Preview The 2023 Roots Picnic with inutech and Akin Inaj
Both artists are Philly local talents set to showcase their experimental styles at the annual bash in Fairmount Park.
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Since its inception in 2008, The Roots Picnic has become a mainstay in Philadelphia’s summer music circuit for its eclectic lineups and community-oriented environment. The timeless hip-hop supergroup returns to Fairmount Park June 2-4 to host their 15th annual Roots Picnic.
This year’s lineup includes music icons The Isley Brothers, Diddy (backed by The Roots), and Ms. Lauryn Hill. Budding stars Glorilla, City Girls, and Ari Lennox are also scheduled to perform. A live podcast stage will feature shows from Charlmagne Tha God, Angela Yee, and Talib Kweli. The Roots will also be throwing a comedy event with Dave Chappelle at The Wells Fargo Center on opening night. (tickets purchased separately).
Despite a strong roster of out-of-town acts, The Roots maintain their longstanding reputation of including Philadelphia’s artists in the festival with nearly half the bill being local. City icons like Lil Uzi Vert, State Property, and DJ Diamond Kuts will attend alongside a slew of well-respected artists from multiple mediums including the Neo-soul duo Kindred The Family Soul, and the fiery podcast Don't Call Me White Girl. Two performers making their festival debut at The Roots Picnic are local experimental-art innovators Akin Inaj and inutech.
“I make freak music for freaky people,” inutech explained to AL DÍA on a sunny afternoon in Clark Park.
The emcee, originally from West Philly, beams with excitement as they describe their genre-defying music. inutech’s 2021 release “CUPID” provides a glimpse into the vast terrain their music encompasses. The six-minute track starts as an acoustic ballad that progresses into a distorted autotune mesh of 80s pop, emo, and punk, with an ending sequence that sounds like the final level of a Sonic The Hedgehog video game.
Inaj’s music shares the boundless qualities of inutech’s. Tracks like “X Cited” and “Stuck!” contain biting production that binds acoustic guitar riffs, classical music samples, and futuristic synths with high-paced drum patterns that draw from Glitchcore, Trap, and EDM. The calculated chaos in Inaj’s arrangements, verse structures, cadences, and flows complement the complex soundscape his music resides in. Both Inaj and inutech have been on a musical hot streak this year, putting on next-level performances, and elevating their status in the city's underground scenes.
When asked to describe their conglomerative music, inutech and Inaj shared a new name to categorize their work — Powder Punk.
“[It’s] a thing we say [to people that ask] what we make without actually explaining it,” inutech coily demystifies.
“It's equally as anti as the Punk movement in the way it sounds, the concepts, and the depth of it,” Inaj adds.
Despite their refusal to be boxed into any type of category, the two emphasize that their music is inherently hip-hop.
“I hold tightly to being a Hip-hop artist because there is no space for people like us in hip-hop,” inutech explains. “Saying we make hip-hop, [makes] an entirely different lane that it could be.”
Inaj and inutech’s authentic music is enhanced by their network of multi-faceted creatives known as Orange Cap Studios (ORCA).
“Our vision is to package and complete works for people. We can do the visual aspect, production aspect, marketing, advertising, and packaging for what you want to do,” said inutech.
The group utilizes each other's diverse skill sets in their own creative processes, frequently sending demos back and forth over Discord.
“Everything’s in-house. We’re doing it for ourselves, and we’d like to do it for other people too,” Inaj noted. There are over a dozen people in, or associated with, the collective such as Vera Yvann, Layfield, and Jordan George.
One truly distinct aspect of ORCA’s artistry are their live shows. The collective started doing live performances last Summer, and garnered attention from local promoters and venues for the raw energy they put into every set.
“[Our collaborator] Layfeld told me that watching [me] perform is like watching an animal. Super raw and animalistic,” said inutech.
“None of us perform with backing tracks. I’d rather you hear it raw and messed up than have it be the same it sounded [on your phone]. [Performing like that turns] every verse or everything you’re doing [onstage] into a battle,” Inaj added.
The duo looks to turn heads during their Roots Picnic performance.
“My prerogative is to get somebody to manage us from watching this performance,” inutech said. “I want them to see the full freakiness of what we do, and be like ‘oh this is something we want to be part of.’”
ORCA’s against-the-grain nature ties into the general theme The Roots, and their Festival, emanate — pushing music forward in new and innovative ways.
Festival attendees will be able to see Akin Inaj and inutech during the three days of performances at The Mann Center in Fairmount Park. Tickets can be purchased via the Roots Picnic website ($189+).
SEPTA is the PHILLY WAY TO GO to Roots Picnic at The Mann on June 3rd & 4th! SEPTA Bus Routes 15, 38, 40, and 43 stop within walking distance of The Mann. Plan your trip at ISEPTAPHILLY.COM/PLAN-YOUR-TRIP!