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Who should the next Relays band be?

Photo courtesy of SkizzyMars.com


The Drake Relays are the most exciting time on our campus. From street painting to the Grand Blue Mile, to the races themselves, Drake buzzes with excitement. Being your friendly neighborhood music critic, however, means that one event holds a special place above all others: the concert.

Iowa is notoriously barren when it comes to concerts and festivals; aside from Des Moines’ 80/35 festival and the rapidly growing Hinterlands festival, there isn’t really a venue that would hold mid-level artists – those that would struggle to fill seats at the Wells Fargo Arena but are too expensive for Wooly’s or Hoyt Sherman Place.

Luckily, the budget of the Relays concert – up to $60,000, but usually around half of that due to other costs – fits that just-under-the-mainstream niche that many college students go for.  

I’ve been at Drake for two Relays concerts (3OH!3 and Skizzy Mars) and they’ve been a mixed bag, due mostly to the quality of the music being performed. To be completely honest, 3OH!3 makes some of the worst music in contemporary pop; their few notable songs (“Don’t Trust Me,” and “My First Kiss”) are novelties at best.

I understand the middle school nostalgia appeal of a band like that, but I distinctly remember people legitimately laughing out loud at the concert they were attending. Skizzy Mars actually put on a decent show, with pleasant, booming music (great for party people), but the problem was that nobody, not even me, knew anything about the guy, meaning that his announcement was met with crickets.

So, how can SAB’s bands committee redeem themselves in 2017? The artist has to meet two qualities: they have to be known by a large portion of Drake’s students, and they have to be currently relevant. The last two guests each missed one of those qualities.

The genres that seem to be most prevalent among Drake students are hip-hop (specifically, pop rap) and acoustic pop (masquerading as alternative rock). There are tons of current bands that meet Drake’s price range within the latter’s sphere, like Cage the Elephant, Ben Rector and Young the Giant. While I’m not a huge fan of these bands’ mellowed interpretations of rock (if you can call it that), there’s no doubt that they have a huge following on Drake’s campus. However, due to their music being more pleasant than powerful, they might not make for great concerts.

That’s where hip-hop comes in. I wouldn’t hesitate to call it the most popular genre of music by far among college students. Pop rap is the music you hear most often at parties, and it could make for a really exhilarating concert experience.

A few artists come to mind as fitting the bill for a mid-level hip-hop show. Artists like Vic Mensa, Vince Staples and Aminé are up-and-comers that actually fall relatively short of the bands committee’s budget. If we want to relive our middle school and high school days, Waka Flocka Flame, Chief Keef and Lil Jon could put on awesome shows, even if their stars have dimmed a little bit.

But if SAB truly wants to make a splash, they need to go big and use all of their budget. And that narrows it down to a few specific pop-rappers: Post Malone, Ty Dolla $ign and Lil Yachty. The first two have gotten essential co-signs from huge artists (Justin Bieber for the former, Fifth Harmony for the latter, Kanye West for both), but it’s Yachty who has reached almost cult-like status among many Drake students. His mix of trunk-rattling bangers and blissful pop rap tunes would be perfect for a party setting, and could really get Drake buzzing.

To be frank, I probably haven’t listed the actual Relays music guest on this list. There are thousands of potential artists for the concert, but I’d be fairly surprised if they didn’t meet at least one of my guidelines. Of course, there’s always the dream that Drake – the rapper, not the university – could come, but unless SAB has $250,000 lying around, I wouldn’t get my hopes up. Still, I’m confident that the bands committee realizes that the last two concerts haven’t been met with much excitement, and that they will make up for it this time around.

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