The scorch and intimidation of performing on a Saturday, arguably the busiest day of the festival, manifested in different ways with some trying too hard, letting the intimidation of opening the day getting the better of them.
Trey Libra (formerly known as Jacob Izrael) was not one of these victims, performing with amazing ease and stage presence, despite the added pressure of opening the Ford Stage as a solo act, simultaneously acting as his own DJ, queuing the backing tracks that he seamlessly rapped over.
The respect and reverence level for Libra grows even higher as you listen to the painful honesty in his words, taking rap back to it’s purest roots as musical poetry. Far from the conglomerate laden verses of Top 20 rap now, Libra reminded listeners of the genre’s original purpose, which was to act as a voice to people who might not otherwise have one, or who no one would listen to.
Reflected in “Police State”, an interesting and deep beat played over a single violin drone slowed to sound like a ominous siren, the track could be deemed a bold choice given the police force roaming the grounds throughout the week.
The track however, was done both respectfully and truthfully, with Libra saying “The school ain’t nothing with the tuition, the brain ain’t nothing without intuition, the gun ain’t nothing without ammunition; so listen”.
There wasn’t a person in the crowd who wasn’t listening, captivated by his bare tracks (even the usually stoic and stone security guards, bouncing happily to the beat underneath the shadeless sun) which was highlighted especially in his closing track; not leaving in a bass heavy departure as others may but instead with track,
“Suicide Letter”, coming directly from Libra’s personal life.
And as he exited the stage, he left with the respect of everyone in the audience, honesty and a new point of view in the hearts of everyone who was present.
Sunfest showed the power of their lineup picks, in showing a diverse rainbow of shades and colors of a genre. Trey Libra’s audible graffiti to G-Eazy and his crew’s impeccably perfect beats, demonstrated later in the night.
And in yet another bright color of the genre that is lost in the hubbub of it, is another stone of inspiration for the sounds today. The playful, occasionally raunchy side that you could not only dance to, but smile along with, agreeing with the lyrics in a sly grin.
There isn’t a better example of this than duo Salt N Pepa, who in their 30th Year of performing can still not only hold the bar high but burst it sky-high.
The group, alongside DJ Spinderella, were something to behold, coming from that sacred Renaissance period of rap where the genre was as abundant and creative as new wave, each month seeming to bring a new legend and a new sound to rally to. Couple this with the arguable fact that without Cheryl James and Sandra Denton, female rappers such as Eve, Missy Elliott and yes, even Nicki Minaj, might not exist, paving the way for females in a male dominated market, while not being afraid to express their sexuality.
It is something of awe then, to be in the presence of the largely underrated and under credited Godmothers of rap, who can still not only work the crowd with ease, but attract it, drawing old fans and new listeners to their magnetism.
Performing hits such as “Let’s Talk About Sex”, “Push It” and “Shoop” (the latter of which getting a large resurgence thanks in part to 2015’s “Deadpool”, with some donning the character’s gear in respect), the star of the show was with DJ Spinderella, who seamlessly jumped from track to track without missing a beat, shining in her solo set where she incorporated James Brown into Guns N Roses, and to Nirvana, giving something for everyone in the diverse age range.
The group left with a Thanks for keeping the group “alive and relevant for 30 years” though the Thanks should go to the band for doing the same to us, showing that females are just as good as their male counterparts, and equality is nothing short of vital.
The amazing journey through rap’s many evolutions continued in the shape of iconic band, The Roots, who embody not only the diversification of the genre (having incorporated rock, jazz, pop and R&B sensibilities in their sound simultaneously) but a level of perfection that makes them so remarkable.
Opening with a James Brown style funk which extended into a full out jam session, it has to be stated that the group are first and foremost, a musician’s band. What Tool is to metal, or Dave Brubeck to jazz, The Roots remain unbeat in their flow, delivery and professionalism.
While the initial reaction to The Roots acting as The Tonight Show’s new house band was mixed, it was nothing short of a stroke of genius on Jimmy Fallon and NBC’s part. Where the doubters and fans of the act might have assumed it to be a commercialism move on the band’s part, it’s far from it.
The move was purely selfless, as it brought the diversity range of what The Roots have always been capable of, to an audience that may not have given a listen. There isn’t a genre that the band can’t do, and it’s what can take a new listener aback, as they waste no time to show what they’re capabale of live, through extended songs, and in between jam sessions, the band are a fan’s literal dream, giving stadium quality performances, no matter the venue.
