Summer Smash 2021: Lyrical Lemonade festival recap

After over a year without live performances, Lyrical Lemonade triumphantly brought back summer’s smash-hits to Chicago.

Hosting its third annual Summer Smash festival at Douglass Park Aug. 20-22, the festival proved to be not only one of the most anticipated in hip-hop this year, but also featured bonafide superstars and rising up-and-comers alike.

Lyrical Lemonade has made a name off their allegiance to underground talent — highlighting bubbling artists and shooting them into the spotlight. Artists in Juice WRLD, Ski Mask, Lil Skies and $NOT have all garnered acclaim through Lyrical Lemonade’s animated creative style.

Thanks to Cole Bennet’s artistic vision, Summer Smash saw a huge turnout ready to turn up at every stage. The event was split into three sections. The SPKRBX and Lyrical Lemonade stages both allowed for bigger acts to thrive with more open space, while Lenny’s Tent provided an intimate setting for lesser known acts to go crazy with their fans. Merch tents scattered throughout the park, as an arcade, hundreds of vendors and Cole’s signature Lyrical Lemonade brought forth an overall enjoyable experience.

With headliners in Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Baby and A$AP Rocky, Our Generation Music also caught up with new wave phenoms in Glaive, ericdoa, Lil Tecca, midwxst, SoFaygo, BabySantana, Slump6s, SSGKobe, Ken Car$on, bktherula, Cochise, $NOT among others — taking you on a behind the scenes look at one of the summer’s biggest outdoor concert performances, aftershow events and more.

Along with OGM’s behind the scenes coverage, we scattered throughout the park to review some of the festival’s most enigmatic acts over the course of the weekend. Read some of our favorite performances below and watch our behind the scenes coverage in the latest OGM vlogs.


Don Toliver

Surrounded by a sea of inflatable mushrooms and an elevated drop-top convertible, Don Toliver set the SPKRBX stage on fire — literally. Ending the show with a fireworks display that was too close for comfort, the stage set ablaze in fitting fashion for Toliver who perfectly performed hits in “Lemonade,” “Company,” “Drugz N Hella Melodies,” “CAN’T SAY,” “2 Shorty” and more.

The Cactus Jack artist’s soulful vocals and trippy visuals ignited a sea of euphoria as the sun set over the Chicago skyline Sunday night, offering a riveting and immersive concert performance for all “smashers” in attendance.

Dro Kenji

The Internet Money prodigy had no issue turning in an electric set for one of his first festival acts ever. Along with performing at Rolling Loud and HIVE Festival earlier this summer, Kenji bolstered his rockstar persona further by taking the stage at Lenny’s Tent with refined poise and energy. With a few hundred fans in attendance, Kenji ignited moshpits with tracks in “IM RICH NOW BITCH,” “Save Me,” “INSANE,” “Kill Cupid” and more. His stage presence and performance were stellar, as Kenji strives to become one of the new wave’s brightest stars on his way to the top.

Glaive

“I was terrified that no one would show up… but F*CK!” said the 16-year-old star Glaive walking out on stage at Lenny’s Tent. With a crowd of a few hundred, Glaive certainly left a presence at Summer Smash. Off the back of releasing his debut project all dogs go to heaven, Glaive seemed in his element performing — hopping up on speakers, letting loose and connecting with the audience in a unique way. After all, he’s a kid at heart, and seeing him perform a lights out set filled with charisma and candor further proved his place among the new wave’s most talented artists. Performing “1984,” “bastard,” “detest me” and more, Glaive’s intimately raw vocals were perfect for Lenny’s confined space, as the North Carolina native’s set was swarmed with fans from the rail to the back patches of grass. Ultimately, Glaive stole the show Friday — and rightfully so.

Lil Tecca

18-year old rap phenom Lil Tecca gave the penultimate performance at the SPKRBX stage on Friday’s set list. One week before his mixtape We Love You Tecca 2 is slated for release, Tecca opened his set with a throwback to his first WLYT tape with “Did It Again.” It’s a unique opportunity for an artist that’s still a teenager to evoke nostalgia out of a crowd with their music, but Tecca has been in his bag for more than three years now. Old hits like this and “Somebody” by him, A Boogie wit da Hoodie and Internet Money from 2019 certainly helped to get the crowd’s full attention, allowing him to use the rest of his set to let his more recent music take center stage.

