Something about this time of year keeps me in a nostalgic state of mind. In Chicago, summer is not taken lightly due to the severity of the winters. As Kanye so eloquently stated, “aaahh summertime Chi,” it’s not just the summer solstice that occurs when the tilt of earth’s semi-axis in the northern hemisphere is most inclined toward the sun. Summertime Chi epitomizes an awe-inspiring feeling as if it embodies the very essence of a good time. It’s the beginning of festival season, concert season, food season, boat season, beach season, and unfortunately as of late, murder season. Even with the latter, Summertime Chi is still amazing and there is a light at the end of tunnel. That aforementioned light is partially illuminated by iHeart Media’s WGCI radio station as it represents the pulse of the youth culture just as at did when I was teenager. From the music, to the events, the community outreach, to the radio personalities, Chicago’s WGCI has always been the voice of young people and the community.
When I was a teenager, WGCI was the place I went to find the Hip Hop and R&B music my soul craved at the time. I could recall laying across my bed waiting for Jodeci’s “Stay” to come on the radio during the “Coke Top 8 at 8″ just so I can record it. Yes, I know I’m dating myself but WGCI was an integral part of my childhood experience. I’m not the only one that waited for their favorite joint to play on the radio so you could try to record it for that mixtape you were working on for the girl you liked at the time. Ok, back to the lecture at hand.
After attending WGCI’s Summer Jam 2016 this past Friday night at the United Center, I was briefly taken back to my childhood. No – Jodeci, SWV, Snoop, BBD, Outkast, or Nas wasn’t in the building but the energy of youth and resilience flowed through the United Center like the winning essence of the 90’s Chicago Bulls. WGCI personalities like Leon, Kendra G, Kyle, Frankie Robinson, Charmaine, and Tone Kapone served as formidable masters of ceremonies for the evening as they moved the crowd in a way that was reminiscent of the way a pastor uplifts his congregation to the point they are shouting, dancing, and rejoicing. As the spirit and liquid spirits flowed, It’s apparent that WGCI still has a powerful voice that really connects, resonates, and touches the people as all eyes and ears were stage center anytime the Morning Takeover crew or any WGCI personalities ascended the stage. Before any of the designated acts took the stage, WGCI’s crew already had the crowd lit, turnt up, and ready for Katie Got Bandz, Lil Dex, Kent Jones, Plies, Desiigner, Migos, 2 Chainz, TI, Jeezy, and Lil Durk.
The talent didn’t disappoint. From the jump, Katie Got Bandz showed why her buzz is strong throughout the industry as well as the streets of Chicago. Also known as Drillary Clinton, she commands the crowd with the unapologetic force of her Drill music style. Famous Dex did his thing and Kent Jones had everybody speaking other languages as the entire United Center came together like a choir to sing, “Hola, ¿CÃ³mo estÃ¡s?, she said “Konnichiwa,” she said “Pardon my French”, I said “Bonjour Madame” Then she said “Sak pase” and I said “N’ap boule.”” No matter what language Kent was speaking, the south and west side heavy crowd was speaking the same language and the translation was strictly about having a good time. Whether they were brown, yellow, Puerto Rican, or Haitian they were enjoying themselves at Summer Jam representing the diversity of the Chi-town nation.
From the rafters to the pit in front of the stage, a good time was had by all lucky enough to be attendance. From my point of view in the pit, all I could see was hands in the air, smiles, people quoting lyrics word for word, selfie moments, drinks flowing, rompers, a line skirts, fitted jeans, classic summer dresses. fatigue shorts, Jordan’s, fitted caps, and snap backs all coming together in an extraordinary collage that had to be astoundingly humbling yet intoxicating for the artists on stage.
From the time Desiigner hit the stage, the energy went to another level as it seemed like everyone in the UC had “broads in Atlanta” as they all shouted in unison. Desiigner’s energy alone was enough for every artists but the show only continued to ascend. The Chi was turnt to capacity when Migos did some of their hits like “Look at My Dab” or “Pipe it Up.” Even Plies hit the WGCI Summer Jam stage and delivered only in a fashion that he can. He came out saying I’m only doing the hits and he damn sure did. From “Shawty” to “Bust it Baby,” Plies had the ladies going and guys rockin’ to all of hits including, quite a few people’s favorite, “Becky!”
You already know, vets like 2 Chainz, TI, and Jeezy brought the house down during their performances. When all three of these gentlemen hit the stage you could see everyone including the UC security, sound crew, media, and WGCI staff employees groovin’ to the music. Speaking of WGCI staff, shout out to Ebonie for being an amazing host as we all grooved to a plethora of hits from the aforementioned artists. 2 Chainz had us all saying “I’m Different” and we all were different from that point on as we “Put On For Our City” for Jeezy in way that it seemed like we could do “Whatever We Liked” and the entire experience was “Dope” as we all felt “High as a …” off life just as TI suggests in his new joint with the classic Aaliyah sample from her song “Rock the Boat.” As the word “Dope” flashed across the Summer Jam screen doing TI’s performance, all I could think of was how dope the feeling throughout the UC actually was. A packed house was treated to a show that was only about having a good time. The Chi was represented in the way that made me understand the power of music and a voice as strong as WGCI’s. It was only right Lil Durk ended the show as he was born and bred in the Chi and he closed fantastically.
Lil Durk’s performance is also a symbolic one. He has lived the agony of losing his manager to Chicago’s gun violence. He’s had his own run-ins with the law as he is a product of Chicago’s well-documented Englewood neighborhood, a community with extraordinarily gifted people working diligently to live life despite some unfortunate circumstances. But here is the but…. Just as a young man from Englewood by the name of Derrick was able to rise to ascend to the highest of heights of the NBA, Lil Durk stood on that stage and commanded that crowd in a way that shows he can also be that beautiful Rose that grew from the concrete in the music world. As the lights went down on the Summer Jam stage and he walked off, he personified the interesting dichotomy that is Summertime Chi – on one hand gloriously amazing and awe-inspiring, on the other hand, troubled with despair.
On June 17, 2016 at the United Center located on the west side of Chicago, there was no trouble; there was no despair; it was more just waving your hands in the air like you just don’t care. The one thing that is quite obvious is that WGCI does care and it shows as the station still represents the voice of the youth. While their may not be any teenagers from this generation laying across their beds waiting to record their favorite song off the radio, it is still very apparent that WGCI speaks to them. From the Morning Takeover still being a local morning show versus a syndicated one, to the voting campaign that was going on during the show, the remembrance of Timbuck2’s life during show, to the Chicago artists that graced the stage, WGCI is Chicago in all it’s wondrous glory. Tomorrow is the official start of the summer solstice based on the calendar date but WGCI’s Summer Jam officially kicked off Summertime Chi on Friday. All I can say is “Aaaaahh.”