(AllHipHop Features) Fostering “Unity Through Music” is the mission of the ONE Musicfest. For the past six years, the Atlanta-based live performance event has personified that goal by bringing together both new faces and iconic stars that represent the best of progressive urban music.
It’s not just the collective of talent hitting the stage that highlights ONE Musicfest’s appreciation for diversity.
Every year, the crowd is made up of a medley of many different rap, R&B and alternative lovers, who all come together in the spirit of celebrating artistic expression.
As the festival’s founder Jason Carter explains: take a glance at any audience attending the One Musicfest and you’re very likely to see a 30-year-old Hip Hop head sandwiched between a 20-year-old Georgia Tech student and a 45-year-old politician.
I spoke with Carter about this year’s amazing lineup which features a reunion of A-Town’s own Dungeon Family as well as Ice Cube, Erykah Badu, A$AP Ferg, Anderson .Paak, and more.
In addition, we touched on Hip-Hop culture embracing our veterans, and the award-winning brand marketing expert shares some of his favorite moments from past ONE Musicfests.
The Dungeon Family are icons in this city. Whenever they get a chance to get back together, people are going to be excited. How did you manage to put that together?
Honestly, it was all timing. Ever since looking at the actual OutKast show they did a couple of years ago, this has been something we’ve always wanted to do. It’s just so many moving pieces to that family. There was no way we could put that together without 100% buy-in from those guys.
Then when Netflix dropped the documentary on Organized Noize, that’s when we really said we got to reach out and see what’s going on in their camp. Lo and behold, they came back and said, “You know what? We were talking about you guys as well.”
They were thinking about trying to put on a festival themselves. They said why recreate the wheel and it makes more sense for us to do this with something that was born and bred out of Atlanta. A couple of key players brought it back to the team. Everyone was excited and said, “This makes perfect sense. Let’s make it happen.”
It’s not too often we get to see all these guys on stage together. I think the next obvious question people have is: You got Big Boi. You got Goodie Mob. You got Killer Mike. You got Organized Noize. But is there any talk about Andre 3000 being a part?
We kind of have to leave it out there. Let me just say this, if you were to ask The Dungeon Family and Organized Noize, they would say, “You just got to show up. You got to be there. You don’t want to miss it.”
That’s a great way to sell it. [laughs] But it’s always good to leave something as a surprise.
And it will be. You know how people play “Six Degrees of Separation” with Kevin Bacon? You can literally do that with The Dungeon Family and connect them with almost every A-list artist.
Even beyond the nucleus of Dungeon Family and Organized Noize, there’s a lot of other folks that are excited about this happening that may show up. They have a lot of production underneath their belts, so it’s going to be a few surprises. I’m having a hard time keeping it under wraps.
That has to be tough, knowing all the stuff that’s going on behind the scenes.
It’s a lot man. Definitely, have your phone charged up and camera ready. It’s going to be some moments. Honestly, I don’t know if you’ll ever be able to duplicate this. Everybody says, “This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.” This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience at the ONE Musicfest.
Ice Cube is the co-headliner. Cube has been around for three decades now. There’s always been this perception that Hip Hop is anti-aging and a “young person’s genre.” But Cube has proven after 30 years in, he can still sell tickets. In your opinion, do you think Hip Hop has finally started to embrace the idea of valuing and celebrating our stars as they get older?
I think they have to. It's a different time for Hip Hop and music, but I don’t think the younger generation, artists, and Hip Hop lovers can overlook some of the bridge builders before them.
So many times they would listen to the music and think that it’s new, not realizing it’s a remake from a 90’s Hip Hop song. I think some of these folks in the younger generation of music lovers - as they discover new music - they’re also discovering the roots of some of the music they appreciate today.
That’s also the importance of ONE Musicfest. We always try to connect the new to the classics. Last year, it went from The Internet to someone like The Roots and Lauryn Hill. This year we have legends like The Dungeon Family, Erykah Badu, and Ice Cube. But we still have newcomers like Anderson .Paak, BJ The Chicago Kid, Andra Day, and A$AP Ferg.
