After quarantine took away live concerts, all you had to do was scroll Twitter for a minute to see just how much people missed live venues and enjoying their favorite tunes with like minds.
In February 2020, Chicago streets bustled with activity in celebration of the NBA All-Star Weekend. It was the first time the city had hosted the event since 1988, and in addition to the usual attractions—including the celebrity game, the dunk contest, and of course the main event—the weekend featured WGCI’s Big Jam 2: Rappers and Ballers Edition at Credit Union 1 Arena on Saturday, February 15. (The Big Jam usually happens in fall or winter, and the previous installment had arrived just two months earlier.)
Unbeknownst to the performers or to the crowd that gathered to be in the midst of the All-Star Weekend action, this would be the first and last show of the year for WGCI. Headlined by DaBaby and Lil Baby, the concert also allowed NBA players Iman Shumpert, Andre Drummond, and Daniel Gibson to showcase their talents for a different kind of arena crowd.
It’s hard to say how many live shows WGCI would’ve hosted in 2020, but the annual Summer Jam would’ve happened around August. The year prior, the show was held at McCormick Place and headlined by Teyana Taylor, Gucci Mane, and Yo Gotti.
I used to work for iHeartMedia, WGCI’s parent company, and I was often behind the scenes at these shows—I especially loved seeing the faces of my neighbors illuminate as they congregated with people from all over Chicago. The Big Jam and Summer Jam offer a collective celebration of the arts, a way to escape the nuisances of daily life, and a chance to meet friends and make new ones. They’re two of the most anticipated concerts every year—a staple for the city’s Black community.