It’s no secret that Chicago is a great city. The melting pot of the midwest is home to just about all things beautiful and unique in architecture, fashion, music and so many other categories. The rich culture floods downtown and seeps into surrounding neighborhoods like Pilsen, Wicker Park and Lakeview. These days it’s also no secret that once you stretch past downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods that Chicago is not really the safest place to live. As a matter of fact, the further south and west you go it’s not actually safe at all. Chicago has long been near the top of most murderous cities in the country and as of July 14 there had been 201 (reported) murders in the windy city this year. That number alone is scary without even taking into account all of the thousands of other crimes that take place. With the brunt of all this happening in the south and west hoods, Chicago’s own Common took it upon himself to throw an event that could bring the city together despite all of the horrors that occur here on a daily basis. The first annual Aahh! Fest was put together with the hopes that for one night the people of Chicago would come together and take pride in ourselves and our city. With charities like Donda’s House, Common Ground Foundation and The Lupe Fiasco foundation all serving as partners and accepting donations, Aahh! Fest was hoping to be a step in the right direction.
Dave Chappelle served as the event’s host and had the crowd in stitches from the time he took the stage, a little after 7pm. After a couple jokes about the crowd’s diversity, moving to China and how attending parties that have at least one transvestite equates to how famous you are, Lupe Fiasco took the stage. The Chicago MC delivered a short-yet-sweet set that went back, forth and in between his entire catalog. The songs that received the most appreciation from the crowd included “Kick, Push,” “Go Go Gadget Flow,” “Touch The Sky” and a very dope freestyle over Chief Keef’s “I Don’t Like”. When it seemed like Lupe was about to grace us with “Superstar” for his final song he was unceremoniously cut off. It was a rather odd way to end a very high energy set that really got the crowd going. After about 30 minutes of setting up for Common, Dave Chappelle came back out and told a few more jokes. All of them were side splitting (one in particular about a weed cookie causing a casualty in Denver was especially hilarious). I personally would like to see more music festivals hosted by comedians. (What’s better than dancing all day to great music? Laughing your ass off during the set breaks.) Common came out to a thunderous roar from the crowd. The very proud Chicago native wasn’t just a performer but also the man behind Aahh! Fest. Just like Lupe, Common bounced around his entire catalog including such classics as “Go” and “I Used To Love H.E.R.”. He even brought out Twista for a couple tracks including “Overnight Celebrity” and “Slow Jamz”. It was a fantastic set that could have certainly done the job in a headlining slot but there was still one very special surprise guest left.
While Common was still on the stage, “Jesus Walks” began to play and out from the darkness, strode Kanye West. Some were surprised, (but those in the know, know that Donda House is the charity Kanye started for his mother, Donda West, after she passed away in 2007) Kanye’s appearance still elicited a resounding response from the Chicago faithful. Yeezus belted a rant-free set that reminded us why we loved Kanye West in the first place. He played at least one track from each of his albums (minus 808s & Heartbreak) including “All Falls Down” (The College Dropout), “Gold Digger” (Late Registration), “Homecoming” (Graduation), “Power” (My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy), “New Slaves” (Yeezus), “Niggas In Paris” (Watch The Throne) and “Mercy” (Cruel Summer). For “Clique” he brought out Common, Jay Electronica and Vince Staples to join him on stage, and for the final song of the night Common and Yeezy played their classic cut “Get Em High.” (Dave Chappelle also lost out on the hypothetical award for night’s funniest happening when a guy and wheelchair was spotted crowdsurfing during the Kanye set.)
It truly was a great night for the city of Chicago and the second annual Aahh! Fest can’t be here soon enough. It’s not just because of the music either. The message was clear throughout the night: We are Chicago. The festival is proof that people can gather and rise above all the killing and hatred and violence, if only for one night. Things like that don’t happen over night and there’s no doubt that the city has a long way to go. It’s not impossible but it takes a lot of work. Here’s to hoping that one day Chicago will be far from the discussion of most murderous cities, and better known for its vast culture, beautiful art (of all kinds) and diversity. And you say Chi city…