Keeping It Simple at ComplexCon Chicago [Recap]

ComplexCon made its Chicago debut this July. This unique festival and exhibition was created to “bring together pop culture, art, food, style, sports, music, and more.” Over 30,000 people made their way to McCormick Place over the course of two days to take part in exclusive brand collaborations, limited edition apparel and sneaker releases, art, panel discussions, music performances, good food, celebrity meet and greets, and all things cool.

ComplexCon is really “Hypebeast heaven.” Contemporary artist Takashi Murakami, who has worked with the likes of Kanye West and Louis Vuitton, served as the art director for ComplexCon providing dope visuals which made the experience that much better. Attendees had the opportunity to purchase exclusive and limited merchandise from popular street-wear designers and brands. Some of the brand collaborations included Reebok, Puma, Nike, Chinatown Market, The Hundreds, and Chicago-based Joe Freshgoods.

The music lineup was also dope and had a variety of artists that catered to different listeners. Performers included Rick Ross, Schoolboy Q, Ella Mai, Saweetie, Tobi Lou, Juice Wrld, and more. There were also various panel discussions that addressed current issues affecting the culture including the influence of hip-hop, gentrification in the black community, investing in our communities, sneaker culture, black empowerment, and entrepreneurship. The panel speakers facilitated discussions around these topics and dropped a lot of gems. Panel speakers included Steve Stoute, Wale, T.I. David Banner, Everette Taylor, Killer Mike, Allen Iverson, Don C, PJ Tucker, Karl Anthony Towns, Black Though, and Quest Love.

You can’t talk about culture without mentioning food. The First We Feast Food Zone sponsored by Uber Eats changed the game. Guests were able to avoid lines and relax by ordering food via the Uber Eats app and having it delivered to the First We Feast lounge area, which was DJ’d by Zaytoven. The 19 restaurants included Chicago staples such as Harold’s Chicken, Portillos, Moon Palace, Seoul Taco, and more. There was a plethora of delicious options and something for everyone.

I initially had intentions on taking part of some of the exclusive shoe and merch drops, but I didn’t want to be stressed with the lines and hassle. I really just wanted to soak it all in and enjoy myself instead. ComplexCon was pure, genuine FUN. Since there was so much going on, I’ll just highlight my Favorite ComplexCon moments:

Hot Ones Challenge – I absolutely love hot wings, like LOVEEEE! As a fan of Complex’s “Hot Ones,” a web series that features celebrities trying ridiculously hot wings, there was no question that I was up for the challenge. I tried the hottest sauce available – The Last Dab. Based on guests’ reactions from the show, I thought I was going to die, but I took it like a G! As a self-proclaimed wing connoisseur, I can say that the wings were good and so was the sauce. It was HOT, but I inhaled my two wings with ease. My mouth did heat up afterwards, but I survived considering I didn’t even have water to wash it down. I also found it brilliant and hilarious that it was sponsored by Tums because I sure had heartburn afterwards (I guess that’s one of the undesirable perks of being almost 30).

Art – I’m an art lover, and there was art everywhere (of course)! I enjoyed walking around and seeing how each booth was creatively curated. My favorite art pieces included the Puma’s LED Nipsey Hussle mural, Bodega Rose’s grass-looking Nike Air Force 1, Emotionally Unavailable’s couch and life-size Girls Don’t Cry heart, and Heritage Modern & Contemporary’s graffiti bus stop. I really appreciate nice art, and it’s amazing how artists create art out of simple things. There was art to be found everywhere with the actual art pieces, clothing, shoes, displays, food, and musical performances. Overall, walking around ComplexCon and observing all the different pieces was gratifying.

Interactive Experiences - A lot of the booths offered interactive experiences. My favorite booths were Reebok, 83Futures, and Four Loko. Reebok featured a basketball court competition. I haven’t had a Four Loko since I was about 18, but they had a super dope activation that looked like a corner store complete with an arcade, giveaways, and drink samples (yes I tried some, and I regretted it). 83Futures, who encourags people to become organ donors, featured a life-size game of Operation at their booth.

Overall, ComplexCon proved that top brands, celebrities, and influencers realize the importance of hip-hop and pop culture. This made the event a success for those involved and those who attended. Chicago is already a culturally rich city and has a big creative community, so bringing ComplexCon to the Chi was a brilliant idea! If you missed ComplexCon in Chicago, be sure to check out ComplexCon’s fourth year in Long Beach during November 2-3, 2019!

<3 ShanMichele

A lot of art and interactive experiences means a ton of photo opportunities, so I definitely flicked it up for Instagram! Check out some of my pics below:


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