Pharrell Williams’ annual Something In The Water Festival returned to Virginia Beach this year, and continued in its mission to unite the community and celebrate the diversity and magic of the city.
Held across two beachfront stages, the Grammy Award-winning musician spoke about the importance of bringing it back to his hometown, and the factors that inspired this groundbreaking event. “It was an honor to bring it back,” he tells ESSENCE. “It’s an honor because, one, it’s the HBCU students that we created it for, so that they would have something to do when they come into town, and raise awareness for them to be greeted with love and kindness.”
“They’re students,” he adds. “Some of the most important citizens in our country are the students. So, we’ve got to protect them and we’ve got to do whatever we can to make sure that they have a great experience – they are going to grow up and change the world.”
Kicking off on April 28, with high-energy performances from Babyface Ray, Jazmine Sullivan, Wale, Doechii, Kehlani, and more, the opening day concluded with headlining sets from Mumford & Sons and Kid Cudi. On Friday, Williams’ Black Ambition initiative held their So Ambitious Dinner in Virginia Beach, gathering founders, funders and innovators in celebration of Black and Hispanic founders closing the wealth gap and building the businesses of the future.
The sun shined bright during the second day of the festival, and included sets from Kamasi Washington, SWV, and Coi Leray. As the evening progressed, fans were able to catch shows by The Kid Laroi, Latto, Kaytranada, Lil Yachty, Summer Walker and Lil Wayne. The night wrapped with a star-studded set led by Pharrell, featuring A$AP Rocky, Busta Rhymes, Spliff Star, De La Soul, M.I.A, and surprise guests Puff, Chris Brown, Lola Brooke and Latto. The set list included “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” “Frontin’,” “Pass The Courvoisier,” “All About The Benjamins,” “Paper Planes,” “Loyal,” “Happy,” and “Cash In Cash Out,” among others.
Also featured on the beach was an installation envisioned by Pharrell Williams that takes inspiration from Louis Vuitton’s heritage and innovation by looking at its original stacking trunk and reimagining it through a larger-than-life pyramid. The monument represents Pharrell’s journey from Virginia Beach to Paris and his homecoming, inviting the community to join him in his dream.
The pyramid installed off the boardwalk on Virginia Beach is modeled after the original Louis Vuitton Malle-Haute, reimagined out of sand. The 366 trunks, up to 9,23 meters high, feature the iconic monogram to create a unique pattern visible from all sides, land or sea.
Unfortunately, the final day of the festival in Virginia Beach was called off due to severe weather, resulting in the cancellation of scheduled sets by Grace Jones, the Clipse, Wu-Tang Clan, Nile Rodgers & Chic, Lil Uzi Vert, 100 Gecs, Aminé, Flo Milli and Lil Durk.
Throughout the 2-day experience, attendees and community members were also able to explore several store pop ups, art installations and local food vendors all across the Virginia Beach boardwalk. Billionaire Boys Club, the luxury streetwear brand founded by Williams, along with the brand’s skate label, ICECREAM, hosting special activations as well, and included an immersive outer space-themed activation on-site by BBC, with special 20th anniversary-themed tee giveaways and lounge areas for festival goers, and an ICECREAM x Doodles collaboration apparel and pop-up experience.
For select clips from the 2023 Something In The Water Festival, head over to Pharrell’s YouTube channel, here.