Feature Image: Arthur Chen
Last week, on the campus of Syracuse University, the Delta Zeta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated hosted its 10th annual Hope Benefit Festival featuring Philly’s own Lil Uzi Vert, Harlem’s Dave East, and Atlanta’s Lil Yachty, bringing a few students of the XXL Freshman Class of 2016 to life. Although this event serves as the biggest of the first semester, the heart in the creation of so is always the focus, as the men of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. strive to better the community. The Hope Benefit Festival is put on at Syracuse University and all proceeds are forwarded to a charitable cause. In retrospect, Hope Benefit comes right before we all go home for break where we can relax, and turn up with no worries. This year’s selection of artists was tailored to the new school evolution of hip-hop where the party scene is always at its peak. Last week in Goldstein Auditorium, at Syracuse University, the Alphas hosted the biggest party in the state of New York, and I was front row for all of it.
Reppin’ East Harlem, New York, Dave East is as raw as the streets in the borough he lives in. No, he’s not a gangster rapper but from his sound he is most certainly from the gutter. What might prevail him over other rappers is the fact that his content is cold, ice cold. Considered as a new school Nas from his art of storytelling and casual “murdering” of a bar, Dave East signed to Mass Appeal Records in 2015 after dropping his most notable mixtape, Black Rose, in 2014. After dropping another tape in 2015 entitled Hate Me Now featuring the likes of Nas, Pusha T, and Jadakiss, his rise to fame was heavily boosted and following in February of 2016, his single “Cut It” peaked at number 9 on the Billboard charts. With a rather flooded vote, Dave East was named to the XXL Freshman Class of 2016 because he brought something to the game that seemed to be dwindling away; heart. Performing almost every song from his debut album, entitled after his daughter, Kairi Chanel, Dave East came out with his hood up and glasses on as a dark figure with so many light fluid words. He held the mic like a true MC, making Goldstein Auditorium seem like it was a hip-hop/rap club in Brooklyn, New York in the year 1998. His set truly represented the raw landscape that hip-hop can still have, especially where a new hip-hop sound is prominent with beats more important than the words. Dave East holds it down for the raw storytellers that benchmarked the art of hip-hop when the game was in its prime 20-30 years ago. When tracks like “Keisha” came up, everyone stopped and listened to him take control but on the contrary, when tracks like “Don Pablo” came up, it felt like a college campus once again with people jumping up and down, enjoying. The fact that Dave East went first was a perfect step to the progression of the show because with Lil Yachty up next, it was certainly about to go down.
Now as a hip-hop head, I am well aware of this debate concerning whether Lil Yachty was actually trash or not; he’s not. No, I’m not saying this because I am from Atlanta, making my opinion biased, but more so because through his songs, we can tell that he can go off if he wanted to, although he may not always. The first time I saw Lil Yachty was back in March at the Tabernacle in Atlanta, Georgia. As he opened up for the Migos on the Dab Tour, he came with more energy than any other act such as Skippa Da Flippa, Rich the Kid, and even Migos themselves. So simply put, I was excited and man, did he turn things up. Lil Yachty came to the light in March of 2016 when he dropped his debut mixtape Lil Boat. It took a while to grow on me but I surely was the last because by the time I was reviewing it, it was already blasting out of everyone’s speakers. After unanimously becoming top 3 in terms of new school artists, it was inevitable that Lil Yachty was going to be voted into the XXL Freshman Class of 2016. Although the sound is evolving, Lil Yachty is a prime example of the fact that music will never die in Atlanta. After dropping Summer Songs 2 in July, Lil Yachty came out to Syracuse and had the crowd moshing with joy to “All In”. Backed up by his homeboy BIGBRUTHACHUBBA, he then took us through his vastly growing discography, introducing himself with “Wanna Be Us” and solidifying his status as everyone sung along to his verse in D.R.A.M’s “Broccoli”. As Yachty came into the crowd and literally walked around the entire floor, everyone’s “lit-ness” was reestablished and quickly found reasons to look at this Hope Benefit Festival as the best event of the entire semester. This was what we had been waiting, a reason to lose our damn minds. Lil Yachty did that for us.
Lil Uzi Vert:
This man Lil Uzi is arguably becoming one of the biggest rock stars hip-hop has ever seen. Almost having the complete opposite effect of his precede Meek Mill, Lil Uzi put on for his hometown of Philly and although his height is no more than 5’5”, he’s been growing in everything he’s done since he released his single “Money, Longer” and a couple of semi classic tapes Luv Is Rage in 2015, and then Lil Uzi Vs. The World which set it all off with a fire hotter than magma. Collaborating with Atlanta’s own Metro Boomin’, Lil Uzi found his reign to fame behind two tracks that had the party jumping; “P’s and Q’s” and “You Was Right”. Out of them all, Lil Uzi was probably the most solidified when it came to choosing artists on the XXL Freshman Class of 2016 because in some way, shape, and form, he was in everyone’s headphones for the entire past year. Coming out with his multi-colored locks in a high pony tail, Lil Uzi followed Lil Yachty surprisingly with even more energy. When I say the crowd did not die, the crowd did not die. When someone stops breathing, an option to bring them back is by electrically shocking them to create a heart rate. The way the crowd was moving was as if us as fans were getting shocked every 3 seconds. As he climbed on top of the speakers and took us through his hits like “Do What I Want”, he also came with that extra juice, performing his features in Future’s “Too Much Sauce” and Migos’ “Bad and Boujee”. Lil Uzi just might be one if the most lit performers I have ever seen. It almost makes you proud to see the effects of this new school hip-hop tidal wave that’s taken over.
By. K. High