There are exactly four things I am proud of: my extensive knowledge of sharks, visiting Nelson Mandela’s cell at Robben Island, being my mother’s child, and being from Chicago. Being from Chicago is a privilege. For all its faults, despite its media depiction, Chicago is quite possibly the most important, historic city in Black America. It is my Mecca.
Chicago’s relationship with music, specifically black music is storied and well documented, and the city does an excellent job celebrating that legacy. From Blues Fest and Jazz Fest to the infamous Lollapalooza, Chicago invests in music, and the cultural impact and tradition that comes with it. As long as I’ve been cognizant enough to be an avid music fan and conscious Chicagoan, I believe Pitchfork Music Festival does it the best.
Pitchfork, perhaps the most important outlet in music media today calls Chicago home for its annual music festival. The genre representation is incredibly diverse and attentive to detail, and the festival does a wonderful job representing not only global music culture, but the culture of the city it calls home.
There are distinct moments that stand out to me. Chance The Rapper’s headlining set on the heels of his seminal project Acid Rap, the heartfelt tribute to the late DJ Rashad just days after his passing done by his longtime friend and collaborator DJ Spinz, and this year, the inclusion of legends in the making Saba and Noname, as well as the icon Chaka Khan.
Pitchfork has made apparent efforts to represent the musical heritage of the city, from juke and house and footwork, to soul and jazz, to drill, the pulse of generations of Chicagoans is on full display in Union Park. Chicago is a city devoted to music, it is ingrained in our spirit, and Pitchfork provides a safe haven to celebrate it.
This year, Saba released his album CARE FOR ME, one of the most emotionally bare, ambitious, and essential releases out of Chicago in decades. He will have the opportunity to perform it in front of his home and tourists, and no one will feel unwelcome. This is a testament to the transcendent power of his work, and the atmosphere Pitchfork cultivates through its care for culture. In many ways, this year’s festival is a living tribute to Chicago’s massive impact on the landscape of popular music; a generational foray into decades of innovation and art. I remember falling in love with music in car rides with my mother, straight jamming to Chaka Khan and Lauryn Hill. I remember crying to PROM/KING, the emotional centerpiece of CARE FOR ME, thinking of the senseless violence that paralyzed one of my closest friends. The pain and the joy of those memories culminates into a complicated love for the city that birthed those emotions and music, and the festival that bridges those moments of my life together, all in the span of three days.
If there is any weekend that you could take a person from anywhere around the world and give them Chicago as an experience, it’s Pitchfork. Beyond the big name headliners, the DJs, the local rappers, the food, and the people are a hand stitched, patchwork quilt of this city’s character, and what a quilt it is. I am proud of this city, I am proud of it’s music, and I’m grateful for this annual experience that brings all I love about my home to the park at Randolph and Ashland.
If you’ll be at Pitchfork this weekend, you must listen to these records from Chicago artists:
Saba- CARE FOR ME
Open Mike Eagle- Unapologetic Art Rap
Chaka Khan- I Feel For You