NEAR WEST SIDE — Kanye West, the not-so-secret special guest at AAHH! Fest, capped off an all-day festival Sunday that Common, its organizer, billed as a celebration of the entire city of Chicago.
"It's a breath of fresh air for everybody in Chicago," Common said to a crowded Union Park Sunday night, during his second set of the fest.
"Chicago, we the greatest," he said ending the night.
Originally slated to be held in Jackson Park, the festival supporting Donda’s House and Common Ground Foundation was billed as a celebration of Chicago music.
The one-day festival was split in two, with the first session focusing on local performers with passions for singing, dancing or rapping before the evening, when famous names took the stage.
"We are one Chicago, no matter which side we come from: the South Side, the West Side, the North Side," Common said as the headlining act of the earlier session.
Performers during the main event were sure to play their songs associated with the city. Lupe Fiasco performed fast-rapping crowd favorite "Go Go Gadget Flow" with lyrics that proclaim: "I'm from the city in the Midwest, best city in the whole wide-wide world." West played "Homecoming," a song about coming back home to Chicago.
Both covered "Don't Like" by Englewood rapper Chief Keef.
Performers who took the stage during the community session said they were honored to be part of the same festival graced by the likes of Lupe Fiasco, Jennifer Hudson and West.
"We love them as artists, and they are great people," said Shantel Jarmon, also known as SharmonJarmon! "The fact they made a whole part of the festival where we are on the same stage they'll be on, it's wonderful."
She performed a soulful song and, like many performers, shared messages of anti-violence, saying at the end of her set: "People kill people. Guns don't kill people."
Others who took the stage included 15-year-old Jamila Wright, a student at Gary Comer College Prep who sung Adele's "Someone Like You," and 13-year-old Tristian Arnez, who made the girls in the crowd swoon with his cover of The Jackson 5's "Who's Loving You."
Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the Chicago Public Schools CEO, drew the biggest cheers at the community event, not because she told the kids in the crowd to get to school on time on Monday, but because she introduced New York City rapper Diggy Simmons onto the stage.
The early set ended with Common's freestyle rap with his frequent collaborator, both in the studio and in community events, Rhymefest.
"Let's do this the way we used to," Rhymefest said leading into their song.
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