Art of Cool kicks off fall festivities in North Carolina with music, education, innovation and parties

 By Lindsay Kosma 

September 25, 2018

Autumn is here, and downtown Durham will be overcome with soulful sounds as the streets fill up for the fifth annual Art of Cool Festival as they host their most impressive lineup yet in the Bull City.

The two-day festival will include performances from a wide-range of genres headlined by Queensbridge rapper and legend Nas, neo-soul songstress Erykah Badu, Charlotte’s Anthony Hamilton, Royce Da 5’9″, Maxwell, and many more throughout the city with the newly added Durham Bulls Athletic Park fixed as the main venue.

In between musical performances, there will be a multitude of events, day parties, and vendors to explore. One of the most notable aspects of the festival is Innovate Your Cool– the conference on innovation, entrepreneurship, and science– which is an integral part of the festival’s initiative. IYC events are situated throughout both days and include speakers on topics from education to feminism, fitness classes, and workshops to beat-making, virtual reality, and branding.

Also on deck will be community partner events with local businesses like Fullsteam Brewery, Cocoa Cinnamon coffee, Pour Taproom, and many more. “Our food trucks areas and Urban Market will be our largest vendor offering to date, and will feature what our region is known for: brilliant artisans, savory eats, unique creations, and hard-working small business owners with unique creations and services,” said Leslie Mausi, VP of the DOME Group who manages the festival.

Art of Cool 2017. Photo: Kurt Shackelford

If it isn’t evident enough by taking a quick glance at the schedule, the Art of Cool has worked hard to be a festival for and by the community. “It’s a vibe that attracts those with an indescribable love for music and culture. Diverse, out-of-the-box thinkers who share an appreciation for how Black culture has shaped arts and innovation, all in one cool town like Durham! It’s a beautiful vibe,” said Sulaiman Mausi, President of DOME Group.

By bringing such a variety of musicians, extending out into the Durham community and creating the broad curriculum of Innovate Your Cool, the Art Of Cool has become the kind of quality multi-faceted event that many festivals aspire to be.

Here are a few additional acts you should catch at AOC 2018:


Meshell Ndegeocello – 8:30-9:45 p.m. at the Carolina Theatre

Credited for sparking the neo-soul movement, Ndegeocello is a bassist, vocalist, and advocate who has been transforming sound for decades. Her latest studio album, Ventriloquism, released in March of this year, features remakes of R&B and soul music from the 1980’s and 1990’s and is a celebration of black music and black artists

Sango – 9:30-11:00 p.m. at the Durham Armory

An increasingly recognizable name, Sango, creates luscious combinations of Brazilian baile funk, low-key R&B, rap, and hip-hop. He has collaborated with the likes of Smino, JMSN, Kaytranada, Christina Aguilera, Goldlink and is a part of the Soulection collective. An artist in the truest sense, Sango combines his background in design, his musicianship, and his unique influences into a blend that is distinctly his. His latest album, In The Comfort Of, showcases that distinct blend in a refreshing collection.

Sons of Kemet – 1:00-2:00 a.m. at the Pinhook

This four-piece group joins us from Britain to bring their unique experience that is part performance art and part jazz. Influences of Caribbean, African, UK Jungle, and rock fuse together by means of saxophone, tuba and dual percussion to bring a sound that is ultra fresh. Certainly a new flavor on the palette, the group released their third album titled Your Queen Is a Reptile in March of 2018.

Young Bull – 10:00-11:00 p.m. at the Pinhook

Comprised of former JV basketball teammates, Tahmique Cameron and Gabe Fox-Peck, as well as recently added rapper/singer, Christian Sinclair, Young Bull is a blend of Southern hip-hop, electronic beats, jazzy riffs, and beautiful melodic harmonies. The trio have performed at venues up and down the East Coast, sharing tracks from their latest album Sopadelic.


Keyon Harrold – 5:45-6:45 p.m. at the Pinhook

His first professional gig was playing trumpet for Common. Since then, he has played at the White house for Common’s NPR’s Tiny Desk in addition to providing instrumentation for artists like Beyoncé, Jay-Z, and Mac Miller, to name a few. He’s also toured with Cirque Du Soleil’s Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour. A graduate from the School of Jazz at The New School, the talented Harrold has more than earned his stripes. His latest album, The Mugician features collaborations with artists across multiple genres including Robert Glasper, Gary Clark Jr. and Big K.R.I.T.

Madison Mcferrin – 9:00-10:00 p.m. at the Beyu Caffe

Dripping with warmth, the Brooklyn-based vocalist whose music is expressed in complex, often acapella arrangements recently released her album Finding Foundations Volume II, a sequel to her 2016 album which features exclusively acapella pieces. Her seductive, soulful sound and performances are fresh and compelling.

Anna Wise – 7:15- 8:15 p.m. at the Pinhook

Widely known for her collaborations with Kendrick Lamar, Wise is kicking up the scene with her punchy, confident, no-nonsense music. A graduate of Berkeley College of Music, she has released two solo albums titled The Feminine Acts: I & II which detail her personal experiences in bold iterations with titles like “Boss Bitch.” Her music is an inspired combination of hip-hop, electronic sounds, and feminist lyricism.

ZOOCRU – 4:15- 5:15 at the Pinhook

This Durham-based quartet fuses jazz, R&B, soul, hip hop, and gospel into a worldly and funky sound. They describe their music as equal parts anthem and affirmation. Members have aided Branford Marsalis, Cyrus Chestnut, Karriem Riggins in live and recorded sets. Comprised of guitar, bass, piano, keyboard, and drums the jam-like collective will have you coolin’ out and gettin’ down.

Check out the full schedule of events for Art of Cool 2018.

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