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Anyone that stuck around until the end of this year's International Yardfest at Howard University will have a story to tell for years. In the past, Yardfest has featured the likes of the Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, DMX, a little known Kanye West, Fabolous, Wale, Clipse, Slick Rick, Rick Ross, Three 6 Mafia, and Jeezy (twice). The theme for this year's Homecoming was "Legendary," and yesterday's events were like something out of a movie.
The outdoor concert was hosted by Howard's own LowKey of You Heard That New, and as always, featured a combination of rising, local, and big name talent. One early surprise performance came from Seattle native Leah LaBelle. The "Sexify" singer performed her breakout single before launching into a rendition of her mentor Pharrell's "Frontin'."
Because Yardfest is a stage for emerging local talent, acts from the area showed up aiming to impress. This year's Yardfest featured acts like Black Alley and rapper Kingpen Slim. Chicago's own Sir Michael Rocks stuck around after an appearance during Thursday night's fashion show to perform, as well.
Yarfdfest always offers a treat in the form of a nostalgic act, and that slot was filled this year by Naughty By Nature. Despite having a career as old as some of Howard's current upperclassmen, Naughty was still able to connect with the '90s babies, who were quite responsive to classics like "Uptown Anthem." Treach, a good friend of 2Pac's, paid homage to him and Biggie while Kay Gee ran through a medley of their hits. It was great to see old and young connect for a good time.
The announcement of 2 Chainz as a Yardfest performer, which came after his stellar performance at D.C.'s 9:30 Club over Labor Day weekend, guaranteed an electric performance. It wasn't Chainz's first time at Yardfest, as he performed back in 2007 as one half of Playaz Circle, but he left a singular mark on Howard University this time around. The crowd recited every lyric as he ran through his catalog, and then he brought out his G.O.O.D. Music brethren Pusha T to perform "Mercy," and then Pusha spit his verse from the "I Don't Like Remix" before leaving.
2 Chainz set seemed to run a little long, mostly because he has so many crowd-pleasers, but by the time he got to "No Lie" it all made sense—Drake was there. Grown men sprinted to get as close to the stage as possible when October's Very Own ran out, clad in a red "HOWARD" sweatshirt. After spitting his verse from "No Lie," the sound was cut off and all of the overzealous fans were warned that it wouldn't come back on until everyone took 10 steps back. Once they obliged, Drake performed his bit of "Pop That" and "HYFR." Before leaving, he spoke about his completing high school, and asked current Howard students if they'd mind seeing him as an undergrad. No need to elaborate on that response.
Drake's greatness couldn't keep the unfriendly skies from opening up. The rain began during Beenie Man's set, and by the time Meek Mill took the stage, the violent weather forced most of the crowd to seek shelter. Meek did his best, even bringing out T.I., but the rain wouldn't let up, and many (including the writer) found themselves stuck inside of the university's buildings until the downpour subsided.
Despite the rain, the 2012 International Yardfest was no wash-out. It featured the deepest lineup in years, and the fact that 2 Chainz managed to bring out both Pusha T and Drake (at different times, for obvious reasons) is not something anyone will forget.
In 2010, grown men ran to see Rick Ross. This year it was Drake. Who's next?
Written by Julian Kimble (@JRK316).