The crowd was engaged when he played the lead singles for WLYT2 like “Money on Me” and “REPEAT IT” with Gunna. So judging by the crowd’s excitement, the people are ready for the mixtape. To put a bow on his stellar performance, Tecca closed with his smash hit “Ransom,” allowing the crowd to rap the first portion with him without the instrumental to mount up even more hype. The song then played, the crowd erupted, and Lil Tecca called it a day.

Baby Keem

While Summer Smash and Lyrical Lemonade specifically pride themselves in spotlighting younger, more up-and-coming artists, there is nothing amateur about Baby Keem. His 7:10 set on Saturday at the main Lyrical Lemonade Stage was raucous. Ever since his blow-up with his 2019 project DIE FOR MY BITCH, each of Keem’s singles has gained more traction than the last. His set followed this same pattern, mostly starting with songs from DIE FOR MY BITCH, first starting with “FRANCE FREESTYLE” and immediately following with “INVENTED IT, “BULLIES” and “APOLoGIZE.” With each next song he played, he inserted more energy into the crowd, jumping around and shouting to match the fire his songs elicit. The ears of the attendees particularly perked up s he played newer tracks like his April hit “drug activity” with Travis Scott and “hooligan.” As he has been doing at other recent shows, Keem played an unreleased banger featuring Kendrick Lamar that ignited the crowd. Based on the crowd’s performance, you can tell the world is ready for his upcoming album “The Melodic Blue.”

$NOT

On the festival’s final day, $NOT’s 3:25 set at the SPKRBX stage served as a more-than-sufficient warm-up for the attendees. As one of the more well-known new wave rappers in the game, $NOT’s performance was filled with his most potent tracks. Opening with “Watch Out,” the intro from his most recent October 2020 project Beautiful Havoc, the crowd was lively from the jump. $NOT played a fabulous blend of some of his older songs like “BERETTA” with Wifisfuneral and his 2018 smash his “Gosha,’ as well as his newer 2021 songs like “Whipski” with Lil Skies. The climax of the entire performance came when he brought out fellow Floridian Cochise for their Billboard hit “Tell Em” for the last song, detonating the crowd as they moshed at each beat drop.

A$AP Rocky

Summer Smash was full of surprises, starting with A$AP Rocky’s closing set on the first day. Fans of his flocked to his set prepared for him to perform classics such as “Goldie,” Peso” and “F***in’ Problems” but were greeted with a completely new experience. His performance went on to contain a majority of unreleased music from his upcoming album, previously previewed as All Smiles.

Rocky commanded the crowd with his charming demeanor and the experience of a veteran, receiving gifts from the crowd in the form of bras, underwear and even a wig. To top it off, he brought out two of his less mainstream signees — ICYTWAT and Thoto. The duo, going by group name ThotTwat, assisted Rocky for multiple songs, implying their upcoming features on his project.

SSGKobe

SSGKobe has been one of the most in-demand rappers of the year, dropping multiple videos with host of the weekend Cole Bennett for his songs “Calabasas” and “MIA.” Fans showed up early in the second day of the festival to catch his afternoon set, where he performed favorites from his discography. He opened up with “thrax” and proceeded to go through his EP KO before previewing a new song titled “Caddy.” To close out, Kobe blessed the crowd with two performances of “MIA” and an appearance from Cole Bennet himself.

Lil Uzi Vert

Any longtime Uzi fan can tell you that he is an absolute maniac on stage, with Summer Smash being no exception. Following in Rocky’s footsteps, he started his set off with unreleased music from his upcoming Pink Tape.With such an extensive discography, Lil Uzi decided to fit as much material as he could in his hour-long window, opting to play snippets of countless hits from his discography such as “Money Longer”, “The Way Life Goes” and “Shoota.” His onstage persona is playful and adaptable, grabbing phones onstage and taking selfies before throwing them back haphazardly. For the entirety of the performance, Uzi was a blur of dance moves, somersaults and crowd surfing, encouraging fans to use every last bit of their energy for the weekend at his closing set.

EXPLORE

.@MetroBoomin just dropped the “Superhero” music video with @1future… what are your favorite tracks off #HeroesandVillains so far? #OGM

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🎙️ @YungKayo_
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