CHICAGO — While there’s much to do, see, and hear at every Lollapalooza, this year’s outing at Grant Park was a spectacle for hip-hop — regardless of rains scouring the city.
The rise of Opium’s Ken Carson and Destroy Lonely is now fully cemented, as the first-time Lolla performers graced Chicago with unforgettable sets that solidified their presence as budding mainstream stars. Lil Yachty has bounced from Rolling Loud LA, Summer Smash, Rolling Loud Miami to Lollapalooza all within a span of months — wowing the crowd with a dual-set of long-time bangers (“Minnesota,” “Broccoli,” “One Night”), new favorites (“STRIKE (HOLSTER)“, “POLAND“) and a full list of Let’s Start Here jams.
For rap fans, the reason why you battled four days in the hazy heat and rain — and bought your band in the first place — was for Kendrick Lamar, who shut down Day 2 with a medley of his greatest hits as well as rarely-played features (i.e. The Weeknd’s “Sidewalks”). JID’s humble message of “I’m just here to perform some raps” incited roars from T-Mobile’s immovable, packed crowd. Alt-newcomers like Jean Dawson embodied personality and CHAOS* above all, as MAVI, Pardyalone and TiaCorine tantalized with a refreshing energy unseen during the festival’s 4-day rout.
Four days of acts, three days of coverage: Read and relive Lollapalooza featuring exclusive interviews with JID, Jean Dawson, TiaCorine, MAVI and Pardyalone.
Dark clouds engulfed Lolla’s breathtaking view of Chicago’s skyline on Sunday. The grass was clobbered with endless tread tracks, muddied craters and ponds of rainwater culminating at every turn, as sets from Lil Yachty, Joey Bada$$ and a very special Chi-Town guest revealed a glimmer of sunlight amid ominous, scattered showers.
What’s Lollapalooza without a surprise appearance from Chicago royalty? Chance The Rapper emphatically emerged from stage right of Joey Bada$$‘ set at Tito’s, where the “FOR MY PEOPLE” icon traded verses with Chance as he performed “NO PROBLEMS” and addressed the crowd with love and appreciation. Joey — who’s months removed from his latest single “FALLIN” and 1999 follow-up, 2000 — was full of energy, clad with a white-and-black babushka, prada shades and a glistening Capital Steez (rest in peace) bust-chain donned around his neck. As one of Lolla’s final rap acts of the weekend, the BADMON turnt Tito’s up to 10 with performances of “TEMPTATION,” “SHINE” and more, hoping he returns to Chicago much sooner than later.
Boat’s on a tear right now that’s hard to overlook. After performances at Rolling Loud LA, Summer Smash and Rolling Loud Miami all just months apart, Lil Yachty‘s dominance isn’t just because of his close friendship with Drake — he’s ascended altogether. Let’s Start Here was a perfect record to play in front of Lollapalooza’s majorly alt-rock crowd. A live band was placed ever-so-carefully around Yachty at center-stage, teasing that his elusive LSH set was to be performed (having not played any tracks off his latest studio album since Los Angeles in March). Starting off with a typical list of hits like “BROCCOLI,” “iSPY,” “POLAND” and “STRIKE (HOLSTER)” among others, the 25-year-old star transitioned from bangers to bliss, sending onlookers to another planet playing through his psych-rock effort from top to bottom. Fans swarmed Bud Light all the way to the back of the adjacent Tito’s stage (where Joey Basda$$ was set to perform), congregating to get a glimpse at Yachty in his artistic renaissance. Boat’s second time at Lollapalooza was well worth the price of admission. So, Let’s Start Here.
Embattling the muddy downpour Day 3 brought forth, smiles were still to be had at Grant Park. With performances from Pardyalone, MAVI, Jean Dawson, Destroy Lonely and JID, our generation’s brightest stars shined regardless of Saturday’s dark and dreary daze.
The rain picks up as we walk over to Bud Light a quarter before 1 p.m. To our dismay, and jealousy, every fest worker sports a poncho, as my photographer and I endure the downpour seeping through our t-shirts and clogging our sneakers with trench foot. This, though, wasn’t a deterrent of the moment we were about to experience on stage with Pardyalone, whose first-ever festival (not performance, FESTIVAL) was a day to remember. Showers stayed consistent in the build-up to Pardy’s set, which packed in a few thousand fans (the dedication!) amid muddy, drowsy weather. His mother stands next to us on stage left, saying how “speechless” she was to see the love Pardy garnered at Lollapalooza — of all places. An early festival slot on one of the fest’s most revered setups is a feat in itself, as Pardy’s genuine, carefree and humble personality bled all over performances from his debut project I Left You In Minnesota (July 26) — mirroring this energy to the tune of charismatic roars from the crowd. It was a sight to behold; a star in the making at the cusp of their full potential. Party alone all you want, but it wasn’t a party until Pardyalone hit the stage.
