I knew I was officially Millennial Trash™ when I decided to see Lil Yachty instead of Solange at Broccoli City on Saturday.
Choices are the worst part of any festival, and this year’s Broccoli City Festival had more than ever before — largely because its lineup, spread across two stages, was perhaps more diverse and talented than ever before.
The mud was thick and the rain light but constant — not exactly the ideal, Coachella-fied weather festivalgoers have come to expect. But that didn’t stop rap and hip-hop fans from turning out in droves to see trap hitmakers such as Rae Sremmurd and 21 Savage or soulful pop acts such as NAO and AlunaGeorge.
In fact, this year’s festival offered a more even divide between the party acts and the “woke” ones. Last year, Anderson .Paak and The Internet eased the crowd into the late-night turn-up of Future’s headlining set. But this year, if you played your cards right, you could almost pick one or the other.
With obvious Tidal sponsorship, an expanded VIP section that took up the area closest to the stage and two larger stages, Broccoli City was definitely starting to live up to its sprawling urban name. That puts the festival in a pretty nice place; it has the amenities and big-name artists of a larger festival, but the hometown feel of a block party. The event emcees were as irreverent and DMV-centric as ever, shouting out Wale and Shy Glizzy on stage while DJs played Goldlink’s D.C.-repping summer anthem “Crew” multiple times. Despite the rain, the atmosphere was sunny, with the apparently younger crowd bringing an energy that had been missing in the past.
That energy reached a peak during Atlanta goofball Lil Yachty’s set at the smaller City Stage. Technical problems had pushed sets on the stage back half an hour, which made Yachty conflict directly with Solange’s main stage performance. And if anything, the conflict made the age divide in the audience more obvious: No one in the Yachty crowd looked older than 22.
In a weird collision of worlds, early-2000s “real hip-hop” duo Dead Prez opened up for Yachty, asking the crowd to sing, “It’s bigger than hip-hop, hip-hop” along with them. And when they asked the crowd if they could play one more song, a large number of people actually yelled, “No!”
Yachty’s set was as youthful and absurd as you’d expect. He played his big hits — “Broccoli,” “One Night” and “Minnesota” — as well as weird internet B-sides such as the ice cream truck-sampling, Shlohmo-produced “Ice Water” and his Offset collaboration “Dipset.” The crowd jumped and flailed at every drop, and Yachty was charismatic in a way his Atlanta peer 21 Savage hadn’t been during his earlier Broccoli Stage set.
“What the fuck, I love myself,” he giggled at one point as the crowd chorused “Lil Boat!” like a trapped-out version of the seagulls from Finding Nemo.
Later that night, Rae Sremmurd served as a fun headliner, playing all their hits while shirtless, blunts and Henny in hand. But the other standout acts of the festival also took advantage of the more intimate City Stage. Chicago rapper Smino performed with crutches and a full band early in the evening, and NAO’s band brought her soulful EDM-pop to life (not that she needed help — she was easily the most enthusiastic and charming artist to take the stage).
But even if it required more choices than before, this year’s Broccoli City only offered good options. And if the weather ever cooperates, it’s on the way to becoming bigger than Southeast, bigger than Washington itself — it’s a festival that knows what people want to hear, even if they don’t.