AAHH Fest! Common Brings Hip-Hop to Union Park


MC Lyte performs at the AAHH! Fest in Union Park. Photo by Andrea V. Watson

Thousands of Chicago Hip-hop fans took a step into the past Sunday evening as they bobbed their heads and swayed to the music by entertainers like MC Lyte and De La Soul in Union Park.
The AAHH! Fest 2014 is a new music festival created by Chicago rapper Common. It was his way of bringing the city together. He said in an earlier interview with the the Chicago Defender that he wants this hip-hop festival to unite people and create a place of peace and love.
The all-day event  was split into two segments and saw an estimated nine thousand attendees, according to a festival representative.  In the afternoon, young local talent took over the community stage with a total of 25 acts. About 200 aspiring entertainers throughout the city auditioned through  Donda’s House to land a spot on the rundown. Only half were selected. Rapper Diggy Simmons, the son of “Rev. Run” Simmons of the Hip-hop group Run DMC, was introduced by Chicago Public School’s CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett.
Donnie Smith, executive director from Donda’s House, the organization named in honor of Kanye West’s mother said that this platform exposed the youth to more community resources. Besides that, they were able to send the rest of Chicago a positive message.
“There was a validation of positive energy and when we think about Chicago there is this narrative of our city being violent, that our young people are inactive,” said Smith. “ Common, Lupe, Rhymefest, and all the artists, they validated the young people who were there.”
Smith said the youngest performer was 11 years-old and the oldest 25.  This opportunity helped push against the negative stories that are always being told about Chicago’s youth, she said.
The evening show was for the 18 and older crowd and featured Jennifer Hudson, Lupe Fiasco and more. Earlier rumors of Kanye West being the special surprised guest was confirmed when he took the stage.
The ticket proceeds will benefit the Common Ground Foundation, the Lupe Fiasco Foundation, Donda’s House and arts education and programing in Chicago Public Schools.
“If you are an athlete there is a clear path for you, there is a little league team in almost every community in Chicago,” said Smith. “If you are a young person who doesn’t play sports where do you go, what path do you take? That’s why Donda’s house was founded, we wanted to create that pathway, we want to have the same type of access for young artists who many times are low income and don’t have access to supplies.”

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