Yes, this article is super long and tedious, my bad…. Forewarning, if you’ve already read my other recaps for each individual day, skip to the end for a few words of admiration to the LL family, from me!
Every year, the Summer Smash seems to get bigger, better, and more insane than ever before, and 2022 is definitely no exception. Unfortunately, I missed the first year or two because of one reason or another, so 2021 was actually my first time experiencing this event live and in person. At the same time, though, I had been to various other concerts hosted by LL dating all the way back to Lil Uzi Vert’s first-ever Chicago performance way back in April of 2016, so I know how we throw down at live events, and I also know just how loyal, supportive, and turnt up our fans get every chance they get.
2022 had some curveballs thrown at the team including a detrimental storm that almost paused the entire festival, but thanks to the consistently hard-working and ride-or-die group of individuals who put this fest together, the show went on without a hitch! I just want to clarify that this article is solely based on my own experience and not from the point of view of anybody else. I know this isn’t the typical article I may normally write, but I figured it would be a good stroll down memory lane for this year’s attendees while also letting those who missed out know that this is seriously the only place you want to be in the entire world every summer.
This leads me to Friday. The opening day of the festival, and expectations have never been higher from both our perspective at Lyrical Lemonade as well as the fans who have been waiting months for this day, June 17th, to finally come. Gates opened at 2, so my strategy was to show up a little bit later in order to avoid too much backup at the will-call tent. This meant I was going to have to miss some artists that I was extremely excited to see live like Bktherula for instance, but I saw her rock out the tent stage last year so I figured I would probably be stuck outside even if I did get there right when will call opened.
So, I made the executive decision to show up fashionably late after thinking about how the die-hard LL fans would most likely beat me to the punch anyways, and knowing that I couldn’t control this, I decided that getting there right around 4-4:30 was probably a safe bet. Well, everyone must’ve had the same idea because as soon as my group and I showed up, the winding line seemed never ending. Although discouraged, I waited because it was the only thing anyone could do if we wanted to enjoy the fest at some point. Unfortunately, the wait was about what I expected if not shorter, but still not quite short enough to get through the gates in time to see Zac FTP’s DJ set, Yung Bans, BabyTron, or a few other emcees I had on my list.
At the same time, though, I was shocked at how quickly the line actually moved, because even though certain moments felt like nothing was happening and I’d be standing there for ages, I was at the table getting my passes before I knew it, so I think the entire situation was handled as well as possible. Lucky for us (no pun intended), we got in and got settled just in time to see the local legend Lucki perform at Lenny’s Tent Stage, and although the crowd was pouring out of the sides of the tent like the cold, crisp, and refreshing Lyrical Lemonade was pouring into my mouth all weekend long, there wasn’t a single bad spot in the house.
With this being the first time that I had the chance to see Lucki live, I was instantly captivated by his connection to the fans and the number of people who were singing word for word along with him, but more than anything, I was blown away at how his easygoing demeanor on stage translated into organized chaos and all-out fun from the massive crowd he drew to this stage. Before I knew it, his set was over, but I knew it was just what I needed to get this weekend off on the right foot, and Lil Uzi is who I was most excited for.
Before this, though, we checked out Trippie and Wiz’s sets, both of which were unbelievably insane and filled with fan favorites, and as I ran into fellow LL homies left and right, I realized how truly grateful I am to work for such a supportive and revolutionary company. Moving on from my short tangent, the sun began to set on a gorgeous yet steamy day in this beautiful city, and the crowd began to swarm to the Lyrical Lemonade Stage to witness Uzi’s greatness in person.
Although he hasn’t dropped too much new music recently and he has been a mainstay at the Summer Smash for years, the anticipation was still through the roof, so when he came out with liberty spikes and an entirely brand-new torso-covering tattoo, everyone knew he was on a different level than any of the years prior. Of course, he rotated through a diverse selection of bangers from across all of his projects, mixtapes, and albums, and even though these were songs I have heard probably hundreds of times, it just felt like every single person there was experiencing them in a totally different way, and I was totally blown away with the end result.
