By Sierra Porter & Marshall A. Latimore | The Atlanta Voice
For two days, at times in the blistering sun and the pouring rain, music lovers united in the name of crunk.
Nearly 50,000 fans from across the country weathered the storm and sunshine at Central Park in Atlanta’s historic Old Fourth Ward neighborhood last weekend for the ninth annual ONE MusicFest.
Some of music’s biggest names, including Nas, 2 Chainz, Big Boi, Kelis, Davido, Monica, Miguel, and more performed a bevy of their biggest hits on two stages.
A number of artists not on the original lineup hopped on stage to perform, including Crime Mobb, Keri Hilson and Dungeon Family member Big Gipp.
“This year, we had a multitude of folks who jumped up and performed on stage,” explained ONE MusicFest founder Jason Carter. “I’m putting the consumer experience first. Next year, fans can expect a lot more of the same thing.”
If ticket sales are any indication, Carter and his team of planners have a good formula in place.
Throngs of fans sprawled across the massive park, some on blankets, some in lawn chairs, sang along to their favorite tunes and vibed along to sets from celebrity deejays like DJ Nabs, DJ KP and Big Tigger.
In addition to the live concerts, festival-goers enjoyed various activations from brands such as Ford, Gentleman Jack/Jack Daniels, Heineken and Acid Cigars, as well as VIP lounges, a food truck village, a vendor market, free water stations from Fontis and even a breast-pumping station.
“I love this festival because I get to see so many artists, so many beautiful Black people and so many great vibes,” said Marco Coleman, a festival goer from Nashville, Tenn., who has attended the festival for the past four years. “I’m also excited that they expanded the festival to two days and two stages.”
Coleman served as an ambassador for this year’s festival to help generate ticket sales. His efforts scored him a pair of VIP tickets.
Despite all the surprises, Carter said he was pleased with this year’s turnout.
“I think we kept it kind of right where we should have,” Carter said. “It was an amazing thing to see — the beautiful faces, the great energy, and not one incident. You can’t hope for anything better.”
There is no doubt that the amount of talent performing on both stages played a role in such a massive turnout for the festival.
Cardi B and Brandy had to pull out and rapper Jeezy had some booking issues.
Despite some artists not being able to make it to the event this year, there is a possibility that they will attend next year’s 10th anniversary.
For the past four years, One MusicFest was hosted at Lakewood Theatre, but when planning this year’s festival, Carter, an Atlanta native, said he and his team felt as though it was time for a change.
“Central Park was a blank canvas, so it allows you to pick up pieces and move them around,” Carter said. “Logistically, it would take a person all but three minutes to go stage to stage.”
For Carter, Central Park was also convenient as people could easily get there using rideshare apps, or even, as some festival goers did, riding a bicycle to the festival.
The selection of Central Park as the hosting venue also helped with keeping ticket prices affordable, Carter explained.
If the two-day event had returned to Lakewood, ticket prices could have exceeded $300 per person.
“The price would have been out of proportion if we would’ve stayed at Lakewood to do a two-day festival,” he said.
According to the founder and feedback from attendees, they enjoyed the energy and vibe of the new location.
Founded in 2010, ONE MusicFest has quickly grown into the Southeast’s top progressive urban music fest.
It’s such an institution now that many would be surprised that Carter conceived the festival at a time when there was a lack of urban presence in the festival market.
“It took awhile. Festival life is different than a concert,” Carter explained. “You know, it’s about discovery. It’s about exploring. It’s about a comradery. It’s about sharing energy, sharing your space with other people.”
Only in recent years have progressive urban artists like Cardi B, Bruno Mars and Beyoncé been able to dominate festival stages like Coachella, Hangout Fest and Bonnaroo.
In fact, Carter said he spent the first four to five years educating people they can experience urban artists differently.
“You would see a lot of hip-hop or brown faces on stages across the world at all these different festivals, but the audience didn’t look like the performance,” he said.
Carter understood why there was not a progressive urban festival due to people feeling like an urban festival could be a liability. But it did not stop him from bringing his idea to fruition.
“So I said, maybe I just got to start talking to these people and just start working and do it myself and put together a team of folks that believe in the vision,” he said.
For next year, music lovers can expect to see even more surprises. No matter who’s performing, Carter plans to deliver a well-produced festival.
For those wondering how the lineup for the festival is created, according to Carter, “it’s the craziest wickedness, little jigsaw puzzle you can imagine.”
“The whole idea is to create a diverse range of urban music that may have similar or a little overlapping of fan bases,” Carter said. “Like would a Big K.R.I.T. fan also enjoy a George Clinton set, will a Miguel fan still enjoy a 2 Chainz set? So you got to create those overlaps.”
Moetown Lee, who partners with Carter to bring One MusicFest to fruition says that there is a think tank team that helps make those decisions.
“Mainly it’s (Carter), me, Cynthia Charles, Oronike, Rasta Root and, this year, the team from Rival Entertainment,” Lee said. “We also listen to the people and what they want. We watch the charts and the tickets sales.”
The combination of unique sounds is intended to create a melting pot for music lovers, resulting in a festival with a little of everything for everyone who attends.
“We try to imagine what that artist’s fanbase looks like and we start piecing it together,” Carter said.
Carter said his favorite moments from the festival included “everything from beginning to end,” from Monica to George Clinton when the Omegas jumped on stage with him, as well as Lil Duval and Keri Hilson, popping up to perform their hits.
“I mean everybody just did such a stellar, stellar job,” he said. “(The) pop up performances are great. The Crunk set was insane. I mean, it felt like a movie. It was awesome the whole weekend.”
Lee says T.I. and Lil Duval were among his favorite highlights for the festival.
“T.I. brought out Lil Duval and the people went crazy; George Clinton had all the Omegas in the crowd jump on stage (including Carter) and hop to Atomic Dog,” Lee said.
“My favorite moment had to be the ATL Crunk Set. The energy the crowd had during that set was crazy. It started raining, and the people loved it even more,” he added. “That was incredible especially when they say Black folks don’t do rain. They did that day!”
This article first appeared in The Atlanta Voice.