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Summer Smash 2023 Recap: Playboi Carti, Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Yachty

Photos courtesy of John Cotter

CHICAGO — A sizzling start at Lyrical Lemonade’s fifth annual Summer Smash felt like a beach day you’ve been waiting for all year. Signature lyrical cartons lined the grounds at 20 feet high, as fans scattered the festival’s turf field in troves, trudging up and down the arena concourse with vigor while battling the sun’s rays each day. The humidity was replaced by endless gusts of wind and torrential downpours that were seemingly unavoidable. While fans sprinted to safety at the porta-potties and covered themselves with anything closeby — with a few using VIP chairs to shield themselves from the rain — a silver lining presented itself amid the dark, ominous clouds that rolled through Chicagoland’s southside on Sunday: A double rainbow.

Seat Geek Stadium in Bridgeview, Illinois not only became Summer Smash’s spacious new home, but was a huge move from its former fortress at Douglas Park the past four years. Within minutes of entering the grounds, we’re greeted by Cole Bennett — all smiles and welcoming the OGM crew with open arms. A scorching, seemingly skin-melting weekend in the sun not only highlighted sets from Kid Cudi, Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Yachty, Future, Ski Mask, Famous Dex and Playboi Carti, but bred a sense of community unbeknownst to other adjacent hip-hop festivals. Rising stars like Eem Triplin, DD Osama, DC The Don, Highway, JELEEL!, Matt Ox, Dom Corleo, Homixide Gang and more all continue to make their mark — imprinting their sound that’s defined a new generation.

After a packed weekend of performances (June 23-25), it was apparent Lyrical Lemonade squeezed every ounce of the culture at Summer Smash, knowing that this special setlist of artists — curated by Cole and company — would be the festival’s most memorable yet.

Check out our full coverage below!

Day 3 (Sunday)

Playboi Carti

A treacherous, bleak sky was the perfect backdrop to Playboi Carti’s finale show on Sunday (June 25), shouting and screaming alongside ravenous fans dressed in Opium’s signature black apparel. Made for the mosh pit, Carti’s live show is best described as an experience — not just another concert. With cinematic guitar medleys that intertwine in between tracks like “RIP,” “Sky,” “Location” among more Whole Lotta Red cuts, Carti expressed his love for fans during his set, shouting “I love you Chicago” on multiple occasions. What’s most memorable was how aware Carti is of their safety — pleading with fest-goers to “stay f**king safe,” “drink water” and “breathe.” Still without the MUSIC he promised this year, Playboi Carti’s influence on the current generation is truly inimitable.

Trippie Redd

“Please, bae, don’t go switchin’ sides,” Trippie Redd sang as the first wave of rain drenched fans at LL’s Starry Stage. With high energy performances of “F**k Love,” BANG!”, “Taking A Walk” and more classics, Redd’s presence at Summer Smash has become a regular outing over the years. As a leader of rap’s current generation, the 1400 rapper packed in thousands of dedicated fans that swarmed to see him rain or shine, with his upcoming album A Love Letter To You 5 looming closer.


One of many Chicago emcees that graced the festival this past weekend (G Herbo, Lil Durk, Ausar, Valee, Famous Dex), LUCKI‘s chokehold on the new wave was more palpable within the packed out bowl of Seat Geek stadium at Culture Kings stage. Die-hards embattled downpours by turning up to Tune’s greatest hits, as LUCKI performed the Cole Bennett-assisted “COINCIDENCE,” “Y NOT” and “KAPITOL DENIM” off his latest project FLAWLESS LIKE ME. LUCKI performing in his own city was a parade in itself — proving to be a FLAWLESS showcase of his overarching influence in Chicago and beyond.

Sid Shyne

It wasn’t just because he threw security into the pit, Sid Shyne‘s stage presence is an anomaly amongst new wave acts. The Opium adjacent rising star, whose latest EP Poison Ivy continues to make its rounds in the underground, is a magnet for energetic performances. Taking Lenny’s Zig Zag tent to a whole new level, tracks like “CYBERLOVE 333,” “SMOOTH CRIMINAL,” “Flyin” and more sent fans into cyber-shock, as the ATL native’s futuristic sound was on full display at Sunday’s Summer Smash finale.

Day 2 (Saturday)

Famous Dex

Electric was hardly enough to describe hometown legend Famous Dex’s set. Seat Geek stadium’s entire bowl was filled shoulder to shoulder, as the floor scattered and split like biblical waters when he jumped down into the sea of people beneath him. It was a homecoming well worth it. Dex was in high spirits and with high energy, especially being one of the most prolific Lyrical Lemonade veterans of all time. After seven years of working with Cole Bennett, the LL founder gave Dex his flowers on stage to the tune of thousands of adoring fans. It felt as if the world stopped and awed at Dex — remembering when the game was carried by the palm of his hand in the OG SoundCloud era. If anything, Dex was amongst family rather than fans, curating quite possibly the most intimate, full circle set at Summer Smash history.

Matt Ox

“Jet Lag” doesn’t faze Matt Ox. A star since he was barely 13-years-old, the Ox refuses to let up — especially at Summer Smash’s beloved, undeniable best stage: Lenny’s Zig Zag. Crammed and built for the pits, fans climbed poles at the back of the makeshift tent just to get a glimpse at the SURF GANG-adjacent emcee’s fiery setlist, which included hits in “Jet Lag,” “$$$” and more cuts off OXYgen and Year Of The Ox. Ox’s impact is so influential that most don’t know his true power, but after seeing him at Summer Smash, it was surely felt.