While the earlier part of the day didn’t quite go exactly according to plan, I knew that I needed to plan a bit further ahead and make sure that my group and I could minimize our hiccups as much as possible moving into the next two days, and that’s exactly what we did. A bit of a wait for an Uber and a quick ride back to my girlfriend’s place had me thinking McDonald’s would be the perfect cap for a wonderful day, so you already know I had to stop and load up so I had energy for Saturday. As soon as my eyes shut that night, I was envisioning how the amazing day played out as well as what the rest of the weekend would hold, but after experiencing both days and looking back on the memories now, I am finally realizing that my dreams didn’t even come close to doing Saturday or Sunday justice the justice they deserved!
Saturday was here before I knew it, and with this meant the first of two longer days. I knew that I had to pace myself because, I’m getting old you know? I just remember that I was entirely burnt out like halfway through last year’s Saturday performances, and I didn’t want to be that way again in 2022, so I knew that it was about finishing the race in general, not finishing in first place. Once again, there were a ton of performers early on that I wanted to see like Katie Got Bandz, Supa Bwe, Dreamer Isioma, Danny Towers, Femdot, and more, but I had to consider a few things.
First off, I knew I needed to be patient and not go too hard, too soon. Second, I knew I would have to choose some of these artists over others since there was some overlap and although I wish I could have been in multiple places at once, we just don’t have the technology for that yet. Lastly, I had already seen a few of these performers last year or at other shows around the city, so this meant I knew I would be missing some spectacular performances, but I also know that I’ll hopefully get the chance to see them in the future, so I decided to come a bit later once again after my group got ourselves mentally and physically prepared for the journey that was to come.
I knew that I wanted to be there for Zack Bia’s DJ set if possible, and SSGKobe was one of the top performers I had on my list all weekend, so that was the plan heading to the festival. Well, if you know me personally, you know that planning ahead isn’t always my strong suit, so although our Uber pulled up just in the nick of time for Kobe’s performance after evading some traffic, there was just no way we would get to Lenny’s Tent Stage in time to see more than a song or two, so we cut our losses considering we saw his insane performance last year, and we headed right to the Lyrical Lemonade Stage to get good spots for the iconic show that G Herbo was about to put on.
Iconic honestly doesn’t do this performance justice because it seemed like pretty much the entire city was huddled around this stage, singing along to every word whether it was more modern music or classic drill anthems that put Herb on the map. All I can say is wow, what a moment that was. After seeing a few more artists that I admittedly don’t listen to all that much, I was still amazed at their showmanship, and I am super glad that I was there to witness musicians like BIA and Tyla Yaweh.
After Tyla, Lil Tracy was up, and he has been one of my favorite underground phenoms for more than half a decade at least. Although I hung back in order to avoid any broken bones or smashed feet (I decided to wear my Birkenstocks that day), Tracy is a true artist who puts his all into everything he does, and it was insane to witness the passion he displayed on stage while still exuding energy and charisma. He even had Nedarb with him as his DJ, so you already know that was a show for the ages. Once Tracy was done running through a mixture of unforgettable records, some of which were my favorite collaborations between him and his late, great brother Lil Peep, another showstopping performance was about to ensue.
This time, the mythical duo of Pouya and Fat Nick was about to take the Tent Stage, and this was something I knew I needed to get closer for. So, I headed backstage and ran into a few homies who I chopped it up with for a couple of minutes before the concert, and without even realizing it at first, Pouya and Nick were being interviewed by Channel 5’s very own Andrew Callahan, one of my all-time favorite filmmakers.
Right after this, they ran out on stage and ran through renditions of so many different tracks, some of which were made as a tag team and some that were individually performed, but all of these songs were unbelievable to see live, right next to the stage. After seeing a show I certainly know I’d never forget, I even got a chance to meet Pouya and Nick who turned out to be some of the most genuine, kind, and supportive guys in the industry, something that isn’t always the case for others. I even got to meet Andrew, who offered to give me this quote on LL and the festival:
“I’m at Lyrical Lemonade in Chicago and I’m having the best freaking time… Love to everyone. Shout out to everybody. Shout out to Cole and everyone else!”
