The most important thing that happened at Summer Jam concert in Pittsburgh on July 31 with Young Thug was the numerous local acts that got the opportunity to perform in front of the large hometown crowd.
With thousands of tickets available months before the show, Levels Agency and iGrind Global sold out Southside Event Center for the Atlanta rapper. Thug was a draw to the show, and performances by artists who represent a good portion of Pittsburgh's hip-hop scene greeted the audience. Digital sounds illustrating pride, and the streets played all night from locals like the show opener, Chillgod Joel Kellem, Meez, Heemi, Trillzee, DJ Motor Mane of Taylor Gang, and more.
Each performer and their crew bopped around the stage during a set. Levels Agency founders Elijah Hill, Elisha Hill, and Wayne Davis enjoyed the show atop the stage, but also spent much of their time catering to the needs of their audience and security personnel.
A lot of people filled the crowd. Sections were overflowing with supporters of the music. General Admission, VIP Access, VIP Tables, and Backstage had bodies filtering in and out. Security and Police did its best to keep people in their designated section. Red and yellow colored wristbands, as well as passes that hung around the neck, determined where people should be. The sheer number of attendees at Summer Jam made things busy.
The situation became hectic the closer it got to Young Thug's set time. Groups of people gathered next to the stage stairs trying to get as close to the stage as possible. "All of these people need to move out to the VIP section," Elijah yelled to Security guarding the steps. "In Thug's contract, it says this area needs to be clear." Police enforced the movement.
Singer Latia took the stage as the last local performer before nationally recognized singer and rapper PnB Rock opened up for Young Thug. She confidently owned the stage dressed in a shiny blue, sequin athletic suit. The crowd booed and said no when she asked if she could perform one last song for them. "Alright, Imma do it anyway. Fuck y'all," she said.
Upon her departure from the stage, confusion began. The Pittsburgh crowd expected to see its resident star, rapper Hardo. His hype man, Yung Rell, took the stage and demanded the audience, "When I say Trap you say Illi!" "Trap, Illi, Trap, Illi," rang back and forth. Then, however, the Summer Jam Master of Ceremonies announced that Hardo would not be next, and everyone should prepare to hear Young Thug.
The reason for this was because "the people who went before PnB Rock took too long, so PnB had a shorter set. Then we were supposed to have a shorter set, but Thug was threatening to leave if he did not get to go on immediately because he was acting weird and scared of all the niggas we had with us," Hardo's tour manager says.
So, the drama backstage played out and moments later Thug's hit song "Halftime" plucked through the speaker. He took the stage wearing a short-sleeved sweatshirt and rapped songs from his "I'm Up" and "Slime Season 3" mixtapes. "Pull Up On a Kid," was a favorite track.
At the outside venue, drops of water fell from the sky, not from the flying open water bottles during the beat drops, but from rain. The rain poured harder onto crowd members' hair and clothes. People in the VIP section ran for the exits or under tents where the VIP Tables were. Those in General Admission pushed at the Security who was blocking the intersection of GA and VIP. Eventually, the guard moved, and people in General Admission gleefully rushed closer to the stage to party with Young Thug in the rain.
After teasing the crowd with lyrics to his most popular song, "Best Friend," Thug left the stage never fully satisfying listeners with the tune.
When the concert ended and the morning after the show, national media outlets reported on an incident between Young Thug and Police that occurred where the artist's Sprinter van and others' cars were parked. TMZ revealed a video of SWAT rushing Thug's van with their weapons drawn. Officers yelled at everyone in the area, "Hands up! Hands up!" They claim they arrived on the scene because Young Thug and his crew were brandishing some of the four licensed weapons they carried on them.
In the grand scheme of things, the potentially violent event had nothing to do with the positivity that Levels Agency brought about in Pittsburgh on July 31. Police possibly got spooked from the entire night because of African-American presence and the aggressive style of music that played. Or, Police had valid information and reason to suspect a threat. They arrested a Pittsburgh rapper, Jimmy Wopo, earlier in the night. He is now free.
Either way, it is a shame that mass media only reported on a negative aspect of Summer Jam. "People will always point out the negative over the positive in any situation. It's unfortunate to be able to say this, but sometimes people don't see the God in the situations until the Devil shows his ass," Nairobi Jones, a proud photographer who captured the event, says.
What the city should remember is that "Pittsburgh has tons of talented artists. Everyone has to support one another. Imagine how powerful the city would be," Elijah says. Levels Agency deserves thanks because they presented an opportunity for the hip-hop community of Pittsburgh to showcase their art in front of thousands of listeners. They will continue their effort on October 1 as they bring Gucci Mane to the city.