Lil Uzi Vert

Air Uzi. Uzi Hardy. Whatever you want to call them, Lil Uzi Vert cannot be stopped. Swanton bombing into the crowd like it was a caged Royal Rumble match, Uzi not only previewed more PINK TAPE cuts — including the high-powered Ken Carson-produced snippet — but also ETERNAL ATAKE bangers in “Silly Watch,” “Pop” and “SPACE CADET” off the PINK TAPE teaser EP Red & White. This is Uzi’s third consecutive festival performance following his triumphant Rolling Loud California show, where he initially updated fans on the progress of PINK TAPE’s completion. Slated for release on June 30, we’re now just days away from the album, to which Uzi can’t even believe it’s here. “I never thought this day would come,” he said. “Can’t believe we’re just a few days away.” Tearing down Summer Smash was a full circle moment for the Philly rapper, headlining Lyrical Lemonade’s Chicago show in 2016, which also billed Famous Dex.

Ski Mask The Slump God

Immediately after Uzi finished their set, fans flocked from Starry’s spacious turf field to Seat Geek’s stadium seats, as Summer Smash veteran Ski Mask The Slump God packed in a vibrant set of longtime hits — like he has been since the release of 2019’s Sin City — featuring usual touching tributes to his fallen brothers Juice WRLD and XXXTENTACION. This Chicago LL show felt like a family reunion for Ski and DJ Scheme, who brought out Danny Towers and Luh Tyler for their viral hit “Florida Water,” among other cult classics. Cole Bennett appeared on stage to pay homage to Ski’s influence on the brand, and at one moment, Ski stopped to hug a fan who scurried on stage to the dismay of security. However, he was all smiles. His live shows are just as high-energy as you’d expect, making his Summer Smash performance an overarching showcase of his star power — despite years of not dropping a full-length record.

Day 1 (Friday)

DC The Don

Stage diving into the crowd for his “first festival ever,” the people’s XXL Freshman DC The Don electrified the crowd in Summer Smash’s opening set. Sitting down with us to reveal not only his long-awaited mixtape SBSN is on the way, but The Rumors Are True — a new project altogether — is in DC’s sights. Performing longtime hits like “Hate It Or Love It,” FUNERAL favorites like “intuition” and “LUV” made an appearance during Donny’s 20-minute set. Hate him or love him, you can’t deny DC’s burgeoning superstar status — even meeting Cole Bennett minutes before he went on.

Lil Pump & Smokepurpp

Talk about nostalgia. Pure SoundCloud 2017 was brought back to life at Lenny’s Zig Zag when two of the era’s most prolific pioneers, Lil Pump and Smokepurpp, joined forces for a combined set of the ages. “Lil Pump I’m pregnant,” a sign read in the front row, held by a fest-goer who knew how funny (or true?) her message was. Nevertheless, it was an energy inescapable at the tent; Pump and Purpp still got it. If it wasn’t cult classics like “D ROSE,” “123,” “Gucci Gang” or “OK” that got you turnt, I don’t know what else would have. Despite a tumultuous fight for relavency, the South Florida trendsetters put on for the fan base that’s rode with them from the jump.

Lil Yachty

When Ice Spice surprisingly dropped out a day before the festival, many people wondered who would fill her place. Whispers hours before the open 7 p.m. slot became shouts when Lil Yachty appeared to perform “Coffin” — recreating the viral walk-out Boat brought forth last year. The Let’s Start Here artist interestingly left most of his album cuts off his song setlist, leaning into LL-adjacent bangers like “Minnesota” (an impactful moment being the fifth annual Summer Smash), “Flex Up” and his latest single “Strike (Holster)” — which was directed by Bennett back in April. Donning a bright, forest green camo fit with a bucket hat to match, Yachty’s headlining energy turned Day 1 fest-goers up to 10, especially when “Poland” blared through the Starry Stage speakers.

Eem Triplin

The last time we spoke with the “WALKED IN” rapper, he confirmed his debut EP was, indeed, in existence. Now, it’s just weeks away from release (July 9). Lenny’s Zig Zag Tent was the product of Eem Triplin‘s undeniable session, performing project singles in “WALKED IN,” “TELL ME IM RIGHT” and other hits like “JUST FRIENDS?“, as Triplin’s status as the underground’s marquee unique voice only grows with each appearance he makes — STILL PRETTY above all.

Kid Cudi

A Friday night cooldown was necessary after hours ceaseless sun frying, as the heat slowly fizzled away and was replaced by a cool breeze wisping through the stadium turf. Fans started shuffling towards the final act of the night, as Day 1’s headliner, Kid Cudi brought it back… WAY BACK, for Day 1 fans. Not only performing cuts off his latest record Entergalactic, Cudder was feeling himself at Lyrical’s Starry Stage, ironically under the stars. The legendary Mr. Rager, who admittedly is one of Cole Bennett’s all-time favorite artists, performed deep cuts off Man On The Moon II, Indicud and ultimately brought forth an intimate set that made passersby stop and stare — and it wasn’t because of his newly-donned blonde Mohawk and leather Biker drip. You can tell Cudi felt cool and comfortable at Summer Smash, disregarding back tracks and opting for live singing. This was a treat if you’ve rocked with Cudi for a while. “There’s always those one or two songs, at all my shows, that you can count on,” he said on stage, delivering with an intimate and powerful setlist that made seeing Cudi an exclusive treat for die-hard supporters. Oh, and INSANO coming soon, too.

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