#19 Elton John & D'Angelo Made Outside Lands A Festival For The Ages
Let's face it, our generation may not be the movement people that made Woodstock and Wattstax the happenings that they were. But living legends Elton John and D'Angelo made it damn well clear they could take 2015 to the same plane onstage atCalifornia's Outside Lands festival, which brought tens of thousands to the bay area to feel the funk.
D'Angelo and Elton John photographed by Ashleigh Reddy at Outside Lands 2015 for Okayplayer.
#20: Erykah Badu and the Roots Hip-Hop Perform The Historical Hip-Hop Medley For The Ages
You had to have known there'd be no forgetting or omitting this one. OUt of the blue but with obvious prior prep, Erykah Badu and The Roots used their headlining status at Roots Picnic to put on a 15 minute-plus demonstration of just exactly why they're the top of the food chain. Blending in and out of "Love of My Life (An Ode to Hip-Hop)" and into classic cuts from Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Snoop Dogg, Kanye West, Nas, The Wu-Tang Clan and more, the onstage sages primed us for....
Utter madness. In rapid succession audiences were treated to surprise entrances from Freeway, YG and The Lox cause a borderline eruption at Festival Pier. Dashing in and out of "Love of My Life" with seamless transitions, knocking the clock's hands back and forth like they were pendulums, dizzy from all the years covered. When it was finally over, it was all we could do at Okayplayer to turn to each other and ask "Did that really just happen?" The truth is it did, and that alone made summer 2015 an unforgettable season. We'll see you next time 'round the sun.