Photos courtesy of Danny Pleckham
CHICAGO — As the July sun sizzled on this year’s wave of Lollapalooza festival-goers, an endless sea of basketball jerseys, fishnet leggings and glitter ceaselessly lined Chicago’s Michigan Avenue. A marquee street-way in the heartbeat of downtown’s The Loop, artists of all niches and sounds came together to celebrate the one thing that keeps music alive and well: The fans.
On the surface, there’s something for everybody at Lolla. Not only known for championing a variety of rock, alternative, EDM and indie acts, the coveted Chi-Town festival also hosted a slew of hip-hop’s premier voices like J.Cole, YG, Big Sean, Lil Durk, Don Toliver and underground stars alike. With this in mind, the new wave was in full force this past weekend (July 28-31), as ascending voices in redveil, midwxst, KayCyy, Glaive, SoFaygo, Cochise, Ericdoa and more are redefining the rules of what it means to be an underground act.
For most of these artists, it was their first time performing at the annual, historic festival in Grant Park. Proving to be an electric showing for a handful of our generation’s tantalizing trendsetters, being labeled as “underground” doesn’t mean what it used to. It’s a sense of pride and inclusion that cultivates each rising artist’s image and persona. While Lollapalooza is a testament to the star power that both these established and buzzing acts share, it’s an unselfish right of passage for the new wave to take their next steps into worldwide notoriety.
We caught up with midwxst, KayCyy, Glaive, Cochise and Ericdoa at Lollapalooza in Chicago — as they all spoke on how impactful it is to be apart of the current shift in music. Also covering performances from Denzel Curry, Teezo Touchdown and more, Lolla 2022 was certainly one to remember for hip-hop fans.
Day 1 (Thursday)
The PG County native came with energy for his first-ever set at Lollapalooza. Performing tracks like “sky” and “pgbaby” off his self-produced album learn 2 swim, Veil was one with his fan base on Thursday at Tito’s Handmade Vodka stage. Jumping into the photo pit to turn up with the crowd, Veil finished off his set with “Weight” — the electric 2020 hit that shot the 18-year-old phenom to prominence amid the release of his second project Niagara. Veil’s skills are even more impressive in person, flowing with ease and quick-witted awareness of the crowd, using each track to weave quips of his come-up and homegrown sound only he can spin.
“I don’t dap nobody up, I give everybody hugs,” midwxst said minutes after his set at Lolla’s Discord stage — emulating the positive mindset he channels into his psyche, music and most of all, for his fans. “Mindset is a really big thing that you need to have — especially for me,” he continued. “I only carry a mindset where I put out positivity and positivity is gonna come back to me.” His outlook on life not only feeds his desire to create genre-bending hits, but wills him to be a bright light shining on the dark, dreary ebbs-and-flows of the music industry.
His Thursday show was a true depiction of midwxst’s status as a pioneer for the SoundCloud renaissance. Dropping “under fire” hours before his first-ever concert at Lollapalooza, Edgar — who champions the electro-infused genre hyperpop — is remarkably in tune with himself at just 19-years-old, striving to create songs that immediately catch the ears of both die-hard fans and fresh-pressed listeners. His matinee crowd on Thursday relayed his “good vibes” wholeheartedly, as midwxst proved to be one of the most exciting sets the Discord stage saw all weekend. Performing for the platform that jumpstarted his music career in 2019-20, everything is coming full circle for Edgar in this moment as he continues to take off track-by-track — doing it all his way regardless of naysayers.
“I want people to understand like f–k the standards, f–k a trend or any of the common ground that you know,” he said. “Just because you got one person telling you that you can’t do something, or you got one person in your ear telling you that you’re not gonna amount to anything, blah, blah, blah, all of these things. F–k all of that. What do you think of yourself? If you think you can do something, and then put in the work, the effort and the time that’s necessary to make that grow into something, the payoff will be the sweetest satisfaction.”
“The thing about nowadays is that artists younger than me are giving me inspiration. But, I think it’s just really cool to be able to say that I’m a face of [the new wave]. I’m making sure that I can actually provide for the community that has brought me up. That’s why you always see me showing love because it doesn’t matter how many followers or listeners any person has — if they’re fire they’re fire. Some of my favorite artists only have like 800 to 1,000 followers. It’s those artists that you got to catch early on and to see them grow into something too.”midwxst on giving back to the community that brought him up
Day 2 (Friday)
Off the back of dropping his SoundCloud exclusive “LIGHT THE GLOBE (Serena)” — which he was supposed to perform — the YZY Sound enigma came out with tenacity at Lolla’s Discord stage on Friday (July 29) — repeatedly shouting to fans “CHICAGOOOO.” Performing hits off his latest mixtape GUTI like “Look What I Found” and “Hold You Up,” KayCyy sauntered from the stage’s left and right sides donning his notorious Who Is KayCyy? mask, lighting up both sections of the crowd with high energy cuts like “Stay Up” and wishful unreleased gems like “My Jeans.”
