“I hope you don’t have lice!” Rapper Jack Harlow yelled after taking a student’s cap from the crowd — his lovable wit single-handedly saving this year’s Swoop’s Ball. 

With a line of students stretching all the way to Cox Hall, Jack Harlow and Fetty Wap drew thousands of people to McDonough Field for the first homecoming performance since the start of the pandemic. Students were stoked to hear Harlow’s modern hits as well as Fetty’s treasured Trap throwbacks, finally all in-person. In fact, given the shoulder-to-shoulder proximity between us and the volume of maskless kids ignoring Student Programming Committee (SPC) guidelines, a spectator wouldn’t be able to tell that COVID-19 existed in the first place. It’s safe to say that the excitement for the concert overwrote any tendency to be COVID-safe. 

However, as we waited nearly an hour for doors to open, none of us could anticipate the tragedy that awaited. 

Emory’s own DJ Samwell’s lively remixes excited the crowd to something reminiscent of a mosh pit; the energy was undoubtedly brimming upon entry. The scene was idyllic, with smiling students and blaring music all underneath a beautiful Georgia sunset. But confusion set in quite quickly at the closing of Samwell’s set as students started roaring, “where’s Fetty?” 

Violent impatience plagued the crowd as the stage remained empty long after the opener. “Back up!” members of the SPC repeatedly yelled as fans aggressively pushed their way to the front. I definitely lost feeling in my foot after being stepped on in the frenzy. After about half an hour, some students began to depart and others stood in irritation, losing faith in our beloved headliner. I can still recall the commotion after someone proclaimed, “Fetty missed his flight!” Madness, I’ll tell you. The crowd broke out into an uproar of booing as SPC members tried to band-aid the situation with an apology over loud music. The scene was truly bleak until Harlow finally took the stage.

The lights finally dimmed, students perked their heads in thrilled curiosity as the “Squid Game” red light, green light theme faded into Jack Harlow’s “Tyler Herro.” There was the man of the hour: the Grammy-nominated Kentucky rapper ran across the stage, moving the once-defeated crowd to exuberant exclamation and dancing. Whether you know him from his popular sounds on TikTok or his scintillating performance with Lil Nas X at the VMAs, the musical heartthrob is arguably one of 2021’s biggest artists. 

Apparently, this was not his first time at Emory. Harlow maintained his flirtatious charm in sharing an anecdote of when he tried to pursue an Emory student years ago; he recounts that he made it into her dorm room but only “got a kiss.” Harlow quickly followed it up with “so I’m hoping… tonight…” The lewdness of the comment was dismissed by the screaming of love-struck fans. 

Harlow performed every fan-favorite track throughout the night such as, “WHATS POPPIN”, “I WANNA SEE SOME ASS”, and “Already Best Friends.” Initially sporting a blue hoodie, the crowd’s infatuation increased when he was reduced to a tight white tank top and jeans. Pre-med students especially felt the love when Harlow gave his token of appreciation to the “doctors and nurses” of Emory. Perhaps one of the most exhilarating moments was when Harlow promised that if “y’all keep the energy up to here, I’m coming down there,” against security’s wishes. He ultimately did (kind of) go into the crowd, swiping a fan’s hat as memorabilia. Harlow’s connection with the crowd grew even more as he announced the afterparty at the fraternity Sigma Chi. 

The rapper paid his respects duly. Harlow made sure to name-drop the Trap King: “Damn, I wish Fetty Wap could have been here!” sharing in our sorrows. He also shouted out familiar names Bryson Tiller and Lil Nas X before performing their collaborative tracks “THRU THE NIGHT” and “INDUSTRY BABY.” Harlow, 23, said he was glad the crowd was about the same age as him, and proceeded to play Owl City’s “Fireflies” as an homage to one of our widely-cherished childhood pop tunes. 

This year’s Swoop’s Ball was an emotional rollercoaster for all of us. While Harlow undoubtedly revitalized the crowd with his electric and charming stage presence, many students, including myself, are still mourning the loss of Fetty Wap. But overall, I don’t regret attending. The event allowed students to reunite for homecoming after a lonely school year and, frankly, quality bonding came out of our shared vexation. Let’s just now pray that the rest of the homecoming activities prove to be more smooth-sailing than that messy kick-off.