Clemm Rishad is very familiar with Cheney Stadium. As a student at Tacoma’s Foss High School, a shallow fly ball from the home of the Rainiers, the Tacoma rapper and behind-the-scenes songwriter to the stars and his friends worked summer jobs at the minor league ballpark, selling hot dogs and cleaning up after games.
It was a fun summer gig that kept a little money in his pocket and allowed the then-aspiring artist to daydream about his future career in music.
“When I used to work there, a dream of mine was like, ‘Man, one day I’ll be able to perform [here] and we’ll be able to fill it up,’ ” Rishad recalls.
Years later, he’s finally getting the chance. This month, Rishad and his brother/manager Rich Penton are launching the Summer Sky Vol. 1 festival, which brings several of the biggest names in contemporary rap music to the Tacoma ballpark Sept. 18. Headlined by post-SoundCloud star Trippie Redd, red-hot Memphis torchbearer Moneybagg Yo, melodic Chicago rapper Polo G and Tory Lanez — a controversial star whose trial in a high-profile felony assault case involving Megan Thee Stallion was slated to begin this week — the end-of-summer concert fills a glaring hole in the local festival landscape that’s been without a dedicated, modern hip-hop event of this scale for years.
The Tacoma brothers are well aware of that void, having produced the last two editions of KUBE 93.3’s Summer Jam concerts, once Washington’s premier hip-hop festival, and their own Dope Music Festival from 2014-2016. KUBE’s 2019 attempt to revive Summer Jam during the station’s own short-lived return to the dial failed to launch, citing nebulous “unforeseen circumstances.” That same year, a hybrid EDM/hip-hop event Live Nation hoped would fill Sasquatch’s Memorial Day weekend hole at the Gorge Amphitheatre was scrapped amid low ticket sales.
Through their Sky Movement company, Rishad and Penton are betting that their more homegrown spin with Summer Sky, which they hope to build as a “Summer Jam 2.0,” will thrive where more corporate attempts sputtered.
“A lot of times when we have big events in our town, it’s other people coming in and doing [it],” Rishad says. “This is something that’s built for us, by us.”
While the marquee acts and a few local openers will perform on the main stage inside the stadium, Penton says Summer Sky will have a free “festival village” area outside with a secondary stage showcasing home-state talents and local vendors that will be open to the public 2-5:30 p.m. when gates open for the main event.
Also on the bill are Memphis up-and-comer GloRilla, L.A. rapper-singer Malaynah alongside a slate of Washington standouts from corners of the Seattle-Tacoma scene frequently overlooked by organizers of the mainstay multigenre festivals in town. Among them: buzzy melodic rapper Highway — who recently teased what appeared to be a Trippie Redd-assisted remix of his song “Better Float” — Tacoma mainstay Lewie, South Seattle croon-rapper 2oopaid TK, Ill Chris and, of course, Rishad, who in 2020 released his first solo project in years after landing writing credits on tracks for stars like Meek Mill and Wale.
Beyond the local credibility Rishad and Penton bring from a booking standpoint, the two also tout partnerships with nonprofits like Push for Dreams, helping teach local youth about entrepreneurship while helping with promotion. “When we say community, we’re not just talking about people that live in our area,” Penton says. “It’s actually community-based programs that are getting involved in this as well.”
Billing the first-ever Summer Sky as “volume 1,” the brothers plan to make it an annual event, though it may or may not remain at Cheney Stadium. Like their previous Dope Music Festival, held twice at the Tacoma Dome and once at the arena in Everett, Penton and Rishad anticipate bringing the series to other locations around the region in the future.
Whatever the future holds for Summer Sky, a Tacoma kickoff was important to the brothers who started out peddling CDs outside Summer Jam years ago.
“Coming from Tacoma, Washington, we didn’t really have a lot of people to show us the way,” Rishad says. “A lot of people encouraged us, but we want to” set an example for “the next generation. … It’s a big deal for us, for sure.”