“Once I performed ‘Stay Up,’ I knew it couldn’t come back down from that,” he said, bolstering his presence as a bonafide underground hitmaker. When asked about his contributions up until this point, the Kenya-born, Minnesota-based star is striving to “break out of the norm” — pushing the culture and the new wave’s patented, rage-inducing sound further into the mainstream.
“That’s why I get people like 070 Shake and Lancey Foux [to work with me] because they always want to try new things,” he continued. “I want to keep doing new shit. I want to work with Toro Y Moi and people like that — just to continue being different.” For fans who didn’t know KayCyy and what he stands for prior to Lolla, they surely know now.
“I just kind of view myself like I’m gonna be on a Mount Rushmore of artists one day. I’m just trying to do as much as I can to fill that position and help all of my other peers or whoever else along the way. I want to push the sound forward and push the culture for music in itself. I study a lot of [what my peers and mentors] do, I want to keep learning.”KayCyy on his ascension in the new wave
Repping his signature white button down shirt and black tie, Glaive is ascending as pop’s next big superstar right before our eyes. Fans sporting “I Love Glaive” t-shirts littered the crowd’s rail riders, as the North Carolina enigma sparked flames at Lollapalooza’s Discord stage performing tracks like “prick,” “1984” and more off his latest record Old Dog, New Tricks.
When asked about any upcoming work, Glaive wasn’t remiss to mention how much music he’s made these last few months, but ultimately it’s not up to him what’s coming next. “”I will say this, I have made quite a few songs. I want to do an album, I want to put it out on my birthday — which is Jan. 20 and it’s a Friday — so it works out really well. Fingers crossed,” he said. However, time will tell what the budding pop icon has coming next in the pipeline, as Glaive’s trailblazing sound has paved the way for the genre of hyperpop to flourish in all aspects.
“It all depends on if I can get everything done right now,” he divulged. “I’ve made a lot of good songs, but I want it to be like every song is like, great, beautiful. I don’t want to have any songs that I’m like, ‘Oh, this is like not the best.’ So I’m really focusing on trying to make everything perfect.”
“It’s unfathomable for me. Even if it’s like one or 1 million people, it’s just these kids that hear my music, I want to be able to inspire them to make their own music. Like, I met Tana the other day and I was like ‘dude you’re so sick’ and he’s only 15! To me I think that’s kind of the the longer contributions [the new wave] is making. Whether it’s big for a moment, and then nobody cares about in the year, or whether you make music and it’s big for the rest of eternity. If you inspired just one random human being to try and express themselves through heart — that’s what matters.”Glaive on his impact in the new wave
SoFaygo‘s performance fully embodied the underground’s raging allure ten-fold. Off the back of his teaser EP B4PINK and surprise SoundCloud album BABYJACK, not only did Faygo come through with white-hot energy at the Discord stage — rapping along to After Me hits in “Off The Map,” “Hang With The Goats” and “Everyday” — but also unveiled a slew of unreleased tracks during his set. As fans turned up to “Count Me Out,” “Good Day” and more, a random Faygo fan threw a water bottle at the Atlanta-bred rapper on stage — an action too close to Kid Cudi‘s notorious departure from Rolling Loud in the weekend prior.
Faygo responded, “who threw that?” — questioning the crowd as a lone concert-goer raised his hand in triumph (for some reason). The crowd quickly mobbed him, as Faygo took the bottle toss off the chin and ended his set with a bang, previewing more tracks off his long-awaited album Pink Heartz. While “BABYJACK” preps for his eventual debut LP, it is evident Faygo’s rise in the new wave is as stratospheric as his undeniable stardom.
Day 3 (Saturday)
On a sweltering 90-degree day, Cochise was all business — sporting his trademark beige trench coat, dress shirt, black tie and loafers that could easily burn up the faint of heart. “I’m from Florida, I wear shit like this all the time,” he said. “And when you want to get your drip off with some hot shit, and just in dirt, sweat, just to get that damn fit off.”
Cochise’s drip is a huge part of his ascension as a tried and true artist — wanting listeners to pay close attention to the energetic and “serious” skills he displayed on his latest full-length record, The Inspection. His newfound moniker “The Professor” is an embodiment of the rebrand Chise is currently undergoing — asserting himself as a valuable, cultural tastemaker for years to come. His set at Lolla’s T-Mobile stage further showcased Cochise’s budding star power following his new LP, lighting up his packed crowd with bangers like “MEGAMAN,” “HALO” and more. On a mission to assure fans that he isn’t the character they thought he was, Cochise is an artist listeners need to take seriously from now on.
