I’ve had some interesting experiences like I’m sure others may have had as well. There was that one time I skipped my senior high school trip to go to the Bahamas with a girl, who is like my sister, I had known since 2nd grade. Another time, I got to see Paramore AND No Doubt in concert with one of my very best friends. Oh, and after my junior year of high school, my mom sent me to the Pre-College summer program at the University of the Arts in Philly. That was the place I learned (mostly) what I enjoyed doing.
But even with all of those amazing experiences and opportunities, I still crave more. And that’s where my homie Phill came in and told me about The Art of Cool Festival; the event was held in Durham, NC, April 28-30 this year. The festival is another piece of the Art of Cool Project, a nonprofit organization helmed by jazz trumpeter Albert Strong IV and Cicely Mitchell, DrPH of Al Strong Music Productions. Their ultimate goal is to be a place of creativity and diversity all the while preserving, or even introducing, jazz-inspired music.
And this year’s lineup had me two-stepping with excitement. In addition to Common, a slew of local, talented artists, and Rakim performing, the King of Funk George Clinton was also in attendance. I was thrust into a world of some amazing music, different from my already extensive catalog, and I had never felt more excited. This was also the very first festival I’d ever been to.
Friday night started with a few minutes of trying to find my friend and then a short walk to the Pinhook where Raleigh-based hip-hop group, Kooley High, was putting on a show. I had never heard of them prior to that night but their music and their energy were enough to get me hooked. They worked the crowd well and even managed to make us all laugh. The DJ was on point as well, and I managed to get some pretty cool shots. After a couple of drinks and attempts to find food, I headed back to the Pinhook to catch the performance of Stella Santana, daughter of music legend Carlos Santana, who has a beautiful voice. Her songs were soulful and it almost felt like she wrote them just for you.
The following day was no short of opportunities to network or learn something new like when I attended a panel discussion celebrating and highlighting 30 years since Rakim dropped one of his most influential albums, Paid in Full. Combat Jack, 9th Wonder, and professor Mark Anthony Neal talked about everything from how the album influenced them to the new music of today’s generation and how they aren’t familiar with a lot of the classics. I have to agree, sometimes I don’t always rock with the new stuff and I always feel compelled to play some of the music I grew up on, but Combat Jack pointed out something I think most of us tend to forget; we never really try to give the music of this generation a chance. We’re quick to write it off or force what we think is the best down their throats and wonder why they don’t care for or really respect what’s come before them.
I’ve gotta admit, it was a hectic weekend but it was an experience I’ll never forget.
For more info on the Art of Cool Project or any of the artists mentioned, check out their websites below!