While lead vocalist Black Thought and drummer Questlove remain the most recognizable members for a new listener, the stars of the day were Captain Kirk Douglas (guitar) and Jeremy Ellis (beat box), the latter mixing, mashing and playing with the dexterity of Beethoven, with the mad genius of a scientist.
Douglas’ talents lie in the amazing feat of flawless guitar playing, scatting as he played to a point where the line between musician and instrument became blurred, and where true music lies.
The Roots are exactly as they say, the foundation of rap and explorers of the tree of music.
While the intensity may be too much for a new listener, it is a beautiful sight to watch, and a fan’s epitome of a dream concert.
Meanwhile, at the JetBlue Stage, the venue once again played secret musical treasure trove for travellers in the shape of the Ethan Parker Band.
With a New Orleans and Memphis style sound, you became both surprised and proud that the band come from Jupiter, returning back to their hometown for a victorious show that only further demonstrates Florida’s musical talents.
Both easy going as the waterfront and as electric like the nautical storms that appear of their own volition, the band were the definition of, well, perfect.
There isn’t anything they didn’t do, providing rest and sanctuary to all who wandered into their side of the waterfront, even doing an amazing funk and jazz infused cover of “Crazy” with a bluegrass touch from their violinist, in a way that hadn’t been explored before in previous covers of the popular track.
Parker, expressing his love for Palm Beach (spending time there when he was younger), also gave advice that rang out to each patron, “Few people do things that they’re created to do, so whatever that dream is… You only live once, right?”
All the band’s here can be argued to be here out of a mixture of luck, talent and most importantly, dreams. As Parker so perfectly said, the thing that gets you up in the morning is the very thing that might give someone else chills, and the incentive that the constantly deemed “impossible” is actually the opposite.
As the sun began to set, and the group said their goodbyes with an extended and triumphant cut of “Walk on the Water”, you left feeling like you could sail the oceans.
And where the Jupiter band gave a delicate calm, the night’s electricity once again began to buzz over on the Ford Stage setting up for G-Eazy’s headliner set, who, both figuratively and literally, owned the stage, introducing a cavalcade of friends and peers from his Bay Area home to kick off the night.
Though the rapper has grown a massive fan base, and slowly climbing up into the higher ranks of the genre, it’s refreshing to see that he hasn’t forgotten his home, nor the collaborators who helped him, actively making sure you know who helped, and inspired him, which presents a behind the scenes look into the headliners own sound structure.
From Devon Baldwin’s commanding and rich vocals, to Marty Grimes amazing charm and talent with the crowd, as well as Nef the Pharaoh’s grittier take on the genre, each were just as good as the other, and all gratuitous to G-Eazy, who seemed to reciprocate this feeling.
And as the latter’s time approached, the crowd only became more epically sized, attracting a younger audience, as well as respect from the older crowd, coming from times of NWA, Public Enemy and Beastie Boys.
As the MC came out to a backdrop of neon sign lit storefronts and a digital billboard displaying fake wares that mixed in with his lyrics, there isn’t a doubt from the standpoint of the opening song, to mid-set that G-Eazy is without a doubt an amazing performer, pacing up and down the length of his private city, echoing the inner thoughts of every kid who paced that same endless pavement of cement towers, but is doing something just as important; which is giving the rap experience back to a younger generation.
A hundred smoky clubs in a thousand different places throughout the US in the 80’s and 90’s, bass booming and crowd hyped to a level that was both intimate and unexplainable, this was the base of stories you hear from people present.
And watching as G-Eazy performed intensity in tracks like “I Mean It” and “Lotta That” to crisp and clean as the Bay Area itself, “Far Alone”, you see undeniable hints of it, in that the rapper isn’t a walking billboard of product placements or money bags, nor is he self-righteous, placing himself higher above everyone else just for it.
Far from it, instead just representing his home, and his abilities and capabilities. Watching the crowd jump, sing and shout the lyrics back to the rapper and his quite talented drummer, sat atop one of the roofs of the city that could be anyone’s, from San Francisco, to West Palm Beach, there is a purity and inspiration in watching the performer, especially in track “Me, Myself & I”, featuring an immense crowd participation level.
And though he is far from being the next Tupac, Biggie or Dr. Dre, it is nice to see the newer age get a new hero it deserves and a new beat to dance to in some nameless city, where neon rules the night and headphones narrate the sidewalks.