“The professor is basically just me sitting down and straying away from funny shit and just being an actual, serious artist,” he said. “This is me being on some cool shit and showing like, ‘Yo, I can be a serious artist’ and I wanted it to be strayed from me being a cool, funny dude. I can be a serious, really good artist.”
“Be yourself and stop trying to follow what everybody else is doing. Because at the end of the day when you locked up in a room, you are by yourself. The worst thing you want to do is blow up as a character — somebody that’s not you because you have to live and stay as that character. And that will destroy you as a person, that’ll bring down mental pain on some real shit. Just make sure you are always yourself and don’t care about who cares about you. At the end of the day, they’re not going to be with you forever.”Cochise on being original, authentic in who you are and art
Ericdoa dreamed of performing at Lollapalooza in his bedroom before he broke out in 2020 with his hit track “fantasize.” Now, he’s living out his dreams to the fullest — making the most of the opportunity he’s been given to make the music he loves with the people he loves. “I used to stand in front of a mirror, bro, and pretend I was at Lolla,” he said. “I would be jumping on my bed and f–king pretend I was performing at some crazy festival. The bed was my stage and it’s crazy to see where I’m at now.”
Stemming from the release of his first proper full-length things with wings, the hyperpop multi-hyphenate is a beacon of uniqueness for the underground’s core following. Touting a handful of different soundscapes — and skillsets — in his sonic repertoire, no sound goes untouched for Eric, who shut down his set at Lolla’s Coinbase stage on Saturday. While eric continues to champion the culture shift music is currently experiencing, his success is rooted in the new wave’s all-inclusive nature — welcoming any and all creators to make things that are intrinsically special to them.
“What we’ve contributed is an all inclusiveness [to our music] — like there’s not a single song that isn’t for everybody in [our wave]. I feel like with those like labels, leashes and stuff like that that come out of these communities, you only see certain people break in and they try to gate-keep and push people out. I feel like our shit is like very welcoming. It really doesn’t matter who you are, what creed, what race, color, anything — it’s inclusive and it’s support. That’s what I want. My main goal is to change music with my best friends and make all inclusive music for the rest of my f–king life. I have a sea of different people in front of me at these shows these kids that come up to me that are all special and unique in their own way.”ericdoa on the inclusiveness of the new wave
Day 4 (Sunday)
The inescapable Teezo Touchdown is truly one-of-a-kind. Putting on an extremely engaging, cinematic performance at the Discord stage, Teezo touched down at Lollapalooza on a mission to make his name unforgettable for matinee concert-goers. With his trademark nails scattered througout his dreads and using a red telephone as his microphone, Touchdown kicked off his performance getting the “Mid” off the streets — as “Mid” signs with a red Xs littered Teezo’s Lolla crowd. A entertainer at heart, the “RUN IT UP” emcee also previewed a new track off his highly-anticipated album. “I got an album on the way,” he boomed over his telephone sound system, sparking greater excitement within his performance which fully encompassed his enigmatic essence. Best believe Teezo will grace the stage at Lollapalooza once more in the future, because how could they not bring him back after that kind of set?
“Dom-i-nic, Dom-i-nic, Dom-i-nic,” fans chanted in great anticipation for Dominic Fike Sunday night. Perhaps drawing in the largest crowd the Discord stage saw all weekend, “Euphoria” star Dominic Fike returned for one of his first few performances following his role in the acclaimed HBO series. Strapped with a sawdust Les Paul — backed by his live band — Fike had fans roaring as each song cascaded into the next. Performing tracks off Don’t Forget About Me Demos like “Babydoll,” “King Of Everything” and more, Fike finished his set playing more somber cuts off his 2020 LP What Could Possibly Go Wrong. However, everything went right for Dominic — cruising through his 45-minute set bringing back the nostalgia fans still hold for timeless records. While a new project may be in store for the actor/singer/multi-instrumentalist, fans heeded Fike’s final words before he exited the stage — pining for another song and leaving them wanting more.
Denzel Curry was “Walkin” on air at Perry’s Stage Sunday night — shutting down the festival melting eyez as far as the eye can see. Performing tracks off his critically-acclaimed album Melt My Eyez, See Your Future, Zeltron was an animal on stage — head-bobbing, dancing and turning up with as much vigor and energy as the mosh-pits he ingnited. With the cityscape lit with glistening “Stay Safe Lolla” script, Zel bodied each song seamlessly — ending the festival on one of the highest notes in its history. Not to outshine J-Hope, but Denzel Curry stole the show in the festival’s finale.
Lollapalooza will be back in Chicago’s Grant Park from Aug. 3-6, 2023.