Walter Chidozie Anyanwu
Concert-goers began trickling into the Richmond Coliseum at about 6 p.m. Saturday for VCU’s 13th annual RamFest concert — the culmination of a week of homecoming activities — featuring Young Crazy, Isaiah Johnson, A-Game, Saweetie and the first female headliner in the concert’s history, Ella Mai.
Organized by the Activities Programming Board, the event kicked off with a 20-minute set by Isaiah Johnson. The Richmond native’s versatile performance included a combination of dramatic, mellow and energetic songs, most of which had a political twist.
Following Johnson was DJ Camo, whose eclectic mix of songs punctuated the night and kept the crowd hyped.
Up next was rapper A-Game, aka Anthony Ellis, whose fresh sound featured a narrative style of rapping. His set also included some crowd interaction, and mini performances by fellow St. Louis rapper MC Tres and a taste of his new single “Cross the River,” featuring rapper Real Early.
“This is a high energy school, a lot of good people here,” Ellis said. “Throughout our performance we just wanted to inspire people to have a good time, be who you are and hustle for whatever it is you’re going after.”
Norfolk rapper Young Crazy took the stage next and was no stranger to Richmond, referring to the city as his “second home.” His explosive performance and hyper-confident nature was all too familiar as he worked the crowd like a pro. Starting his career at Virginia State University where he attended school, Young Crazy has since toured nationally with some well-established artists.
The first heavyweight performance was Diamonté Harper, better known by her stage name Saweetie. Along with her dance crew — which one concertgoer called the “icy mob” — they came out to a roaring crowd of eager fans.
Performing songs like “23” and “Good Good,” her set closed out with the 2017 breakout hit “ICY GRL,” an ode to positivity and self-motivation. Saweetie was one of two female acts at RamFest, a first in the event’s history.
“Being here with Ella Mai is amazing because I feel like she has a long and promising career. She is extremely talented,” Harper said. “It was such an honor to open up before her and it makes me feel like I’m doing the right thing because she’s hot, and I’m hot right next to her.”
She also expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to perform at RamFest. As a recent college graduate herself, she could relate to the excitement surrounding homecoming.
“I’d like to come back. Richmond is a city that’s full of love and that’s really rare. I like the energy out here,” Harper said. “I’m just really happy to be a part of this homecoming.”
The event headliner Ella Mai took to the stage just past 9 p.m. She was met with screams from the crowd who had been waiting all night for her.
Performing for just over an hour, Mai belted out numerous songs including “Don’t Want You,” “Makes Me Wonder,” “Breakfast in Bed” and, of course, the international hit, “Boo’d Up.” She prefaced the popular track by saying she just found out that Virginia is for lovers, and “in the spirit of cuffing season, this one is for all the lovers out there.” She closed her set with “Trip” off her debut album “Ella Mai.”
Mai is the first female artist to headline RamFest. Past headliners include Tory Lanez, Travis Scott and Drake.
“It’s taken a long time for us to have a female headliner, it’s not like female musicians are a new concept. There’s no shortage of them,” said Mikaela Murdock, APB communications coordinator. “In the future we’re going to continue trying to be as inclusive as possible with our shows.”
There was a bit of negativity surrounding the RamFest lineup earlier this year, as some students wanted the event to be headlined by a rapper instead of a singer. This sentiment similarly surrounded last year’s RamFest.
“People weren’t too happy when we had Tory Lanez last year because he was more of a singer and not so much a rapper,” Murdock said.
But APB sold more than 2,000 tickets for the event, more than they sold for RamFest last year.
“We did a good job of appealing to people with different tastes,” Murdock said. “Ideally, we’re always trying to find as many way to appeal to the student body as possible.”