Snug in his trailer behind the Bacardi stage, Mavi readies for his first-ever Lollapalooza sporting a smile so contagious it lights up the room. We avoid the storm it incessantly washes over fest-goers, as the North Carolina rapper, who doubles as a lyrical philosopher, ponders his moment. We talk about his upbringing, his love for biology and desire to become a scientist; he recites facts about a type of algae that regenerates and heals other organisms. “All I remember from biology class is that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell,” I blurt out to a few chuckles in the green room. “Nah but that’s a fact!”, Mavi responds emphatically. Our chat isn’t just jovial, it’s outwardly intriguing — sitting across from an artist who’s so much more than meets the eye; calm, collected and confident in who he is.
This is wholeheartedly relayed in albums like Let The Sun Talk and Laughing So Hard It Hurts — still solidly packed in rotations of hardcore hip-hop listeners and new fans alike. Returning back to Chicago weeks after shutting down Pitchfork Festival in the city’s West Loop, Mavi toe-taps his way to centerstage clad with an infectious grin, reintroducing himself to the city he holds dear. “It’s just something about Chicago,” he told us backstage. “I just always find myself here… and I love it!” Sharp and cerebral, Mavi’s music doesn’t hit you over the head with deep 808s and rage-inducing energy. Rather, he picks the pockets of fans with bars so potent that the average listener wouldn’t notice on first rip. Needless to say, Lollapalooza took note of Mavi’s brimming, off-kilter vibe — especially after linking up with Chicago icon and Valee on “Watermelon Automobile” last month. Fake Shore Drive was the main proponent to this link-up, calling Andrew Barber “the GOAT” in all aspects.
Lonely has been a star of this year’s festival circuit, taking over every Rolling Loud, Wireless Festival and now Lollapalooza all within months. Performing at Coinbase — adjacent from Lolla’s marquee stage at T-Mobile — is a huge fest at for any first-time performer, let alone Lone, who was named RapCaviar’s 2023 Rookie Of The Year. The Look Killa’s energy was unbridled, and quite unrivaled from past festival sets, as I’ve caught him at both Rolling Loud LA and Miami this past year. Overflowing with energy, jumping, shouting and overall amped with the beautiful cityscape in his view, I took in his set from the pit — overran with sloppy, mud tracks and a sea of black fits and chains 00 fans have modeled their personas after. If Looks Could Kill hits cascaded into each other with ease, like “how u feel?” (which he just shared the visual for), “fly sht,” “by the pound” among others. Much like labelmate Ken Carson, Opium ran the pits at Lollapalooza in convincing fashion.
Entering JID’s spacious trailer behind Lolla’s designated press lounge, the Atlanta rapper returned to Chicago gleaming with excitement. ‘I’m just so happy to be back,” he says, donning his trademark bandana and Mac Miller ‘Swimming’ shirt. JID, who aided Miller in making his revered 2018 studio album, not only speaks on the “one-on-a-lifetime” and “beautiful” moments he and Mac shared in the studio, but a plethora of reflection on The Forever Story, and forthcoming album with Metro Boomin.
“We got to make sure [its] world is right, the world that we’re building,” he says. “We got a lot of music together, but we’ve just been pacing it. We’ve been sending each other stuff almost every day. We’ve both been on tour, so we’ve been working through that because he’s working like a madman right now… It’s going to be a special project.”
Headlined by one of hip-hop’s all-time greats Kendrick Lamar, Day 2 of Lollapalooza felt like a moment in time for Mr. Morale, Ken Carson, TiaCorine and more.
What can we say about Kung Fu Kenny’s performance that will make you bask in his greatness. Was it his bona fide classic setlist that stands the test of time (no matter the era)? Was it the blued-out, fully custom Willy Chavarria fit? Or was it simply K-Dot’s presence shimmering over the Chicago skyline? Whatever it was for you, seeing the prolific Mr. Morale in concert is a cant-miss event at any opportunity. Stemming from his multi-leg international THE BIG STEPPERS tour, Lamar’s headlining festival sets have been few and far in recent years. This, though, is the crux of Kendrick’s greatness, kicking off his fest appearances in Chi-Town before heading to San Francisco (Outside Lands, Aug. 11), as well as Austin (Austin City Limits Music Festival Oct. 6 & Oct. 11), Las Vegas (Life Is Beautiful, Sept. 22) and Atlanta (ONE Music Fest, Oct. 28). As iconic as he is, Day 2 finale’s felt more grandiose than any Lolla I’ve experienced; Kendrick just does that to you.
Ken Carson’s mystique is shrouded in Opium black, taking to the stage for his first-ever Lollapalooza with unmatched energy reciprocated from the crowd. “When I say go… go!”, he shouts into the mic, inciting the mosh instantly with A GREAT CHAOS still looming. Standing stage side watching Carson continue to elevate himself after career years and records such as Project X and X, it’s evident his arrival as a mainstream star was solidified during his Lolla set. This won’t be the last you see Ken in the Windy City either. Peep Opium’s “Antagonist Tour” set to wage rage across the country this Fall.