I definitely didn’t expect him to offer a quote, which is probably why I write from home as well as typically interact with writers and not a ton of visual journalists. Whether I dropped the ball on having questions prepared or I was just living in the moment, either way, it was awesome. I just met two people whose music I have been religiously bumping since 2015 or earlier, and one of my favorite personalities on the internet, so I was in the zone. Unfortunately, all of these immense moments for me personally caused me to miss Lil Tecca’s set, so we headed right over to Polo G on the Lyrical Lemonade Stage prior to Ski Mask on the SPKRBX Stage.
If you know these emcees, you know that they don’t need an explanation from me to explain their greatness, so I’ll move right into that day’s headliner: Post Malone. While waiting for him to come on stage, the temperature started to drop and we were almost run over by an excited mob surrounding NFL icon Antonio Brown, so while he was not someone I was expecting to see there, I almost coincidentally got pancaked by him, so that’s a story I can tell for years to come.
Before we knew it, Post came out and put on one of the most shockingly incredible performances of the weekend. He is just such a down-to-earth, personable dude on stage, so even though we were surrounded by thousands of people, it felt much more intimate than that. He even performed a ton of songs for the first time ever off of his brand-new album Twelve Carat Toothache, mostly admitting that he messed them up after they were over, but no one could tell, and I think he was just being hyper-critical of himself.
Saturday felt like it was over in the blink of an eye, and the chilly Windy City night seemed to make the journey home feel like forever. Nonetheless, I feel like Saturday definitely came together much smoother for my group than the previous day, and while it felt like Sunday was a lifetime away, I knew it was less than a half day in our future, so we knocked out as soon as we returned home and got up for the final day of the greatest music festival in Chicago!
Sunday was by far the most bittersweet day for me. I was absolutely elated about the lineup that day, but I knew that come 10 pm, the festival would close its gate until next year. I had so much fun, I just didn’t want it to come to an end, but that sadness could wait until after Playboi Carti’s set that night. We managed to get there a little bit earlier luckily, showing up around 3:30 in order to catch GloUpJake’s insane birthday DJ set. He always pulls out the stops, but he did it up more than ever it seemed that day, so happy birthday indeed Jake!
I knew today was going to be busy if we wanted to get to most of the musicians on the lineup, so we wasted no time getting to Lenny’s Tent Stage in order to catch some of underground star Pollari’s performance, and although it might not have had fans filling out the entire tent, those who were there knew every single word and sang right along, making it feel almost as if we were in a stadium. Rushing to the SPKRBX Stage, we needed to see Famous Dex because he is one of the most notorious personalities in the entire history of Chi-Town music, and although this wasn’t my first time experiencing him live by any means, he never fails to put on an extraordinary show.
Hopping right back to the Tent Stage, I was thrilled to see the DCG Brothers tear down the house in a performance that felt nostalgic while also filling the atmosphere with charisma and exuberance, the only way these two local stars do know how. Some other people in my group were just showing up, so we headed over to the guest area to meet up with them, missing out on a spot for Flo Milli who seemed to perform her heart out across the field prior to Oliver Tree hitting the stage with vigor. I honestly don’t listen to him a ton, although I do love his internet presence and enjoy the music I’ve heard, but the way he was able to include little skits, scooter tricks, and other bits into his set made this one of the most out of the box portions of the whole weekend.
Not knowing who the special guest had caused us to stay put at the Lyrical Lemonade Stage, and while rumors were flying around of potential possibilities, Cordae ended up coming out as the first guest. He was dope, but I was beyond excited to see Yeat right after him and man did he not disappoint. I had seen him once already a few months back at his Lyrical Lemonade performance at the Concord Music Hall, and while I felt like there was a bit more that he could’ve done at that concert, I knew it was one of his first-ever shows, so I was hoping he has brushed up by now. After seeing his routine, I was blown away by how far he has come in just a few short months. Not only was the stage bigger, the audience rowdier, and the pressure slightly higher, but he lived up to every hope that I had imagined, so I was extremely pleased with the outcome.
