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Top 10 artists you NEED to see at Summer Smash

Words by Jon Barlas & John Cotter

Lyrical Lemonade’s fifth annual festival is shaping up to be the best in Summer Smash history — and now, we’re one day away! With headliners in Playboi Carti, Kid Cudi, Future and Lil Uzi Vert, who’s primed to perform a few PINK TAPE tracks, these acts aren’t the only ones we’re itching to see this weekend (June 23-25) at Seat Geek Stadium in Bridgeview, Illinois.

Aside from the headliners and usual suspects — as well as news of Lyrical Lemonade sharing “Doomsday” (the lead single off their upcoming compilation album) featuring Juice WRLD and Cordae to ring in the festivities — SS23 will certainly be another moment in time. With a bigger venue fit for the biggest stars on the planet, here’s 10 artists on our radar that you need to catch at Summer Smash:


Performing at: Culture Kings @ 6:50 PM (6/25)
Hometown: Chicago
Song you NEED to see: “WHITE HOUSE,” “NO BAP,” “Super Urus,” “Leave Her,” “NEW DRANK,” “SUNSET”

Need we state the obvious? LUCKI performing in his own city is a parade in itself — aiming to be a FLAWLESS showcase of his overarching influence in Chicago and beyond. Considering his glow-up from underground king to mainstream star, stemming from albums in FLAWLESS LIKE ME and his forthcoming tape SMD, expect Tune to turn up the largest stage at the venue, Culture Kings, with ease. — JB


Performing at: Zig Zag @ 4:35 PM (6/25)
Hometown: Haunted Mound
Songs you NEED to see: “Creepin’ Thru Da Woods,” “Slaughter House,” “Funeral”

The biggest outlier on the lineup in the best way possible, Sematary is experimental hip-hop at its most extreme. Distorted noise might as well be an ad-lib for Sematary’s thrashing melodies and double-digit decibel vocals. The vibe is more akin to a dirty basement as opposed to the biggest hip-hp festival in the Midwest. Welcome to Summer Smash, Sematary. — JC

Eem Triplin

Performing at: Zig Zag @ 6:45 PM (6/23)
Hometown: Philadelphia

Notiorous for barely packing in “13 fans” at festivals, Eem Triplin’s presence is thanks to his meme-era personality and uniquely undoubted ear. Rocking Rolling Loud California to waves of fans at every corner, expect his Summer Smash set to be a Lyrical Lemoande debut worthy of witness. After all, the producer-turned-rapper has worked closely with LL vet $NOT for years — evidently building the bridge towards his first Summer Smash set of his career. Here’s hoping no puking fans make their way on stage this time around. — JB

Famous Dex

Performing at: Culture Kings @ 6:20 PM (6/24)
Hometown: Englewood, Chicago
Songs you NEED to see: “Ok Dexter,” “Hoes Mad,” “PICK IT UP”

Famous Dex might be the most integral artist that’s contributed to Lyrical Lemonade’s initial success. While a debatable topic, what’s not up for debate is Dex and Cole’s bond, something they’ve both have championed repeatedly throughout their respective careers. After the “Drip From My Walk” rapper put on possibly the best performance of the evening at last year’s Juice WRLD Day show, it’s safe to say this one is unmissable. — JC


Performing at: Culture Kings @ 4:30 PM (6/23)
Hometown: Chicago
Songs you NEED to see: “I Got Whatever,” “You & Me Both,” “WOMP WOMP”

Infectious and innovative, Chicago native Valee‘s discography doesn’t even tell the whole story. His trademarked flow has been borrowed and copied by many, but it’s the craftmanship behind Valee’s adaptive cadence that separates him from the rest, time and time again. — JC


Performing at: Zig Zag @ 2:20 PM (6/24)
Hometown: Seattle
Songs you NEED to see: “Let Up,” “Better Float,” “All U Needed,” “Sin City”

Seattle’s best kept secret has refused to “Let Up” since the release of his latest mixtape, MONOCHROME. Not only putting his sound and himself on the fast lane to stardom, but Highway possesses an intrinsic, left-of-center versatility that’s sure to wow new listeners sauntering around the grounds on Saturday. With his first-ever set at Summer Smash, the “Better Float” emcee will have fest-goers searching his name on Spotify seconds after he starts performing. — JB

Ski Mask The Slump God & DJ Scheme

Performing at: Culture Kings @ 8:55 PM (6/24)
Hometown: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Songs you NEED to see: “Nuketown,” “Take a Step Back,” “OOGA BOOGA!”

The frequent Cole Bennett collaborator is a near lock for anyone looking to experience the most hype sets possible at Summer Smash. Plus, if you’re a hardcore Ski fan, you’re more than likely to hear some throwbacks during his set like “Catch Me Outside” and “BabyWipe“; songs that may already fill his typical setlist, but will hit especially hard at a festival where he’s known to leave it all on the stage. Presumably alongside his partner-in-crime DJ Scheme, who also boasts his own DJ set at the park, expect fireworks from one of LL’s marquee superstars. — JC


Performing at: Starry @ 2:15 PM (6/25)
Hometown: Chicago
Songs you NEED to see: “Ghosted,” “Don’t Date Rappers,” “Homies”

Seeing artists get well-deserved shine in their city always warms my heart — and Ausar is just one of the many Chicago natives putting on for the home crowd. The up-and-coming singer-rapper has had the city on lock since the release of “Don’t Date Rappers” in April, sounding as if SABA and Isaiah Rashad melded into a singular voice. Cultivating close relationships with Chris Patrick and Dende over the past few years, the CXR stars — who both bend and boast a balance of sensual vocals and potent bars — make a near perfect connection to Ausar’s skillset. Intentional and captivating, Ausar is someone you don’t want to miss if you’re spotting Chicagoland talent. — JB


Performing at: Culture Kings @ 2:45 PM (6/25)
Hometown: Los Angeles
Songs you NEED to see: “My Year,” “Ovo Flow”

After a more than two-year musical hiatus, the LA rapper flew back on listener’s radar’s with the single “My Year,” fittingly preceding his set at Summer Smash. With plenty of unreleased bangers that are hopefully soon to come, it’s worth stopping by to see what BROKEBOii has to offer to the Chicago crowd. — JC

Lil Skies

Performing at: Starry Stage @ 5:15 PM (6/25)
Hometown: Chambersburg, Pennsylvania
Songs you NEED to see: “Red Roses,” “Havin My Way,” “Whipski,” “Nowadays”

Lil Skies has made Summer Smash a special occasion since the festival’s inception in 2018. Off the back of his prolific SoundCloud era debut, Life Of A Dark Rose, the Lyrical Lemonade veteran has shut down sets five years consecutively, as he’s one of just five artists to perform at Summer Smash every single year. Whether it’s newer cuts like “Whipski” or 2018 classics like “Red Roses,” no matter what Skies plays, his performance is a must-see to celebrate Summer Smash’s fifth anniversary. — JB

Honorable Mentions: DC The Don, Luh Tyler, Central Cee, Veeze, Homixide Gang, JELEEL!