Appropriately titled, the Observatory debuted a star-studded festival during Southern California’s summer months that brought the best and most iconic acts of funkified, hip hop heat to Queen Mary Park in Long Beach, California. From rap legends like Wu-Tang Clan to the funkadelic sounds of George Clinton Parliament Funkadelic, there was no genre of hip hop left untouched. The rapid selling out of its general admission tickets assured this one day event was destined to be the ultimate ticket for a lit day out in the sun.
Marking the first of our festival experiences with the Observatory that took place away from its known trademarked fairgrounds in the OC, the throwback affair really started before people even reached the venue. With off-site parking being the only option, school buses transported people to and from; which surprisingly generated more positive, nostalgic responses from attendees than I would’ve anticipated.
Upon arrival, the Queen Mary provided a stunning setting fitting for a day meaning to highlight everything that has created the cult culture of West Coast Hip Hop. Scenic views of the Long Beach Harbor, iconic Californian Palm Trees and a city scene in the distance provided a picturesque backdrop for the fest. And whether fans camped out in the scorching heat in front of stages to catch their favorite acts or took a more relaxing sit along the banks of the harbor to enjoy the music; the levels of hype did not fall short depending on their locations. Between some of the freshest threads and the continual crowd noise, the energy felt nothing less than a backyard hip hop house party.
Additional heat was also cooked up in the kitchens of the food vendors present. Lines for vendors like Trap Kitchen, A Little Taste of Chyna and Taco Mell were a continual busy site. Even waiting in line Trap Kitchen, holding a pretty notorious cult following in Los Angeles, was constantly cooking up new batches of mac n cheese as I personally had a life saving chicken burrito from Taco Mell, which overall was one of the first times I felt like the price of festival food was justified for size, flavor and service.
The musical acts took place throughout the day on two separate stages. While the walk could’ve been a downer for some; the close enough proximity, scenic view and schedule times made the festival roll out with the ability to catch at least a bit of every performer that night with ease and a few extra minutes to grab a beer or bite with friends.
As with many in attendance, the Observatory answered the prayers of modern millennial with old music souls contriving a multi-generational lineup that surely attracted crowds across generations. DJ Quick & Suga Free, Bone Thugs N Harmony and Tha Dogg Pound all made sure to roll on their west coast legacies thick as they delivered performances that raised an entire culture. Lady of Rage and The Original Mary Jane Girls held it down for the female MCs and artists on the line up bringing two distinct styles that reveled in pure lady power.
Lil Rob, MC Magic and Baby Bash delivered a back to back set that cemented the role of Latinos in West Coast Hip Hop. Ultimately, this set was heavily reminiscent of the closest thing I personally have witnessed to Beatlemania. Numerous fans continuously jumped the barricade or rushed through security to get to the photo pit that slowly but surely became filled with screaming female fans. One lucky female fan in the audience didn’t have to jump the baricade for the experience of a lifetime as she unexpectedly was proposed to in the middle of the set during a classic MC Magic hit who was in on the stunt. (And she definitely said yes!)
Phora & YG shut down with their performances that ran down a discography of mega hits that have taken over the airwaves of recent radio times. YG’s set was a testament to the legacy of old school Hip Hop in modern day, bringing his posse on stage seemed to fuse with the crowd as they sang along to every word song after song at the top of their lungs. I mean, hearing a sea of people chant “F**K Donald Trump for a good 5 minutes was a definite highlight to my festival experience.
Brenton Woods & Warren G warmed up the stage for some of the headliners of the night with two very distinctively different genres yet both equally as influential to the scene. Warren G, along with Bone Thugs N Harmony and WuTang Clan all dedicated portions of their set to fallen members of the scene like ODB, Phife Dawg and Long beach’s own Nate Dogg.
Wu-Tang Clan provided attendees the performance of a lifetime, as not only some of the most notorious names in the industry both collectively and individually, but with an electric set that was graced by the presence of the entire Wu Clan (minus O.D.B. #RIP). A remarkably extra treat for hip hop heads coming to see the legends; Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, RZA, GZA, Inspectah Deck, Cappadonna, U-God, Method Man and Masta Killa all created one of the most memorable performances with their reunion which could be seen as the predecessor to their recent announcement of a new album and some tour dates to go along with it.
50 Cent & G-Unit performed an unforgettable throwback set that ran through the hits that defined a generation. From Candy Shop to 21 Questions to In Da Club, their set perfectly closed out a night of intense energy and hype as the crowd sang and danced through every track. Even though 50’s voice began to get lost a bit, it was only due to the immense energy being spread from the stage to the crowd to close out a nostalgic and memorable night.
I can never stress enough how much each debut Observatory festival has continually pushed the envelope when it comes to developing not only a music festival but a true, overall sensory experience for every attending fan. From Soulquarius to When We Were Young; to upcoming Day and Night and Tropicalia, the lineups and reviews really can speak for themselves. They are providing ultimate tailored experiences without compromising the venues, audience or artists; because in the end we’re all in it for the love of music and the Observatory knows it.