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The Best and Worst of Aahh! Fest 2014

All the most memorable moments of Common’s first ever hip-hop festival. (Yes, one of them involves Kanye.)

Common and Kanye West perform at Aahh! Fest.   Photo: Travas Machel

Common’s inaugural hip-hop festival in Union Park this past Sunday was a unanimous success, a vision of what it looks like when a great lineup (De La Soul! Jay Electronica! Jennifer Hudson!) meets great hosts and rain-free weather. Without further ado, here are the festival’s best and worst moments.

The Best

Kanye acting as Common’s hype man on “Get ‘Em High”

Yes, the rumors turned out to be true: Kanye was the very special guest who closed out the show with a frenetically paced send-up of some of his greatest hits. But the best moment of the festival was watching Chicago’s biggest celebrity help his old friend on their 2004 collaboration “Get ‘Em High.” There was no ego there, just graciousness, smiles, and mutual respect.

Jay Electronica’s crowd antics

The first big (ish) star to hit the stage was a charismatic showman, whether he was shouting out members of the Farrakhan family in attendance, warning the young man in the crowd tasked with carrying Electronica on his shoulder “not to drop him or he’ll fuck him up,” or performing his most well-known song “Exhibit C” from within the crowd, a cappella.

Damon Williams

The Chicago comic had the tough task of emceeing the afternoon portions of the fest and he did a stellar job, cracking corny jokes about this past winter (“It was so cold the homeless went home"), the dating game (“You try and get a girl drunk this day and age, you’ll go broke") and generally making the transitions from DJs to performing artists very smooth.

MC Lyte’s hip-hip history lesson

“Some of you kids only know me from Half and Half,” joked the pioneering Brooklyn MC in the middle of her set, and to that end, she shouted out the first names of hip-hop royalty and expected the crowd to answer. (Queen! Latifah! Public! Enemy!) Then she brought out her doppelgänger Lil Mama, who spat a ferocious freestyle verse demonstrating her overlooked lyrical ability. 

The Worst

Lupe’s awkward exit

Lupe Fiasco ended his set with a freestyle over Chief Keef’s “I Don’t Like” (an interesting choice considering the two MCs’ tense history), which was bizarre enough. But when Aahh! Fest organizers told him his time was up, he refused to go until they turned off his sound. He didn’t reappear for the fest’s last song with the other MCs, leaving a somewhat bittersweet feeling in the air.

Dave Chappelle’s transphobic jokes


Chappelle’s jokes about ‘transvestites’ felt incredibly out of sync with the peace and love vibes of the festival, and were the one truly bum note of the whole fest.

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