In this month of gratitude, the third annual Red Bull Music Festival is high on our list of things we’re thankful for. The festival celebrates hip hop, jazz, and house music by featuring more than 40 artists from Chicago and beyond, including Lupe Fiasco, Jamila Woods, and Saba. The events span two weeks, November 17–30.
The festival’s eight concerts will take attendees from longtime rock clubs like Metro and the Riviera Theatre to unexpected spaces such as the Garfield Park Conservatory.
The party starts by marking the 50th anniversary of Gramaphone Records on November 17. Celebrate the iconic house music record shop with owner Michael Serafini and other legends, including Derrick Carter and Steve “Silk” Hurley, as they take over both Metro and Smartbar for the night.
Jazz music will fill the halls of the Garfield Park Conservatory on November 19 with a performance by Black Monastic. The collective of local musicians, curated by Chicago artist Theaster Gates, will explore the history of black sound. Peter CottonTale, Chance the Rapper’s musical director, will curate a performance of youth infusing gospel into music, called Praise Break.
Other highlights of the festival include Lupe Fiasco performing his 2006 breakout album, Food & Liquor, in its entirety for the first time in Chicago on November 21. And local MC Smino brings his Zero Fatigue collective to the Thalia Hall stage for a night of hip hop, funk, and R&B on November 23.
Tierra Whack will perform her surreal blend of rap and R&B at the Concord Music Hall on November 26, as she performs her 15-minute album Whack World in its entirety. Enjoy an intimate performance of Jamila Woods’s new album, Legacy! Legacy!, at the Geraghty on November 27. Woods will perform a stripped-down version in the round, sharing songs about the artistic influences who have shaped her art, including Eartha Kitt, James Baldwin, and Octavia Butler.
The festival concludes with a two-night benefit concert on November 29 and 30 at Metro. Saba and the rest of Pivot Gang will honor their late friend and fellow rapper, John Walt. All ticket sales will benefit the John Walt Foundation, offering mentorships and scholarships to young artists in Chicago.
Tickets to the Red Bull Music Festival range from free for the Black Monastic concert to $30. Tickets are on sale on the Red Bull website. While you’re there, test your knowledge of Chicago music history with Red Bull’s quiz!