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White House | © Diego Cambiaso/Flickr
White House | © Diego Cambiaso/Flickr
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2016's Coolest Music Festival Will Be Hosted At The White House

Picture of Ryan Kristobak
Music Editor
Updated: 6 September 2016
The United States has boasted its fair share of musical presidents, from Bill Clinton’s tenor sax dreams to the 37th president’s “Richard Nixon Piano Concerto #1,” to Thomas Jefferson’s supposed cello, clavichord, and violin chops.

Yet current US President Barack Obama might go down as the most musically-engaged leader to live in the White House. He’s performed on stage with Buddy Guy, B.B. King, and Mick Jagger; slow-jammed the news with Jimmy Fallon (twice); sang “Amazing Grace” at Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, South Carolina during his eulogy for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney — the clip was then featured on Coldplay’s “Kaleidoscope” interlude — and even delivered an impromptu Al Green impression.

For the second year in a row, POTUS has curated a genre-winding summer playlist, FLOTUS has given us the perfect girl-power playlist, and daughter Malia Obama has been hitting the music festival circuit hard this year. And let’s not forget Obama’s two Grammy awards for Best Spoken Word Album for 2006’s Dreams from My Father and 2008’s The Audacity of Hope.

Serving as the keynote speaker at SXSW 2016, Obama has taken inspiration from the Austin gathering by launching the White House’s first festival: South by South Lawn (SXSL). Slated for October 3, the one-day event aims to “bring together creators, innovators, and organizers.” The White House website breaks down SXSL’s three components:

  • INTERACTIVE: Panel discussions throughout the day will explore topics like how to make change stick with organizers who are having an impact, as well as a discussion with influencers who are using their platforms to bring about positive change. Interactive booths will encourage attendees to engage with and learn about new technologies and innovations.
  • FILM: The film portion features the 3rd Annual White House Student Film Festival in association with its founding partner, the American Film Institute. Students in grades K-12 submitted more than 700 short films round this year’s theme, The World I Want to Live In. The submissions are inspiring and we’re excited to share official selections and honor young filmmakers as part of this event.
  • MUSIC: Musical performances will include well-known and emerging artists who are using their music to inspire audiences.

While no musical performers have been announced yet, the First Family has certainly given plenty of shoutouts to their musical idols over the years. Malia has sported a t-shirt of Brooklyn hip-hop collective Pro Era before, so it wouldn’t be too outrageous if the group’s leader, Joey Bada$$, made an appearance. Malia’s love for Chance the Rapper has clearly rubbed off on her father and the rest of the family, with Chance recently telling GQ that his most recent album, Coloring Book, is in rotation at the White House, and speaking highly of his personal meeting with POTUS.

In 2015, Obama named Kendrick Lamar’s “How Much a Dollar Cost” as his favorite song of the year, while Michelle selected Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk.” Beyoncé and Michelle Obama are basically best friends, Queen Bey having just spent her 35th birthday with FLOTUS at Camp David, so it’s likely she will be involved in some capacity.

Among the names on Obama’s 2016 summer playlist that might best fit the event are Janelle Monáe, Courtney Barnett, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Gary Clark Jr., Esperanza Spalding, and D’Angelo. Alicia Keys, Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, Busta Rhymes, Pusha T, Common, Janelle Monáe, Ludacris, J. Cole, Wale, and DJ Khaled also all recently made a trip to the White House to discuss the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, so maybe one or a few might take the stage at SXSL.

Those interesting in attending the event can visit the White House website to nominate themselves or someone else for a potential spot on the guest list.