how 'warm up' at moma ps1 became nyc's best summer festival
Cardi B and Lizzo graced their stage before they were superstars. Meet the five emerging artists to see this year.
Photo Sara Wass. Images courtesy of MoMA PS1
For the past 22 years, every Saturday through July and August, MoMA PS1 has transformed its courtyard in Long Island City, Queens into the hottest outdoor club in New York City. Known as Warm Up, the museum lets the winners of its Young Architects Program turn the ex-schoolhouse grounds into a mercurial playground, where the world’s freshest MCs, producers and DJs can strut their stuff in front of 5,000 fans.
Led by a committee of music industry influencers with one of the best barometers in pop music, the summer-long series has a reputation for recognizing exceptional talent long before other festival promoters do. Solange, Grimes, Lizzo and Cardi B are among Warm Up’s alumni, having all graced the stage at PS1 before finding critical acclaim elsewhere. This year, like every other, there’s a lineup of artists destined for bigger things, including St. Louis rapper Smino, Jamaican dancehall sensation Shenseea, Catalan MC Bad Gyal and LA house-head Channel Tres. They’ll join established acts — unofficial headliners — like Freddie Gibbs & Madlib, Annie Mac and The Martinez Brothers.
“We want to make it feel like a special series and not like we’re regurgitating the same few acts that every festival has,” says MoMA PS1 Warm Up curator Taja Cheek, who, along with Eliza Ryan, Naomi Zeichner, Dean Bein, Isabelia Herrera, Jonas Leon and Matt Werth, put together this year’s eclectic lineup. “First and foremost, we’re music nerds,” Cheek says of her colleagues. “We all have different interests.” Their ability to find common threads among the artists they individually adore is key to the fluidity of Warm Up. “The balance that we’re trying to have is that you feel the throughlines, but that it’s not super obvious,” explains Cheek.
At just $18 advance/$22 on the day, it’s also one of the most affordable summer concert series in NYC. “Remaining affordable is one of the highest priorities for us,” Cheek says. The series begins on Saturday, July 6 with sets by Freddie Gibbs & Madlib, Pardison Fontaine, Kelly Lee Owens, Kedr Livanskiy, JOY, duendita and Like That Records. Between acts you can also browse the galleries and enjoy a range of beverages and food available on site.
Like in past years, this year’s Warm Up series features a smorgasbord of musicians from across the globe. i-D has already introduced you to Santi, Club Chai’s FOOZOOL and 8ULENTINA, Ama Lou, Jezenia Romero, Kedr Livanskiy, Chika and Bad Gyal. Here are five more artists we think you should show up early for.
Jamaican dancehall star Shenseea contributed a verse to “Right Moves” on Christina Agueleria’s Liberation. But it’s her own song, “Blessed,” featuring Los Angeles rapper Tyga, that has gained her the most attention. Released in May by Interscope Records (she’s the first Jamaican artist to sign with the influential US label), it’s already racked up 12 million streams on YouTube. The 22-year-old has been singing since she was a child, first in church then on Facebook, where her debut song, “Perfect Sidechick,” went viral. Realizing the power of social media, the unofficial “Princess of Dancehall” used the platform to catapult herself into the hearts of reggae-lovers everywhere. There’s a good chance you’ll hear Shenseea’s music on the streets of NYC this summer.
Beneath all the noise in Brooklyn producer Tygapaw’s gnawing electronica, there’s always a beat to keep you moving. The musician is a founding member of Fake Accent, a monthly dance party and collective that highlights queer and trans artists of color. Her music, which occasionally blends field recordings with beats designed for the club (see “4 Train [Utica Ave]” off her brilliant 2019 EP Handle With Care), speaks to her experience of navigating New York as a queer immigrant of color. Born in Jamaica, Tygapaw moved to New York in 2002 to attend Parsons School of Design. She later formed a rap duo, taught herself Ableton, and began DJing and producing her own genrefluid music. While it’s hard to classify — on Twitter she calls herself “a Jamaican that makes electronic music, not dancehall” — Caribbean dance culture is always at the root of her music. From there it’s a journey into the unknown, with stops at romantic pop, noise, techno and trance.
The Argentina-born, Spain-based reggaeton artist Ms. Nina was a Tumblr celebrity before she became a popstar. Her GIFs and collages gained her a massive following on the platform and later made her Instafamous. Today, alongside Bad Gyal and La Zowi, she’s one of the rising stars of neoperreo, an internet-inspired reggaeton-aligned subgenre centered around female and gender-fluid artists that are helping to expel the misogynistic lyrics that have long been associated with the genre. Infused with salsa, dembow and cumbia, Ms. Nina’s sex-positive vocals and barrier-crushing beats are taking the spirit of Latin pop to an exciting new plateau. Nepperreo has been described by The FADER as “reggaeton’s freakiest offshoot.” Ms. Nina says, “It’s something incredible to be able to smash barriers and announce, ‘If I want to sing about sex in a song, I do it.”
South African artist Sho Madjozi recently won Best Newcomer and Best Female Album at the South African Music Awards. Then last week she was crowned Best New International Act at the 2019 BET Awards — an award voted on by fans. Madjozi makes music known as Gqom, a style of African electronic music that blends hip-hop and house music with traditional sounds and samples. Rhianna and Childish Gambino recently popularized the subgenre’s distinctive ‘gwara gwara’ dance moves here in the US; now Madjozi is bringing the full Gqom experience to PS1. Madjozi’s most celebrated work is Limpopo Champions League, her debut album that’s named after the province in Northern South Africa where she grew up. In the music videos that accompany it, she showcases the style and dance moves of the Tsonga people (her native ethic group), and reps all the colors of the rainbow. She’s also a personal favorite of PS1 curator Taja Cheek.
Of all the rappers gracing the Warm Up stage this summer, Flohio might be the one that gives you goosebumps. Described as a “brazen, unapologetic MC” by Crack Magazine, the Nigerian-born rapper’s music is aggressive, real and relentless — qualities that mimic the South London neighborhood where she developed her sound. The 26-year-old rapper first began weaving together bars of instinctive metaphors at the age of 13, using the resources provided by her local youth center. She later marked her territory at the mic on God Colony’s “SE16”. Sonically, her music has flashes of psychedelia and grime, amid pounding, scattershot beats that align with the A$AP Mob (A$AP Rocky producer Clams Casino produced her song “Pounce”). Her hottest song to date is “Wild Yout,” which Pitchfork labelled “a blistering, chaotic example of next-gen UK rap.”
You can learn more about MoMA PS1’s Warm Up series and buy tickets here