ComplexCon: The seamless connection of commerce and culture
Curated by some of the world’s best creative minds for the artistic community at-large.
Fresh off its inaugural weekend, Complexcon has left a major impact.
The two-day, Long Beach-based festival was a seamless blend of commerce, culture, and conversation, curated by some of the world’s best creative minds, and the creative palate that Takashi Murakami designed was the perfect playground for conference-goers and the artistic community at-large.
Day 1 saw many brands unveil exclusives collections, with Pharrell making an epic appearance at the release of his new G-Star collection and we were right on hand to witness it.
In addition, Nike, Adidas, VLONE and VFiles had exclusive releases while the Puma lab was lit all day with artists dropping by. Vince Staples and Metro Boomin made appearances, and D.R.A.M. had a special set at Nike’s Culture Force space. And this was just the experience on the commerce floor, but the energy bubbled from the brand booths to the Pigeons & Planes stage where we saw performances from Jazz Cartier, THEY., and MadeinTYO.
For those who came to dive deeper, ComplexCon offered an array of powerful and thought-provoking conversations. Key panels included “The Future Of American Schools” with Marc Ecko, Tusslynn Ali, Laurene Powell Jobs, Pusha T, Jesse Williams, and Hill Harper who spoke about the need for America’s classrooms to evolve using some of the same methods that many of Complexcon’s innovators developed in order to become leaders in their respective industries. “The Sneaker Of The Year” saw Wale, Russ Bengtson, DJ Clark Kent, Benjamin Kickz, Jon Buscimi, and Joe LaPuma debate on the best kicks of 2016, a conversation so relevant to the sneaker paradise at ComplexCon. Ice Cube, Tony Hawk, and Noah Callahan-Bever were on-hand for those seeking gems on how to stay in the business for many years to come. And no forward-thinking conversation would be complete without talking about “The Business Of Weed” with Wiz Khalifa, The Game, and Action Bronson who discussed monetizing marijuana.
All the interaction of the day came to its peak during Travis Scott’s set at the Arena stage. La Flame hit the stage like a rocket with Mike Dean in the background playing live guitar. Scott ran through an array of songs from Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight, setting off one of the most epic rage fests I have seen at a concert. Scott sent the crowd into a frenzy as he proclaimed, “There is no such thing as a motherfucking VIP section, so kids help yourselves.” Fans jumped over the barricades en masse to rage with Trav as he took the roof off the place with “Don’t Play.” The set design, which included an anatomical bird looping behind a caged fence, was pure genius as Scott’s genuine connection with the fans was unmatched.
And the set was the perfect atmosphere for the return of Kid Cudi.
Hitting the stage to the sound of “The Frequency,” it took Cudi a second to find his vibe. His shaky tone didn’t matter though as people were just so happy to see him doing well that the positive energy in the building carried him through. During his performance, he shared many heartfelt moments, letting the fans know he’s their ‘Big Brother’ and how much he loved them. His performance of “Mr. Rager” was one of my favorite moments as you could feel everyone in building jamming with him.
Skrillex closed the night out turning the arena into a Vegas-like party in a spaceship. Those that stayed for the show had a blast as he remixed verses from your favorite rappers and ended Night 1 in a creatively unique way.
Rolling into Day 2 like you rolling into work after a long weekend, we were back at it again. We arrived to catch Kamaiyah setting if off on the Pigeons & Planes stage and bringing that real West Coast with hits like “F**k it up” and “How Does It Feel”. Shortly after her performance, Pharrell hit the stage for the I Am Other Showcase featuring Bia, Watch The Duck, Buddy, and Kap G.
After catching some early shows, it was time to sit in on a legendary conversation on production: “Wax On It: A Listening Session Of Unfinished Work.” Moderated by Young Guru, who broke down the difference between making a beat and producing a record, we also got to hear about WondaGurl’s process and the new sounds she’s listening to (like “Vapor Wave”); Mike Will revealed how networking and communicating with his peers using social media has connected him to new projects that have expanded his catalog; DJ Mustard talked about connecting to the music that he grew up on and the music ‘DNA’ that helped him create his signature sound; and Timbaland discussed the importance of bridging the gap between the way music was created when his career started and the way it’s produced now. The conversation was organic and the gems dropped were easy to relate to.
Moving out of the producers’ panel, I got swept into the Lil Yachty wave, pulling up to one of the largest crowds I’d seen at the Pigeons & Planes stage. Yachty’s energy was undeniable as he riled the crowd up with “One Night” before performing “Minnesota” and setting off one of the wildest mosh pits we’d seen at ComplexCon since Travis Scott’s set.
The moment was not to be out done by Chief Keef though who performed “Faneto” with Yachty and The Sailing Team. Trapping trio Migos hit the stage with hits straight from the bando, performing “Bad and Boujee,” “Handsome and Wealth,” and “Hannah Montana” as well as countless hits to set the tone for fellow Atlanta rapper 2 Chainz.
2 Chainz stepped out on stage dressed in all white with so much shine on his neck and wrist, you would have thought Gucci and Jeezy were about to perform “So Icy.” With his stage presence and confidence on a trillion, he ran through an array of hits from his mixtapes to his albums, even getting into some new heat from his Hibachi Lunch project. And 2 Chainz consistently reminded us that he has hits that go all the way back to his Playaz Circle days, channeling Tity Boi as he delivered “Duffle Bag Boy” and taking the energy up another notch when he closed out his set with “Watch Out.”
Closing out ComplexCon with the timeless cool of the Mayor of Long Beach, Snoop Dogg performed hits from 25-year catalog, hitting the stage to “I Wanna Rock” with a classic white tracksuit accompanied my two background dancers, a mascot dog, and a full band. The performance, which marked Snoop’s first time performing officially in his hometown of Long Beach, included highlights like “Nothin’ but a ‘G’ Thang,” “Gin and Juice,” and “Drop It Like It’s Hot” and “Beautiful” with Pharrell. After bringing out one of Long Beach’s brightest new stars O.T. Genasis for “Cut It,” Snoop closed out the final show with “Peach, Love and Soul” and ended with stoner anthem “Young, Wild, and Free.”
Overall, ComplexCon was a great intersection of commerce, culture and conversation as attendees got to interact with their favorite brands and artists in a creator’s playground. No matter what brought you to the conference, the environment was sure to connect you to many aspects of the culture as each medium inspired the other.