Roots Picnic. It’s always a memorable time when melanated folk come together, and the city of Brotherly Love did not disappoint. Thousands populated The Mann at Fairmount Park, dividing between the three stages or Food trucks as the sunny Philadelphia day went on. The attendees were treated to a day of pure bliss with over 25 artists, DJs or podcasts set to appear.
I predicted how the day would go based on a setlist full of R&B artists and soulful rappers. I wasn’t totally off. There were a few trap acts and the spike in energy is always welcome. Overall, it was mellow yet still highly enjoyable.
The Fairmount Park Stage
I was able to catch Dreamville‘s own Ari Lennox right when I arrived, who absolutely murdered her set. I was especially excited to see her given how great her debut album Shea Butter Baby is. Videos of her performances on social media have only made it seem even more like I was in for something special. Nailed it. She sounds exactly like she sounds on the album. Her vocals are enchanting. She works the stage and looks like she’s having a blast.
I was a bit frustrated at her teasing J.Cole was going to come out for the title track, but “New Apartment” and “BMO” surely made up for it. Ari was my personal MVP for the Fairmount Park Stage, which also featured H.E.R, Davido, Lil Baby, 21 Savage, City Girls and The Roots performing Things Fall Apart. Yeah, she did that.
Not to say they all didn’t do their thing. The shaded-songstress gave us the goods with “Best Part,” “Hard Place,” “Avenue,” “Focus,” and others. She never disappoints. 21 delivered his old bangers like “No Heart,” “X,” and “Bank Account” plus a slew of more recent cuts and features like “a lot,” “out for the night,” “Sneakin'” and “rockstar.” There was a bit of confusion in the crowd after a loud noise caused people to quickly evacuate the premises. Best wishes to the five people reported injured, and anyone else who may have been hurt. Thankfully all was able to be gotten in order and the day progressed.
Leven Kali wooed the Roots Picnic crowd with chilling vocals. Yung Miami held down the fort for the beloved City Girls, performing “Season,” their portion of “In My Feelings” and the current sensation “Act Up.” I was a bit shocked at how calm the crowd was given that song is a strong contender for song of the summer, but it was still enjoyable to see her do live again. Especially bringing out King Combs for “Surf.”
The Mann Stage
For the Mann Stage, my personal MVP would be Detroit’s Queen Naija. I’d been a fan of her song “Butterflies” and the ballad “Come Closer” off of Hoodie SZN by A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie. I was interested to see her live as a result of how she sounded in my headphones. I was blown away live.
Her presence, the fact she also resembled the actual records, and the selection of songs were all on point. She performed the two previously mentioned, in addition to some of her earlier catalog. I think a lot of people walked away from Roots Picnic with the thought to go stream some more of her music and see what else she’s got.
The Cricket Stage
Admittedly, I only made it to the Cricket Stage for DJ Aktive‘s set and The Joe Budden Podcast. Aktive held it down though and brought out the hometown queen Bri Steves, who always tears any show up. “Jealousy” hits every time. But it was the Spotify boys Joe Budden, Rory, Mal and Parks who take MVP for that stage.
Whether it was Joe dancing to his smash single “Pump It Up,” reading Mal’s Dick Yelp review aloud to the crowd, or them roasting the sign language guys only for them to stand there translating it, there were few moments where laughter wasn’t occurring. To put on such a show after traveling for half of the week and recording two podcasts, it’s clear they care about the fans but also love what they do. In turn, we get so much out of it.
I saw Black Thought hit the stage two separate times, once at Mann for the Live Mixtape with Yasiin Bey and then again to end the night back at Fairmount Park stage with The Roots. They brought out Freeway, Beanie Sigel, Jill Scott, Common. It was something for the ages. Thank you to The Roots for caring about the music community and putting together such an event. Black excellence in abundance. I’ll be waiting for next year’s ticket link to drop.