The 2018 Art of Cool Festival went down in Durham, NC. Legends like Nas and Erykah Badu performed, but the highlight was Little Brother’s reunion.

Durham, North Carolina doesn’t shy away from her blackness. Having a festival that celebrates the musical experience of black culture says a lot about the weight Durham holds and the regard she has for musical influences. NC is home to some of the world’s best jazz musicians, such as John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Nina Simone, and Lou Donaldson. The Art of Cool, which is now in its fifth year, was birthed in the right place.

Unlike most festivals, the AOC Festival, which went down September 28th to the 29th in downtown Durham, wants you to walk away with more than musical happiness; they want you full on ideas centered around community responsibility, networking and mental wellness. The AOC Festival provided panel talks from panelist like Sango, Alex Wolfe, Rapsody, and Mika Sunga.

The festival prides itself on exposing new and eclectic music with strong jazz influences. AOC doesn’t shy away from allowing local artist to perform throughout downtown Durham with the same respect they show larger names. As you walked down Main Street you could hear sounds from artists like King Draft, Allie Capo, and M8alla.

If you weren’t listening to music, then you could have made your way to the middle of the action at American Underground which held Innovate Your Cool, which was powered by Facebook. Innovate Your Cool allowed an open invitation for everyone who wanted more than just grooves and notes. They pushed the envelope on countless topics such as social media branding, mental health and entertainment awareness. (Okayplayer hosted a panel on “Feminism in Hip-Hop” starring Rapsody)

Heading into the nights at the Durham Bulls Ballpark, you saw performances from Anthony Hamilton, Maxwell, Nas, and headliner Erykah Badu. But the most notable moment of the night came after Royce Da 5’9 missed his flight.

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