If you are a D-FW high school senior or college freshman and you were at school on Friday, you surely wondered where everyone else was. They were at the sold-out JMBLYA in Fair Park.
While 25,000 school-skippers got baked and burned, they enjoyed near-perfect cloudless weather and performances by insurgent hip-hop acts, including Philadelphia's Lil Uzi Vert, "Bad and Boujee" trio Migos, embattled trap pioneer Gucci Mane and Grammy game-changer Chance the Rapper. EDM icon Steve Aoki performed as well, further proving his ability to blend into multiple realms including dance, hip-hop, pop and rock.
Given the minor status of the majority of the attendance, it was fun to see the lines in the amusement area, complete with bungee-style attractions and massive inflatable bounce houses. They were often longer than those for an ice-cold $6 tallboy of Lone Star beer. Impressively diverse from a racial and ethnic perspective, most of the attendees shared an impassioned devotion to the songs booming from the stage all day.
And don't look now, but in this fickle festival climate, there may not be a more vital annual fest than JMBLYA in North Texas.
Steady growth, driven by Texas-based promoter ScoreMore Shows' student-driven marketing, is a genuine sign of sustainability often lacking in so many other regional festivals currently.
Looking around the controlled chaos of JMBLYA, it was easy to think of the fest, now in its fifth year, as a latter-day version of what the original touring version of Lollapalooza was like in the early '90s, or what the punk-intensive Van's Warped Tour was when this millennium rolled around. Perhaps the main operational difference between JMBLYA and those revolutionary festivals is there's only one stage, albeit an absolutely mammoth one.
Though only one day with only one stage sounds downright Spartan, a talent-packed lineup can make even the sparse feel decadent. Early in the day, longtime local favorite Snow tha Product performed, followed by Young Dolph, the prolific rapper who survived an apparent attempt on his life last year when his vehicle was riddled by 100 bullets by an unknown would-be assailant. It's not every day one sees performances from two prominent musicians with millions of Instagram followers before most high schools let out for the day.
Migos may not be the biggest current name in hip-hop, but it might be the hottest one. A prime reason many refer to Atlanta as the modern capital of rap, Migos seems to be everywhere, whether thanks to its chart-topping Culture LP or one of the appearances Migos member Quavo makes on a number of popular tracks from the biggest names in music today. With the crowd shouting along to every syllable, it's highly likely that, barring Quavo going solo soon, this trio will be the nighttime JMBLYA headliner sooner than later.
After Steve Aoki was done jumping around behind his massive DJ stand and throwing whole birthday cakes onto his adorers up front, Gucci Mane took over as the sun thankfully began to drop. Since his most recent release from jail last year, the artist also known as Radric Davis has simply been on fire.
With a new generation of Atlanta-bred artists displaying his influence, Gucci Mane has seemingly been reborn; with his role in Rae Sremmurd's global smash "Black Beatles" shooting him further into the stratosphere. "Freaky Gurl" and "That's How I Feel," in which Young Dolph joined him on stage, were stellar examples of how catchy and melodic Southern-fried trap can be.
Hobbling out at 9:45 p.m., Chance the Rapper showed the signs of an injury he sustained earlier in the day during a pick-up basketball game. But backed by a soulful band and donning his signature hat with a "3" prominently featured, the inspirational Chicago rapper was a valiant trooper. Capping a day of sun beams and positive vibes, Chance the Rapper opened with the gospel-injected "Blessings," that was nothing short of praise-worthy.
Chance the Rapper's warmth and organic delivery continued to come through in "Pusha Man," and "Cocoa Butter Kisses," both songs whose recordings feature high-profile collaborators but didn't lack power in a solo setting. With Chance the Rapper playing through pain on the enormous stage as the night came to an end, it was impossible not to hope that JMBLYA's hearty, home-cooked flavor is one North Texas will taste for years to come.