Mamby on the Beach
Oakwood/41st St. Beach // Chicago, IL // June 23 & 24, 2018
Mamby put Chicago hip-hop and global indie rock in the spotlight.
Just a few days before Mamby on the Beach, Chicago had some massive storms. The city streets were rife with puddles and muddy footprints, and many worried that the indie beach festival would be wet and miserable. The weather gods had other plans, however, and blessed Mamby-goers with sunshine, warm breezes, and picturesque sunsets. Thanks to the big beams of light, everyone was in an amazing mood for this chill, low-key weekend festival. While the lineup included some of the biggest indie rock and pop artists, it was the plethora of Chicago rappers that made Mamby a true summer staple.
Joseph Chilliams, a member of the Chicago collective PIVOT gang and a standout rapper in his own right, kicked things off early Saturday afternoon with a set of his own songs and some cheeky covers. Chilliams plays with fashion, femininity, and comedy while writing some serious lyrics and melodies. To the delight of Mamby-goers, he brought out Saba for the PIVOT leader’s song “Westside”. The two are not only collaborators but good friends, and their musical chemistry is set to take over the city.
One of the standout sets of the day came from Cupcakke, a female rapper from Chicago’s South Side who is famous for her extremely NSFW lyrics and fantastically feminist attitude. She does not apologize for her blackness, size, or sexuality, and she carries each of these as a badge of honor (as she should!) Her tracks have been praised by critics and the queer community, and her set at Mamby did not disappoint. Later in the day, another amazing Chicago rapper played on the beach. Towkio played songs from his debut album, WWW., and sang his bit from Chance the Rapper’s hit “Juke Jam”. Not to be outdone by Saba’s guest appearance, Towkio brought out Joey Purp, who has been putting out just as much amazing music as the rest of the Save Money crew. Their energy radiated through the beach.
On Saturday night, one of Chicago’s most powerful and influential artists gave a one-man show that showcased his true talents. Common has been creating music for over 30 years and has paved the way for Kanye West, Chance the Rapper, and countless other rappers, though there is no one quite like the man himself. His Mamby set was more like a Broadway show than a concert; in between songs, Common told stories of his childhood and how being raised in Chicago shaped his art. Towards the end of the night, Chance surprised Mamby by joining him onstage for some freestylin’. It was really special to see the two of them creating music for a Chicago crowd.
Sunday’s vibe was definitely more chill and highlighted some of the best indie bands, including British duo Oh Wonder. Josephine Vander Gucht stomped in place and belted lyrics while Anthony West deftly switched between keyboards and guitar as needed. Their dual keyboard and harmonizing skills make every song that much more exciting to hear live, and it’s impossible to ignore their chemistry onstage.
Later in the day, South African expat Jean-Philip Grober (aka St. Lucia) played a spellbinding set that embodied the vibes of the beach and summer heat. St. Lucia has been making bouncy, tropical music for nearly a decade, with their most recent album, Matter, edited and programmed by Bleachers’ own Jack Antonoff. Alongside his wife, keyboardist Patti Beranek, St. Lucia and his band played new and old hits before Grober himself jumped offstage to sing alonside his fans. Mamby is the perfect festival for getting up close and personal with the crowd, and St. Lucia certainly took advantage of that.
To close out the night, rapper and producer Russ drew a considerable crowd at the Beach Stage. Russ is known as the Jack of all Trades in hip hop, as he writes, produces, and engineers all of his own music. His original beats combine mellow R&B and ‘hard’ hip hop and flowed throughout the South Side and past sundown. This year’s Mamby was a real showcase of lyrical talent, especially from those artists who hail from the Windy City. It will be hard to top the lineup for 2019, but it will certainly be exciting to see what next summer holds.