Art oc cool festival
Art oc cool festival
Photo Credit: Johnathan Robertson for Graphic: Evanka Williamson

From Ari Lennox to Big Daddy Kane: The 2019 Art of Cool Festival Was an Eclectic Mix of Veteran Legends and New Stars

The Art of Cool Festival fuses forward-thinking R&B, neo-soul, hip-hop, jazz, alternative, and spoken word greats over the course of a dope, culture-filled weekend.

“Who’s House?...The Bull’s House!” 

This past weekend, Bull City — aka Durham, north Carolina — celebrated its 6th annual Art of Cool Festival. The Art of Cool boasts to be a festival that fuses forward-thinking R&B, Neo Soul, Hip-Hop, Jazz, alternative and spoken word greats over the course of a dope, culture-filled weekend. Now under new leadership, headed by the Dome Group, the Art of Cool Festival looked to bring Durham to life over the weekend by celebrating Black music.

Headlining this year’s festival was an eclectic mix of the old and new: Ari Lennox, Jill Scott, Big Daddy Kane, Whodini, and Run-DMC.

Hailing as the first lady of Dreamville Records, Ari Lennox is no stranger to Durham or Art of Cool. Just three years ago, Ari was singing on the rooftop of American Underground in front of intimate crowds, now she’s on the mainstage belting out hits such as “Shea Butter Baby” “Whipped Cream” and “BMO”. As per all her performances, Ari connected with the crowd by engaging her love for the city and personalizing the performance to what concertgoers wanted to hear. Never shying away from her fans, Ari finished her set but promised to return; before she took a photos with fans, see first, Ms. Jilly from Philly. 

Experiencing a concert with Jill Scott is almost like meditation; Jill leaves you on an unexplainable high with a voice like no other. Jill gave Durham her greatest hits such as “He Loves Me” “A Long Walk,” and “The Way”. But the best part about Jill wasn’t necessarily her vocals but her talks in between sets,

“We are not alone in anything. No matter what it is. Someone somewhere went through the same thing. That’s where I write from… it’s a sacred place. It’s my blessing and privilege to share these things with you”

During Day two, the festival brought to life a few heads Hip-Hop Mount Rushmore: Big Daddy Kane, Run-D.M.C., and Whodini. 

Equipped with dance moves and proving music groups can stand the test of time, Whodini rocked the crowd with “Friends” and of course “Freaks Come Out At Night.” 

Returning to NC for the first time in 20 years, RUN-DMC rushed the stage in their classic adidas outfits and brimmed hats. (In fact, fans made sure to bring out their shell toes and matching fits to mirror the hip-hop legends.) Run and D.M.C. didn’t shy away from authorities:  “Ain’t no curfew tonight! There’s no Rev tonight, just Run!” DMC followed suit by hyping the crowd and the team eventually gave away a signed hat right off Run’s head. But the highlight of the show had to come from the DJ set, which was played by Jam Master Jay’s son, Jason Mizell. He showcased that he was a chip off the old block bringing back memories of the hall of fame DJ. 

Finally, something special happened Saturday night: Big Daddy Kane not only blessed his new home state by performing but was also honored for being inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame and announcing that October 17th will be known as Big Daddy Kane day in NC. BDK, who resides in Raleigh, NC, was gushed with pride as his adopted home celebrated him like he’s their own. BDK brought out hits such as “Set it Off” and “Ain't No Half-Steppin'’’.

The Art of Cool Festival has carved its way into the heart of NC. The festival has grown vastly in its short amount of existence with its growing community presence and celebration of music. If this was only in year six, one can only imagine what year seven will bring. 


Quierra Luck is a sports writer based in North Carolina. You can follow her @Quierra_Luck