TRiiBE social media producer Tyger Ligon also contributed to this piece. 

UPDATE — Pitchfork Music Festival officials announced Saturday morning that Jay Electronic will no longer be performing at the festival tonight. “Due to unforeseen circumstances, Jay Electronica will not be able to perform at Pitchfork Music Festival. RP Boo has been added to the lineup. Please see the festival website or app for schedule changes on the Blue stage and DoorDash stage,” officials wrote on Instagram.

There’s been a lot going on for the past year or so. The biggest, of course, being the COVID-19 pandemic, which shut down most sporting and entertainment events last year.

This summer in Chicago, many music festivals made their return as Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker loosened COVID-19 guidelines amid their ongoing vaccination campaigns. 

This weekend (Sept. 10-12), the Pitchfork Music Festival is back in Union Park, and with its own set of COVID-19 guidelines for fest goers: attendees must be fully vaccinated and show their vaccination card to enter the festival gates, or they must provide a negative COVID-19 test within 24 hours of each day they attend the festival. Additionally, wearing masks is encouraged while on festival grounds.

Pitchfork Music Festival’s guidelines differ from Lollapalooza, which came under scrutiny in August for bringing more than 385,000 to Grant Park for four days straight. Although Lightfoot and Lollapalooza officials initially announced that attendees must obtain a negative COVID-19 test result “within 24 hours of attending Lollapalooza each day,” they later expanded that guideline to 72 hours.

I’m fully vaccinated, and Pitchfork has the clearest COVID guidelines we’ve seen of any major fest, so the higher ups gave me the greenlight to go enjoy some music. (There’s rapid COVID testing happening at the festival, too).

This will be my first time at Pitchfork, which usually hosts about 60,000 attendees. As a lover of music, I’m excited to experience the diversity of sounds on this year’s lineup: from rock and punk to pop, hip hop and R&B. And trust, I’m gonna be masked up!

While the bulk of this Pitchfork weekend will focus on underground acts such as Maxo Kream and Armand Hammer, the festival will round out with some big-name stars who’ve got that legendary status under their belt; such as Jay Electronica and Erykah Badu. 

And I’m here for it all!

Here’s a quick rundown of who I’m most looking forward to watching perform at Pitchfork. (Also, for those who won’t be there in person, you can livestream the festival here).

FRIDAY
Armand Hammer

The Pitchfork Music Festival is known for giving a platform to up-and-coming artists. That being said, I’m going to listen to some artists I haven’t heard of yet and some music I probably wouldn’t normally listen to. Armand Hammer is one of those groups that I hadn’t heard of, but after hearing a few of their tracks, I wish I knew about them sooner.

The New York City rap duo is opening the festival this year. It seems like an intentional play by the festival, welcoming hip hop fans early. But outside of Chicago’s own DJ Nate, Armand Hammer will be the only other hip-hop act on Friday. Nonetheless, I am here to enjoy all different types of music. So that will be Friday’s task! 

Now, make no mistake about it, these dudes (Billy Woods and Elucid) can spit. The duo’s unique flows, cadence and East Coast swag set them apart from the Chicago drill style artists that I normally listen to such as G Herbo or Polo G.

DJ Nate

Footwork and juke producer, DJ Nate, will give us that taste of Chicago that we need for sure. He’s very influential in Chicago’s basement party and footwork scenes, and has legendary hometown hits such as “Below Zero” and “Lil Mama Bad As Hell” in his arsenal. 

DJ Nate was supposed to perform at Pitchfork in 2020. But COVID-19 shut the festival down that year. So I’m excited to see him back in the lineup, displaying a genre that’s homegrown and nurtured in Chicago.

SATURDAY
Bartees Strange

We’re getting a lot of Black talent in Saturday’s lineup. Bartees Strange is one to look out for. He’s an all-around musician/singer, and his 2020 track “Boomer” has my attention. I’m most looking forward to watching him bounce from lead vocals to lead guitarist during his set, which should be full of rock and soulful sounds. 

Maxo Kream

I can’t miss out on seeing this rapper from Louisiana. Maxo Kream is a rapper with hard hitting lyrics. His storytelling abilities and passion for rap stands out the most to me on his 2018 track “Roaches,” which has reached more than 12 million views on YouTube. Can’t wait to see him perform that one. 

Amaaree

Another artist on my must-see list is Ghanaian-American singer/songwriter Amaaree. She boasts a unique and eclectic catalogue of music that I’m excited to hear at Pitchfork. In her 2020 track with Moliy, titled “SAD GIRLZ LUV MONEY,” she has a way of combining her unique style with today’s hip hop and pop sound. It really hits differently. She will be a treat to all who come to see her.

Jamila Woods

A few years ago, I noticed Jamila Woods making her way around Chicago’s R&B circles. Collaborations with Chance the Rapper, Macklemore, Noname and Saba only boosted her mainstream recognition. 

The song that really put her on my radar was her feature on Chance’s 2016 song “Blessings” from his Coloring Book album. She’s going to give us that necessary old school soul and R&B vibe at the festival. She actually reminds me of this year’s headliner, neo-soulstress Erykah Badu. Woods’ performance will be a preview of what’s to come on Sunday night.

Jay Electronica

This Roc Nation artist will help round out Saturday’s lineup as the second-to-last performer for the night. Jay is no stranger to the Chi: he contributed to the “Jesus Lord” track on Kanye West’s latest album, Donda, with a mind-blowing verse. Many are calling the track one of the best songs on the album. 

Jay’s roots in Chicago go even deeper: he became a registered member of the Nation of Islam at its Chicago’s headquarters. In his 2020 debut studio album, A Written Testimony, he touches on his faith a lot. His power-packed lyrics should fit right in with the tone of the festival.

SUNDAY

Thundercat

I’m a little late to the party. Stephen Lee Bruner, also known as Thundercat, has been on the scene for a while, but the first time I saw him was when he performed next to the late, great Mac Miller on NPR’s Tiny Desk concert series in 2018. They performed Miller’s track “What’s The Use,” a song with clever lyrics and an uptempo funky bassline off of his 2018 album, Swimming

Thundercat, a bassist and vocalist, also worked on Kendrick Lamar’s album, To Pimp a Butterfly. His new age, funky bass play scored him a Grammy for his contribution to the song “These Walls.” In 2020, Thundercat released his fourth album, It Is What It Is, which also won a Grammy. 

Thundercat stays busy, having already confirmed that he will be a part of Lamar’s upcoming  and much-anticipated album. I’m looking forward to watching Thundercat put on a soulful session on Sunday night.

Erykah Badu

What can I say about Ms. Erykah Badu? She’s thee Erykah Badu. I’m beyond excited to see how she commands the festival crowd. Her discography and lengthy list of Billboard-charting hits date back to 1997, when she dropped her debut album Baduizm, featuring songs like “Next Lifetime,” “Appletree” and “On & On,” which won the 1998 Grammy award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. 

Badu is a visionary in the neo soul movement, which includes other heavyweights such as Lauryn Hill and D’Angelo. Badu gave us one of the most powerful Black women anthems with “Tyrone” in 1998. 

As a brother, son and uncle to Black women, I’m very excited to hear Ms. Badu live for the first time. She’s the perfect headliner for what promises to be a good musical weekend.

Follow along with me and the TRiiBE Team on Instagram as we take on the festival:

@thetriibechicago

is a culture correspondent with The TRiiBE.