High profile rappers and a wholesome rock performance capped the last weekdays of Summerfest in Milwaukee at Henry Maier Festival Park.

After some interestingly timed audio malfunctions, Midwest rap artist Vic Mensa opened his headline performance at the Uline Warehouse Stage on the Fourth of July with a cover of NWA’s “Fuck the Police.” Mensa began to showcase his patriotism by asking the crowd to chant the chorus “Fuck the Police” back to him on stage. Not many were interested in repeating the statement from the Chicago native, now sporting  a shaved head instead of dreadlocks.

After, the remix transitioned into Mensa’s own song “16 shots,” which was inspired by events of police brutality. In October of 2014, a 17-year-old Black boy, named Laquan McDonald, was shot 16 times by Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke. The shooting was caught on tape, and Van Dyke was subsequently charged with murder.

Mensa sported a new look while the crowd hoped to never hear him play punk rock again.
Ashley Steinberg/Summerfest

Mensa’s passionate anthem geared toward police brutality and other systematic injustices was surprisingly more relaxed than the studio recording. With an amplified guitar and synthesized overtones, the tune of the 2016 record came off as equally emotional but less aggressive.

The best song of “There’s Alot Going On” — “Liquor Locker” — proved Mensa can carry a tune better than expected. Transitioning into the tired “New Bae” began a barrage of ignorant soundtracks like “Reverse” and the drug affectionate “Kolonopin.” 

Longtime Mensa fans were treated to a medley combination of “Cocoa Butter Kisses,” a track the rapper is featured on with superstar artist Chance The Rapper and “I Feel That,” arguably Mensa’s most well known solo record.

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The feel-good tracks unfortunately couldn’t be followed up by something of quality. Mensa described his new song “Fist Fight” as the product of a project done with legendary punk rock drummer Travis Barker of Blink-182. The chorus of “Fist fight in the parking lot” was horrendous and unwarranted. To make matters worse, stage technicians started to slip on the job, letting overhanging stage lights meander into the crowd without an epilepsy warning.

To close his set, Mensa gave a truly solid vocal display on his Ty Dolla $ign featured record “We Could Be Free.” Fans may have appreciated the great finisher even more if it didn’t have to make up for the shameful attempt of music beforehand. 

“I don’t want to wait for the afterlife, I don’t want a vigil by candle light. I don’t want to be the new sacrifice, I don’t want to turn into a poltergeist,” Mensa rapped. 

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Friday night at Summerfest was all about the wait for T.I.

One of the many staples of the rap genre to come out of Atlanta, the artist formerly known as T.I.P. strived to prove he wasn’t just Ludacris’ time slot replacement. Fans waited through several rap performances to hear the “King of the South.”

However, many of the fans waiting at the U.S. Cellular Connection Stage appeared far younger than the fans opener Masta Ace played for in the 90’s. The disrespect by the crowd in their failed attempts to match the Brooklyn rapper’s energy was more of a strategy by the audience.

Son of Yvonne, Masta Ace rocks the shooting sleeve at Summerfest.
Ashley Steinberg/Summerfest

After a shocking lack of interest in the classic “Son of Yvonne,” and impressive freestyle by Milwaukee rapper Sticklind, it was clear there was zero interest in any performances from the venue until the Atlanta hip-hop artist took the stage.

Strolling out in a maroon sweatsuit, T.I. was backed by his DJ and hype man to “Top Back,” “Rubberband Man” and “24’s.” The theme of medleys showcased the number of hits the southern rapper had under his belt, but left some fans unsatisfied by the jumping around of songs before completion. 

There were no complaints from the audience during the monstrous hit “Whatever You Like,” one of the few songs the rapper performed in its entirety. With the crowd screaming the chorus and bridge, the rapper pointed his microphone to the crowd since he had no need to rap it back to them.

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With standing room only, the crowd found another level when T.I. began going through songs he was featured on years ago. The Atlanta artist spit his verses on Ace Hood’s “Bugatti,” Rihanna’s “Live Your Life” and his track with Justin Timberlake “Dead and Gone.” The second medley was the peak of the show, before T.I. confessed to having been drinking, seeming to be looking for a reason to end the show a little earlier than anticipated.

After an awkward departure from the stage, T.I. returned with an encore of “About the Money” which caused fans to get excited for additional songs, or clear disappointment in the rapper thinking he could make up for his suddenly weird stage presence by wrapping his shirt around his head. 

While T.I. and his hype man left the stage after the lone additional song, the DJ stood up top on his lone platform with a stage light placed solely on him. After a tense few minutes, the house lights came on, officially signaling the end of the entertainers performance. The memorable show was awkward, but strong enough to make Summerfest attendees happy to have seen it.

The Head and the Heart gave a strong showing at Henry Maier Festival Park.
Quinn Beaupre/The Badger Herald

The Head and the Heart made the first stop of their “Living Mirage” tour at the Miller Lite Oasis stage Friday night. The Seattle-based group recently released their fourth studio album, “Living Mirage,” which they created in the desert at Joshua Tree as an effort to think more creatively. 

The group played a diverse set, drawing from each of their four albums throughout their 75 minute show. The blend of slower tracks, such as “Down in the Valley” had the audience quietly singing along, whereas high-energy songs like “Missed Connection” had the whole crowd moving. With that said, easily the most compelling part of their show was the finale — “Rivers and Roads.” 

With arms around each other, the audience swayed back and forth as they belted out the lyrics, marking the conclusion of a truly magical show and making The Head and the Heart a must-see the next time they’re in your area.