This Saturday, a stacked one-day hip-hop and R&B-tinged festival comes to Long Beach. Smokin Grooves 2018 has brought together some of the genres’ best known commodities and fresh up-and-comers, making it no surprise that the tickets sold out quickly.
The festival is a callback to the 1996 Smokin Grooves tour that featured more of the cerebral hip-hop and R&B acts that were around at the time as opposed to some of the gangster rap that dominated the airwaves. That ’96 tour featured the likes of The Fugees, A Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes, Cypress Hill, and numerous others.
Making it a one-day festival was a really smart move. Those of us in LA who love the look of these Long Beach festival lineups but feel it’s a bit much to travel to the LBC twice in one weekend can now just make one trip out of it.
I highly recommend taking the Blue Line Metro down to Long Beach if you’re coming from LA. I’ve done it for One Love Cali Reggae and Music Tastes Good in the past.
The Goldenvoice-produced fest is bringing that same blend of hip-hop and R&B to Long Beach’s Queen Mary Park on Saturday. Erykah Badu, Miguel, and The Roots top the deep and diverse lineup of names. A rare live appearance from Anderson .Paak‘s side project with Knxwledge called NxWorries is a highlight, as are Jhene Aiko, H.E.R., DVSN, Alina Baraz, Thundercat, and Busta Rhymes — the only holdover from the tour that took place 20 years ago.
The original Smokin Grooves was launched by powerful hip-hop agent Cara Lewis and House of Blues’ Kevin Morrow. The originators of Smokin Grooves are involved in this new incarnation according to Billboard, and it doesn’t look like the Long Beach stop will be the last.
“Smokin’ Grooves is a showcase of the best that live music has to offer,” says Lewis, who founded Cara Lewis Group in 2016, a boutique music agency. “I’m excited to present a special one-day Smokin’ Grooves festival in Long Beach this June. The tour will return to 13 to 15 markets in 2019 with a multi-act bill that will thrive in a lane of its own.”
We’ve highlighted five undercard acts from this year’s festival you won’t want to miss:
NxWorries (Anderson .Paak + Knxwledge) (4:45-5:30, Free Your Mind Stage)
Anderson .Paak is going to rise to festival headliner status on his next album cyce when he drops two separate albums later this year. His 2016 collaborative album Yes Lawd! with beat-maker Knxwledge as NxWorries was one of the year’s most underrated. I caught the duo do a rare live performance at the inaugural Blurry Vision Festival in Oakland last month. Paak has neverending amounts of swagger and Knxwledge chilled on stage smoking a blunt while letting Paak do this thing. They played pretty much the entire album of theirs. I was surprised how few teens knew of the project but they all walked away impressed.
Alina Baraz (8:00-8:30 PM, Groovin’ Stage)
Before she headlines The Novo in October, catch Alina Baraz this weekend mesmerizing the Long Beach crowd with her swoon-worthy set of R&B and pop jams. Her The Color of You EP that dropped around the time she played Coachella is phenomenal and really a great fit for the summertime vibes that Smokin Grooves 2018 promises to put on full display. Baraz drew one of the bigger crowds at Blurry Vision Festival last month in Oakland and is expected to do the same in Long Beach.
DVSN (11:00-11:30, Smokin Stage)
After selling out The Novo in his last appearance out in LA, few names have been hotter in R&B than DVSN, and he’s being rewarded with a closing set at Smokin Grooves 2018. The Canadian R&B duo have been one of the best signings OVO Sound has made. It’s amazing they’ve only been around for three years. Last year’s full-length record Morning After was one of the more impressive records to drop in the R&B space in 2017. They’ll be sure to put anyone who catches their set in the mood.
Miguel (8:30-9:30, Free Your Mind Stage)
Not really an undercard act but I must convince you not to miss at the end of the night. The R&B star is basically a rock star and has wowed me every time I’ve seen him. He’s prolific as hell and always has new material whenever he plays a show. Miguel is that dude that guys wanna smoke a joint with even as he’s in the midst of stealing your girl — he has that kind of swag. He’s also a Los Angeles favorite and his vibes certainly fit the LBC and the waterfront.
Bruno Major (6:00-6:30 PM, Groovin’ Stage)
Few up-and-comers have impressed me as much as the UK’s latest export Bruno Major. His flavor of R&B is pristine and he’s impressed us in both of his first two touring stops in Los Angeles — first at The Echo and more recently at the Masonic Lodge. His vocals are pitch perfect. His album from last year A Song For Every Moon is strong from top to bottom and he’s only just starting to come into himself as a performer.