Written by Rosalie Cabison • Photography by Colleen Callahan, Live Nation • March 1, 2017
Should I see Pretty Ricky or Jhené Aiko? Monica or Ro James? Too $hort or The Internet? These were the good set-time conflicts ignited by Soulquarius at The OC Observatory in Santa Ana, Calif. on a Saturday in February. The inaugural year for what was billed as an ‘R&B Jam’ outlined an unreal gathering of veteran and rising names in the genre—top-loaded with women (Erykah Badu, Ashanti, Jhené Aiko, Brandy, and Monica among them).
Here’s a rundown of what I saw and heard— some of the bests of the fest to go along with the gallery of performance photos above.
Nina Sky: The crowd went into a dancing frenzy with the classic reggaeton beats of “Oye Mi Canto” and “Move Ya Body” and their latest track, “Champion Lover.” Shout out Nicole for doing a turntable scratching set.
Willow Smith: Yes, Willow performed “Whip My Hair.” She flipped it up into an awesome, free-flowing reggae-tinged tune to fit her current sound.
Ying Yang Twins: The Atlanta duo taught us ‘90s babies how to “freak dance,” so the middle school dance vibes were incredibly strong.
Monica: I may or may not have cried while the entire crowd sang along to “For You I Will.” Flashback to Space Jam.
The Pharcyde: This tweet:
The Internet: A gorgeous, post-rain sunset set the tone for the set, which included the singles that positioned them as the future of R&B/Soul (“Girl,” “She Knows”) and new solo material from guitarist/vocalist Steve Lacy.
Ja Rule & Ashanti: Easily the highlight of the entire festival. They opened their set with “Always On Time,” “Mesmerize,” and “What’s Luv,” did their respective hits, and then ran it back again to do an encore of their duets.
Jhené Aiko: My love for her is real. She did an unreleased track, “Hello Ego,” live.
Erykah Badu: If anyone was feeling drained, Erykah cleansed us all of that negative energy.