This weekend, Pharrell’s Something In The Water has brought the world’s best and brightest performers to the nation’s capital. From Usher to Justin Timberlake, there has been no shortage of star power throughout the weekend. While it has been great to see what the legendary producer has done to bring superstars to Independence Avenue, it’s hard to ignore the reality that this festival was designed and developed in Pharrell’s home state, Virginia.
Three years ago, Pharrell launched Something In The Water in Virginia Beach, Virginia. With performances from Missy Elliott and SZA along with a special surprise from Jay-Z, the festival got off to a fast start.
“The first Something In The Water Festival literally felt like Spring Bling. People [were] enjoying the concert on the beach for at least 20 blocks. All the oceanview hotel balconies were filled. N*ggas [were] on boats in the ocean beside the stage,” one attendee described her experience.
Then, COVID-19 hit the United States and sidelined all festivals from coast to coast. One year later, tragedy struck Virginia Beach when police officers killed recent college graduate Donovon Lynch as he reportedly crouched behind shrubbery during a shooting nearby. The shooting hit Pharrell Williams particularly hard not only because it took place in his hometown, but Lynch is also his cousin. Alongside his family members, Pharrell Williams used his public platform to call on local authorities to do more in the aftermath of the situation. After months of challenging local officials to do more regarding the shooting, Pharrell became dissatisfied with their response and moved the event out of the state.
“I wish the same energy I’ve felt from Virginia Beach leadership upon losing the festival would have been similarly channeled following the loss of my relative’s life,” Pharrell stated.
In the lead up to this year’s festival, Ahmad Davis of Billboard had the opportunity to ask the legendary producer about his recent single, philanthropic efforts and the potential of moving the festival back to his home state.
“That is a great question, but one I cannot answer. That is only because I was disappointed with how the local municipal government handled the loss of my cousin’s life. It is one thing for the officer to make a mistake, but it is another to follow up the way they did. I did not feel as if there was enough love, respect, and reverence for his life,” he told Davis when asked about moving the festival back to Virginia following Lynch’s death.
“Him being a fellow Virginian, his life and the loss of his life should have been treated like anybody else’s. When we start seeing situations handled differently, not only with African Americans but with minorities in general handled differently, then coming back is something we can think about doing again.”