New York City came out in droves for the 4th Annual Governors Ball at Randall’s Island this past weekend for some great music, free Ben and Jerry‘s ice cream, and excessively priced merchandise. The New York festival also notably, at least for me, upped the number of hip-hop/R&B acts from seven in 2013 to 11 this year, many of whom turned in the best performances of the weekend or career-best sets in general.

Friday, June 6 

Run The Jewels 

The duo, consisting of Atlanta, GA MC Killer Mike (pictured right) and Brooklyn-based producer/MC El-P (pictured left), wasted no time by hyping up the crowd at the Honda Stage with their early afternoon set. They performed the entirety of their self-titled album with an infectious energy to a pretty sizable crowd for 1:30 on the first day of a festival, and even Mike got into the spirit and danced for the crowd near the end.


The Gotham Tent got its first blast of hip-hop from Harlem-based group Ratking. The post-punk/hip-hop trio, consisting of MCs Wiki and Hak and producer Sporting Life, took a little time to get the crowd moving, even though their set was tight overall, given new life by the addition of a sax player. Once more material from their debut album “So It Goes” surfaced in the set, the crowd showed more energy. New York hip-hop was in full swing for Ratking.

Janelle Monáe

Over at the Gov Ball NYC stage, Monaé entranced the crowd with her set, playing songs mostly from her latest LP “The Electric Lady.” Even though her set was short, the stark black-and-white get-up of Monaé’s ensemble and the James Brown-level theatrics she displayed on songs like “Dance Apocalyptic” and “Tightrope” were riveting all the same.

Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley

After a quick bite, the Honda Stage beckoned with the presence of Marley, the youngest son of legendary reggae artist Bob Marley. “Jr. Gong” bounded up and down the stage, his long locs bouncing just above the floor with each step, for a full hour and fifteen minutes, playing original songs and a cover of his father’s “Could You Be Loved” before closing with his gargantuan hit “Welcome To Jamrock”


The ATLiens were the headliners Friday (and for the festival at large), and their famous double act of Southern rap and off-kilter aesthetics didn’t disappoint. Big Boi (pictured right) and André 3000 (pictured left) performed much of the first half of the set together before taking turns performing songs from their double album “Speakerboxx/The Love Below.”  André somehow managed to stay in his black  “Art or Fart?” jumpsuit and platinum blonde wig all night, which confused me, but he and Big Boi felt the heat and the love from the crowd during this 20th anniversary show. After the tepid response they received during the first weekend of Coachella back in April, the Governor’s Ball was a change of pace for them, as the crowd didn’t lose any steam throughout their hour-and-a-half long set.

Saturday, June 7 

Chance The Rapper

The second day happened to have the best set of the entire festival thanks to the Chicago MC. Chancellor Bennet and his backing band The Social Experiment blew the roof off of the Gotham Tent on Saturday going through songs both old and new, pulling from both of his already released mix tapes and his now famous cover of the Ziggy Marley song “Believe In Yourself,” (which you can view below) best known as the theme song for the TV show “Arthur.” The crowd called Chance back for a whopping two encores and worked him as hard as they could.

Childish Gambino

Turning in another one of the best sets of the festival was Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino, fresh off of his Deep Web Tour promoting his latest release “because the internet.” His normally glowing personality has dulled over the course of the last year-and-a-half, possibly in relation to the album itself, but Glover seemed to be back to his old self again Saturday night, grinning from ear to ear for his entire set. Chance The Rapper also surprised even Glover when he showed up halfway through and performed their song “The Worst Guys” together and finally debuting the verse that never made the final cut on the song. Check it out in the video below.

Sunday, June 8

Earl Sweatshirt 

Los Angeles-based collective Odd Future was in the building Sunday, with the youngest MC in the group taking the Honda Stage first Sunday afternoon. Thebe Kgositsile aka Earl Sweatshirt played to a rabid crowd while he and DJ Travis “Taco” Bennett kept them screaming for more. Eventually, OF frontman Tyler, The Creator joined his friends onstage for collaborations like “Whoa” and “Orange Juice” before the fun continued over at the Big Apple Stage.

Tyler, The Creator 

More or less a part two to Earl’s previous set, Tyler kept the crowd at the same level with the help of Earl, Taco, and other friend and OF member Jasper. From the high-energy to the depressing, the eclecticism of Tyler’s songs didn’t deter the crowd’s energy a bit, which was surprising. Fans even threw a bra up on stage during “IFHY,” one of his more somber songs.

J. Cole 

Cole drew both leftover OF fans and even more from across Randall’s Island for his set at the Honda Stage. The South Carolina-born MC saw his audience come and go for the first half of his set, but as he pulled more material from his best-selling album “Born Sinner,” the crowd began to grow again. By the time he ended the set with “Crooked Smile,” he had filled up the entire Honda Stage space.

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