Recap: The Roots Picnic 2023 Was A R&B Music Lover’s Dream


Roots Picnic 2023 was the most robust undertaking in the event’s 15 years. With Usher, Ari Lennox, Lucky Daye, Kindred The Family Soul, and even a surprise appearance by Jazmine Sullivan, the festival was an R&B music lover’s dream.   Read our contributing writer Flisadam Pointer’s full recap of day two of Roots Picnic 2023. 

Even the projected gloomy overcast skies couldn’t dim the light Roots Picnic 2023 shined on Philadelphia’s musical legacy. In alignment with hip-hop’s 50th anniversary, the cultural fixture emphasized the city’s impact on the genre by way of its jammed-packed lineup. The large ensemble sets, such as the State Property Reunion, J. Period’s Live Mixtape talent grouping with Black Thought, Busta Rhymes and Eve, as well as DJ Drama and Friends troupe, were dedicated to showing Philly in all of its glory.

Multi-award-winning music director and bassist Adam Blackstone’s performance set was outstanding, bringing out rising R&B singer/actress Coco Jones and gospel sister-duo Mary Mary to bring the crowd to its feet as they spectacularly performed the duo’s “God In Me” together on the park stage. 

While Ms. Lauryn Hill’s headlining celebration of the 25th anniversary of her Grammy Award-winning album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, with surprise appearances by her Fugee groupmates, made it feel like one Big-ass family reunion across the tri-state. From the podcast tapings and stage acts to the supporting DJs holding it down during intermissions, the Roots Picnic 2023’s lineup was abundantly clear that hip-hop was the priority. 

However, on the event’s closing day (Sunday, June 4), R&B music was the true star. 

Due to overwhelming demand, the festival was spread across two days at the Philadelphia Mann Center in Fairmount Park for the second consecutive year. Navigating the park’s open grounds in late spring could be physically taxing. Fortunately, Sunday’s breezy and mild temperatures favored the festivalgoers. In addition to mother nature’s weather alley-oop, Diddy’s last-minute swap out for Usher was serendipitous, proving the perfect way to end things. But before Mr. Las Vegas took the festival’s main stage, the energy had to be set. 

Outside of having one of the most diverse lineups sonically in Black music, one of the most compelling parts of the Roots Picnic is the atmosphere it brews. Ground staff, attendees, vendors, and the media’s infectious attitudes created a warm environment ideal for a prolonged outdoor event. Sprinkled throughout the park and presser stage performances,  DJ Diamond Kuts, AMH, and O-Boyy controlled the eager audiences. Kuts, tasked with holding down the larger space (the park stage), played a hip-hop-heavy set mixing a standard blend of chart-topping tracks and acts that took the stage earlier in the day. Her tribute to Philadelphia’s own, the late PnB Rock, was remarkable. On the contrary, on the presser stage, DJs AMH and O-Boyy’s tag team approach help curate a strategically balanced mix serving as an interlude to each featured act coming after them.

Speaking of the billed talent, everyone brought their a-game, starting with Kindred The Family Soul. As one of the only native Philly neo-soul acts, the pressure to hold down their hometown felt squarely on their shoulder. But the “Stars” singer duo easily handled it despite the delay in their on-stage visuals. Whether it was the fact that they were home or the tenure in the industry, Kindred The Family Soul was simply there to have a good time. It may seem hard to believe, but their soulful vocals were richer in person than heard on wax. The sitting-only presser stage jumped to their feet until the set was over. 

 Back on the park stage, Ari Lennox was next up. Her luscious coils shined, and her skin glistened. Lennox looked the part, but the real question was would she deliver silky smooth vocals? Being a Roots Picnic alum, she knew that the bar was set high. Effortlessly, the “Pressure” singer knocked it out of the park. Opening her performance, the singer battled with a slight audio issue, but Lennox managed to power through to giving her best set at the festival to date. 


As a result of DJ Drama’s set running over, Lucky Daye’s performance was delayed. Nonetheless, ever the showman when the “Over” singer wasted no time resetting the mood. Lucky’s voice wasn’t the only instrument putting in work to woo the lustful crowd. Following the foundation set by his band, the musician used his body to emphasize every lyric that came out of his mouth. From exaggerated arm movements to throwing his body across the floor, Lucky was lost in the music. His dedication to selling the fantasy, vocally and physically, made it difficult even to attempt to look away, let alone try to truck it to another stage.  

Kindred The Family Soul, Ari Lennox, and Lucky Daye were a satisfying serving R&B, but with Usher closing out the event, you had to make room for more. With every excuse in the book to take it easy – being an alternate for Diddy, fresh off of his Las Vegas residency, etc. – the crowned king of the genre (debate your mother) didn’t hold anything back. A small light show, choreography, wardrobe changes, bringing out special guests Jazmine Sullivan and Eve, mid-set history lessons, and being backed by the Roots band, Usher over-delivered.  Usher has many confessions, but being a master of the stage isn’t a secret he can hide.  

Overall, Roots Picnic 2023’s closing day was a dream for music lovers. Every genre, from funk, house, go-go, gospel, soul, R&B, and of course, hip-hop, was fairly represented. Standout acts Usher, Adam Blackstone, Lucky Daye, Ari Lennox, and Kindred The Family Soul made R&B proud.  The Roots Picnic has nailed lineup cultivation!

The organizers have even expanded the event to accommodate the patrons’ demands. However, a few logistical issues still need to be resolved to make Roots Picnic the best festival in Philadelphia. 

Keeping in mind the attendees’ overall experience, tracking down the allotted parking areas was nearly impossible without a second set of eyes. Leaving the grounds was smooth, but there are still kinks in arriving. Accessibility for persons with disabilities, as well as persons with service animals, could be frustrating. The lack of clearly marked or blocked-off pathways at the park stage raised substantial safety concerns.  Lastly, to nitpick, the non-inclusive food options and restrictive beverage options were disappointing. The high cost was to be expected, but the lack of range made me regret not eating before I arrived at the no-reentry event. I say all of this because the Roots Picnic team has shown in the past by changing the venue and recently adding another day that they are open to feedback. So, I am confident that next year’s event will be even greater, and I look forward to attending.

Photo Credit for Kindred The Family Stone, Ari Lennox & Lucky Daye: Flisadam Pointer

Photo Credit for Cover art and other images: Getty Images/Taylor Hill/Live Nation urban

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