Headed to Smokin’ Grooves? Here’s who you need to see

Anderson .Paak performs at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival on Saturday, June 9, 2018, in Manchester, Tenn.
(Amy Harris / Invision / AP)

Smokin’ Grooves in Long Beach is a new but essential entry in the ever-crowded festival season.

Stacked with dozens of acts across the spectrum of alternative R&B and hip-hop artists, the daylong blowout, being held on the Queen Mary waterfront Saturday, is anchored by Erykah Badu, Miguel and the Roots — acts that alone are worth the price of admission and so it comes as no surprise that the event quickly sold out. There’s a lot to choose from on the bill and we wanted to highlight a few acts worth catching beyond the headliners.


When the music Anderson .Paak and producer Knxwledge were making as NxWorries caught the attention of Dr. Dre, it led to Paak’s scene stealing performances on “Compton” and his breakout album “Malibu,” which launched the genre-stretching R&B singer-rapper-drummer-producer to a wider audience. He’s been running ever since and the pair’s muscular hip-hop soul is just as adventurous, and addictive, as .Paak’s solo work.



She arrived as an anonymous performer, wanting the focus to be on slow-burning, vulnerable records and not her looks. That mysterious approach certainly boosted public interest but she’s a dynamic musician beyond the gimmick and her star has quickly risen since she started performing publicly (her face always hidden behind big shades, of course).

Ravyn Lenae

The Chicago singer’s “Crush” EP is one of the more enchanting R&B releases to arrive this year. Though she’s been around for years and has put out great work that showcases her elastic voice, teaming up with the Internet’s Steve Lacy resulted in a blend of sweet soul and psychedelic funk that’s mesmerizing and sexy. This is the set to catch if you’re deeply in love or licking your wounds after heartbreak.

Jhené Aiko

As Miguel, Frank Ocean and the Weeknd earned buzz when they broke out with forward-looking R&B, Aiko emerged as one of the few women in the movement of young acts spinning alternative, experimental takes of the genre, and she’s been at the top of her game ever since. Aiko’s chilled introspective R&B is as heady as it is transformative. Her shows are a spiritual experience, and she’ll provide a potent moment of escapism.


While he’s mostly remembered as one of the teen heartthrobs of the “106 & Park” era, Omarion has spent the better part of the past decade churning out seriously underrated work — save for the bouncy “Post to Be” — that has showcased why he’s one of the finer vocalists to emerge from his peer group, and why his talents couldn’t be restricted to a boy band. Go for the nostalgia, stay for the falsetto.


Yasiin Bey (Mos Def)

For fans of the artist formerly known as Mos Def, patience has been a virtue. In the decade since his last commercially released album, the rapper has floated between retirement and life off the grid, leaving the country for South Africa and getting stuck there. Bey has teased music that never arrived and years ago performed what was billed as his final U.S. shows so there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to see him again.

For more music news follow me on Twitter:@GerrickKennedy