Before any musical acts took the Gorge Amphitheatre main stage at KUBE 93’s Summer Jam on Saturday, it was announced that Rick Ross, one of the headliners, would not be performing as scheduled. Though artists not being able to make the trek out to George, Wash. is a fairly regular occurrence and Miami’s Ross has suffered health complications on long flights in recent years, his absence took a great deal of star power away from the lineup, and the crowd’s audible disappointment hinted the thing was doomed to fail before it even began.
Still, the crowd of radio-listening revelers seemed optimistic, dancing and cheering and coasting on their day-drinking buzzes as the between-set DJ played Lil Jon’s #YOLO anthem “Turn Down For What?”
But after sitting through extra-long sets from Mississippi’s Big K.R.I.T. (his Southern-fried, UGK-style trunk-rattlers sounded good in the midday sun, but only seemed to resonate with the handful of tank-topped white males rapping along with him) and L.A.’s Kid Ink (who, as his name suggests, is just some dude with tattoos, and beyond that possibly the most derivative, unoriginal rapper in today’s derivative, unoriginal rap climate), the youthful audience finally found something to turn down for – local rap pioneer Sir Mix-A-Lot’s performance.
Mix-A-Lot’s inclusion in the middle of Saturday’s lineup rather than Friday’s classic all-star roster of Ice Cube, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, E-40, Too $hort and DJ Quik (guys who are all from the same era/around the same age as him) was puzzling to begin with, and unfortunately went about as badly as things can go for a 50-year-old rapper doing a show for a crowd of ‘90s babies.
The kids didn’t know, or respond to any of his old tracks about hoopties and local hoods, and there was hardly a hand in the air or a head nodding in the entire amphitheater, save for during his hits “My Posse’s On Broadway” and “Jump On It.” He did manage to get about 20 women onstage for “Baby Got Back,” but even they seemed bored after a few minutes of booty-shaking, and security kicked them off much to Mix’s dismay. It was pretty sad to see a guy who many consider a local legend receive so little love from a mostly-local crowd, but he was a good sport about it the whole time.
The lull after Mix-A-Lot’s set sent many attendees back to their campsites, and Big Sean’s following performance didn’t give others much to stick around for — he’s basically a placeholder, not a gifted performer, and most of his setlist consisted of his featured verses from tracks by Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Drake and other more popular, more famous cohorts of his.
By the end of the night, only the most dedicated Kendrick Lamar fans were still around to witness his set – which was solid, almost entirely made up of “Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City” cuts, and got the crowd involved, but the depth or actual message of most of his songs seems to be lost on most people. It’s kind of awkward seeing a bunch of Summer Jam attendees singing along to “The Art of Peer Pressure” or “Swimming Pools (Drank)” like they’re party anthems, when they’re really more cautionary tales about how alcohol is poison, and “one day this gon’ burn you out.”
Though Lamar is undoubtedly one of the most skilled stars in mainstream rap today, his place in the music industry is a strange one – he was definitely the one “Good Kid” in the “m.A.A.d. City” of Summer Jam’s lineup.