$NOT was someone who I have seen multiple times, making it more and more obvious why I needed to see him again with the type of shows he puts together, so although I was disappointed to miss Ken Car$on, I have no regrets thanks to $NOT putting his all into every aspect of his musical appearances. We rushed back to the Lyrical Lemonade Stage to see the second special guest, but Lil Yachty took the stage instead. While I was excited to see him perform after, I was confused as to why no one came out before him, and I wondered if there was something going on.
Nonetheless, Lil Boat showed up to entertain, giving a performance that I personally felt was a lot stronger than last year, but his time wasn’t over yet. He pulled Cole out on stage, handed him a mic, and let him speak. In turn, Cole expressed to the audience the fact that he promised a special guest before wasting no time introducing Quavo and Takeoff out on stage for a brief yet absolutely magnificent act that I don’t think anyone was expecting, as well as something that no one is going to be quick to forget.
Wanting to get good spots for Carti, we watched 2 Chainz from afar as he put on an all-out clinic of hits that he has created over the years from solo records to guest verses on chart-topping singles, and I kind of wish we made our way a little closer, but once Carti came out, I knew we made the right choice to stay back. When he took the stage, he ascended to the top of a pyramid-looking prop that seemed to almost reach the rafters at the top of the entire setup.
He actually remained there for about the first half of the set as strobe lights and wild beams radiated out into the crowd, but I think one of the most interesting parts was the fact that he has a live guitarist with him who was absolutely shredding during each hit that was played. Even for his earlier, more playful tracks, the guitar would ring out over the speakers before quieting down for the bubbly, baby voice version of Carti that we all fell in love with from the jump.
Without it really sinking in for anyone, the last performance of the weekend was over, the lights turned on, and the crowd of people poured out into the streets of Chicago, vanishing into various shadows, venturing down streets, and escaping into alleys to figure out how they’re going to get home. Meanwhile, I was as close to despondent as ever because I wasn’t only exhausted, but I was truly sad that the weekend I had been looking forward to for so long came to an end in what felt like a heartbeat. I know that all good things have to come to an end, but this year’s Summer Smash was just so unexplainably great that I wished it could go on for an entire week, regardless of my mental and physical exhaustion. All I am doing is just giving myself a constant reminder that we do it up right at Lyrical Lemonade, and next year will hopefully be here before we know it!
One Final Word
At the end of the day, Lyrical Lemonade means the absolute world to me. I have seen the grind that each and every individual in this company goes through, and when you add this into an equation with the most loyal fans in the entire world, there is no stopping this freight train. Everyone’s constant support, excitement, and vigor that I experience daily whether I’m in the office, at home, or out and about drives me to keep trying to be better because I know everyone else has the same goal as well.
Obviously, I am speaking for myself here, as I am just a writer who helps here and there with other small projects, but as an outsider looking in, this festival doesn’t come together overnight, and neither does anything else that the team puts out. In fact, I’m sure that prep for next year’s Summer Smash has probably already started, but even though I can’t confirm this, I can confirm that there is a constant influx of ideas that are only going to continue to make LL the best brand, company, and entity in the universe.
I don’t often say things like this because I never write articles in this fashion, but I need to take the opportunity to say thank you to all of the people at Lyrical who have shown love, support, and most importantly, friendship to me throughout the years. Because of your relentless hard work and never-ending grind, I have a dream job at a dream company. I can only assume that you feel the same otherwise it’s hard to imagine you’d put in the same amount of time, effort, and care that seems to instantly send every endeavor that LL ventures into to the top, but either way, I am just happy to be here for the ride.
You’re all inspiring, innovative, encouraging, meticulous, friendly, and the list goes on, but I just want to extend my deepest gratitude for letting me be a part of this journey! Although reminiscing on the past is always nice, I’m tremendously eager to see what the future holds for me and the rest of Lyrical Lemonade because there’s no doubt in my mind that even though we’re more than 8 years in, this is truly only the beginning of something even more magnificent!!!