You get some of this young energy and you combine it with some of the legends, icons, and classics. It helps bridge that gap and create that conversation between multi-generations of music lovers.
Besides being multi-generational, ONE Musicfest also has multi-genres. You put on R&B acts like Anderson .Paak, BJ The Chicago Kid, and Andra Day. Also, someone like Gary Clark Jr. who is straight Soul music. Can you expound on the idea of why it was so important to make sure R&B is highlighted as well as Hip Hop?
It goes back to the backlash that happened with Justin Timberlake tweeting about the BET Awards. Don’t let me say that there're folks out here appropriating our culture, but I do think, to a degree, that progressive urban music is being segmented and watered down.
You have festivals that are just all the way turnt up Hip Hop. You have another festival that’s EDM and Trap music. Then you have your Old School festivals. But there’s a common bond between all that music. And the question is why isn’t it just celebrated together?
I think when you have the ability to bring these different artists and fans together something amazing can happen. Two years ago, we had Kendrick Lamar and Bilal on the bill. Those guys never met, but they were fans of each other. There had never been a moment where their paths intersected until ONE Musicfest. Those guys ended up walking away and producing five songs together.
Why is it when we’re going to see Kendrick Lamar we have to see him at a Coachella? Or he’s on a bill with 500 Rock bands with a sprinkle of Hip Hop. Or why is Gary Clark Jr. never at any urban festivals? He's probably one of the baddest guitarist and musicians out here, but we don’t get to celebrate him.
What happens when you get a Gary Clark Jr in a green room with OutKast? What does that conversation look like? What kind of music can come out of that situation? Or and Andra Day and a Jazmine Sullivan?
We don’t get to not only celebrate as fans from our seats and the lawn, but a lot of the artists don’t get to celebrate each other behind the scenes as well. I think it’s important to keep that bond between urban music together.
When we started the festival, we didn’t see anyone doing it or caring to do it. That was our mission to unite all aspects of urban culture and music.
Do you have a particular moment or performance from the last six years that has stood out for you?
There were a few. Three years ago, we did the Goodie Mob reunion. They brought out Erykah Badu and Joi for “Liberation.” That was a moment. We may get a bigger moment this year because the full team will be present.
I’m definitely looking at Lauryn’s full performance. She gets a bad rap for showing up late or not giving a great performance. But in my eyes, she gave one of her best performances at the ONE Musicfest last year. She stayed around for about 90 minutes to 2 hours afterward, just hanging out and taking photos with fans.
I think the day Kendrick performed at ONE Musicfest is when people said this dude is a certified rock star. He killed that year. He had a full band and everything.
I have a bunch of moments. Nas is my favorite Hip Hop artist of all time. So when he celebrated the [Illmatic] 20 year anniversary with us two years ago, that was a blessing. Those four were definitely my moments.
I feel like ONE Musicfest has a distinct culture to it. What would you say the festival represents for you?
Last year felt like a true representation of urban culture. It was creative. It was artistic. It was professional. It was students, mothers, fathers, and business people.
But the energy and vibe that you felt at ONE Musicfest was harmonious. It was no issues. If somebody stepped on your shoe, they would turn around, give you a high five, and try to buy you a beer. It just felt like the ultimate harmonious moment, and it was done through the power of music and the arts.
So many times you turn on the news, and Hip Hop is getting a bad rap. But when you walk onto the field of ONE Musicfest, it gives you what you know about your culture, your music, and your people. It’s a great representation of our culture and the way we should be presented.
The 2016 ONE Musicfest is scheduled for Saturday, September 10 at Atlanta’s Lakewood Amphitheatre.
For more information about ONE Musicfest visit www.onemusicfest.com.
Follow Jason Carter on Twitter @JCarterology.