Photo by @africanist
Saturday. Early evening. A hot, summery day in Washington, D.C. was coming to a close.
The SMILE Carnival was underway for the third day in a row. GoldLink had just performed “Crew” for the second time in a row. I had just finished singing Brent Faiyaz’s ad-libs like I was a backup vocalist for Jodeci (no no no nooooo). A big part of me was silently hoping that he’d pull a move like Travis $cott recently did with “Goosebumps” and run it back about 14 more times.
I wasn’t the only one.
When they ask you to perform crew for the 5th time pic.twitter.com/2sSGG8NHQg
— dusty (@africanist_) 4 June 2017
To say that the energy was infectious would be an understatement. This song, a standout from At What Cost, has been making waves since its release in December 2016, but the warm weather has given it new wings – especially in D.C., the home of both GoldLink and Shy Glizzy. While both of these artists have strong followings, their collaboration on this record represents the marriage of two different segments of the hip-hop spectrum. GoldLink first rose to prominence through infectious songs built on top of future bounce-influenced instrumentals, a globally recognized sound with a very niche audience. Shy Glizzy’s anthems have been ringing off in parts of the city that don’t welcome outsiders with open arms. Yet, their chemistry on “Crew” was undeniable. It was a landmark record in the midst of GoldLink’s return to more D.C. centric influences, and it marked Glizzy’s crossover into more chart-friendly territory.
“Crew” was produced by Memphis-based producer Teddy Walton, whose SoundCloud bio explains that he’s inspired by “SWV, Three 6 Mafia, and God.” Somehow, that feels like the perfect way to begin explaining why the song is so uniquely infectious. Glizzy didn’t make an appearance for his verse that day, but we all held it down for him. All of us. A mob of GoldLink’s friends added to onstage energy, too.
— belise (@belisethomas) June 4, 2017
As all performances do, eventually GoldLink’s set came to a close. I looked behind me and was pleasantly surprised to see just how beautiful the lights on all the rides looked as night fell. I had been at the carnival for most of the day, devoting a significant amount of time to watching beautiful little black babies running around, their parents desperately trying to keep up. Nighttime transformed that RFK parking lot into an entirely different experience.
Something for everybody.
Photo by Tonii Mackie
The Smile Project Carnival, which was organized by Broccoli City, was a juxtaposition of two seemingly incompatible event concepts – a family friendly carnival, and a vibrant showcase of D.C. music talent. Well known acts from the area such as April + Vista, Alison Carney, and Black Alley made their mark.
There were amusement park rides. Ones that threw you around in circles. Ones that flipped you over. Ones that allowed you to free fall until your stomach was in your throat. Ones full of twists and turns. You could test your strength, eye coordination, or quickness in an effort to win a stuffed animal or inflatable hammer in different games. Funnel cakes, Italian sausages, and fresh squeezed lemonade were waiting for you when it was time to find some shade and take a break.
It gave the college kids who were too insecure that they might actually enjoy riding a Ferris wheel on a Friday night license to embrace their inner hyperactive 9 year old inner self for a little bit. It enabled parents with strollers, baby carriers and cotton candy in hand the change to enjoy a bit of the live music scene that they normally had to purchase a babysitter to enjoy. It gave people in their late twenties an opportunity to look at their past and future selves, while enjoying the varied entertainment options in front of them.
It was unexpected, but it worked.
Photo by Tonii Mackie
The Smile Project Carnival and Concert was built around the same overarching principle that makes “Crew” the special, undeniably D.C. anthem that it is – unexpected chemistry between seemingly opposing concepts. While “Crew” was tied together by Brent Faiyaz’s hook and Teddy Walton’s production, The Smile Project was unified by the camaraderie that can only be generated live and in person, away from computer screens and smartphone group chats. Some people enjoyed both elements of the event, while others only partook in one or the other. Regardless, there was a little bit of something for everybody.
Even those damn millennials.
Thanks to @africanist for the cover image