Music

Sexyy Red Stakes Her Claim With Scintillating 2024 Roots Picnic Set

When Sexyy Red was announced as a performer at 2024 Roots Picnic, a festival that largely caters to adult R&B lovers, the baby daddy-damning “Looking for the Hoes” rapper received a less than warm welcome — so much so that festival founder Questlove spoke up in her defense.

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“There is always that one act on the show everyone hates because it serves as a reminder the hip hop THEY like is from 30 years ago,” the Roots drummer wrote in a reply to a flood of Instagram comments proclaiming that there was “nothing positive about [Sexyy’s] message.” “I mean I get it but look: we gotta round and balance the day out: there are other stages & podcasts and events to see… when have you seen a festival in which EVERY ACT is the act you love?”

And yet, when Sexyy took the Presser Stage at Fairmount Park in Philadelphia, the venue was so packed that crowds formed on the walkways looming over the ridiculously packed amphitheater. From the moment she sauntered onstage flanked by four high-octane dancers and a mock Secrete Service agent, Sexyy Red was the president — and she didn’t even need the agent to drive the point home. Nonetheless, it was a nice touch to her patriotic staging, which also featured her sporting a red, white and blue two-piece.

In addition to her dancers and Secret Service agent, Sexyy’s stage also featured a giant inflatable red cap with the phrase “Make America Sexyy Again” emblazoned across it in the standard MAGA font. Throughout her hit-laden set, Sexyy conjured up, if only for 30 minutes, an America that embraces and exalts the most ratchet edges of everyone’s personalities. Under her presidency, the crowd achieved a sense of escapism that may not have even been explicitly searching for, but clearly needed. That’s the magic of Sexyy Red, she grants her listeners “escapism” not by way of fantasy, but by allowing people to unconditionally spoil the parts of themselves they keep hidden out of allegiance to various social standards. Don’t be mistaken, Sexyy is no Iron Lady; her laid-back approach to onstage banter and choreography is half the reason her whole shtick works. Whether she’s doing the “Crank Dat” dance or giving us her best chickenhead, Sexyy’s just doing her, so that we can do us.

Kicking things off with “Bow Bow Bow (F My Baby Dad),” Sexyy somersaulted through her enviable collection of hits, each drawing louder and more intense fan reactions than the last. The spirit of Crime Mob‘s Diamond and Princess shined through her spirited renditions of Billboard Hot 100 hits like “Get It Sexyy” (No. 20), “SkeeYee” (No. 62) and “Pound Town” (No. 66, with Tay Keith), as well as street smashes such as “Hellcats SRTs,” “Shake Yo Dreads,” and “Hood Rats” (with Sukihana). Of course, Sexyy couldn’t exclude her similarly top-notch collaborations, including “Shake Sumn” (with DaBaby), “Peaches & Eggplants” (with Young Nudy), and, of course, “Rich Baby Daddy” (with Drake & SZA), which easily garnered the most passionate crowd response and some hilariously unserious vocals from Sexyy herself.

With tight formations, several counts worth of choreography at a time, and staging that continuously emphasized the political aesthetics of her new In Sexyy We Trust mixtape, Sexyy’s 2024 Roots Picnic set displayed notable growth from her earliest shows, while still capturing the essence of what makes her such an alluring performer. In fact, her rendition of the “BBL Drizzy”-sampling “U My Everything” — a Drake collaboration from her latest tape — is the best example of that shift. To bring the sing-songy track to life, Sexyy and her dancers — who she affectionately introduced as “The Sexettes” — executed waist-gyrating girl group-esque choreography that underscored the song’s puppy-eyed love. “Bae, I love you, you my everything/ I’m your main bitch, fuck a wedding ring/ We both in fast cars and we switchin’ lanes/ When I’m away from you, you always on my brain,” she crooned.

Sexyy Red may not be the hip-hop of 30 years ago, but the verve she brought to this year’s Roots Picnic — and the way she effortlessly captivated the largest and most youthful crowd of day one — is emblematic of hip-hop’s undying party energy. Next stop: main stage.

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