If you follow any hip hop news outlets, it’s been pretty hard to avoid Rolling Loud coverage. The festival has been getting quite a bit of attention, mostly focused around Lil B getting jumped backstage, and XXXtentacion attacking a fan during his set. KZSC hip hop DJs Jinx, Elbo and RIZ aka RSD were on site for both these events, but we also saw some incredible performances that should be getting just as much attention. We’ve heard about the scandal, let’s hear about the music!
While Rolling Loud has been around for 2 years now, this October was the very first time it took place in the Bay Area– and from the looks of it, we have no doubts it will be back. As usual, the Bay did not disappoint and both the artists and crowd were hyped. We rolled up from Santa Cruz around 3:45 on Saturday, just in time to catch the last of Nef the Pharaohs set, specifically jamming from the security line to his hit song, and a personal favorite of ours, “Bling Blaow.” With our press wristbands on and ready to dance, we headed into the festival.
SOB X RBE
The next set we were especially excited about was Vallejo’s finest, SOB x RBE. Arguably, the best and youngest rap group in the whole country right now. SOB X RBE has improved performing live, as they have started to engage with the crowd more and actually perform. Their official DJ Xslapz educated those in attendance and played his fire set of Bay Area music. It was no doubt that a majority of the Bay Area fans came for SOB X RBE, who was one of less than 10 Bay Area artists on Rolling Loud Bay Area’s lineup. SOB X RBE showed up and showed out.
At 7:30, XXXtentacion came onstage, and with nothing else to see at the time, we decided to hop over and see what he was all about. Before we get into a review of his performance, I think we should recognize the fact that he was even performing at Rolling Loud to begin with. Convicted or not, X has been accused of a horrific and disturbing sexual assault, and it’s alarming that Rolling Loud would choose to ignore these accusations and have him on their bill anyways. It’s an extremely prevalent and recurring event on so many different platforms (music, film, politics, etc.) that society chooses to value whatever the perpetrator is putting into the world over the disgusting crime that almost all of us can agree was wrong. Despite the entire audience being aware of what X had done, everyone was there, unphased, ready and excited for his set. It’s situations just like this that we must ask ourselves, how much can we justify separating a person from their art? To what extent can we condemn a person’s actions while continuing to consume what they’ve created, and in turn contributing to their success? Something unique to XXXtentacion as a figure is that his violent and aggressive nature is part of what makes him appealing. He doesn’t try and hide it, in fact he’s proud and unapologetic about his behaviour. At his Rolling Loud performance, he played no more than one song before stopping to say something along the lines of, “I know I have a lot of haters out there. I respect that. If you have a problem with me all I have to say to you is come at me” He then proceeded to step off the stage on another man’s shoulders and enter into the crowd, encouraging anyone to hit him, essentially trying really really hard to start a brawl. When a few people took him up on the offer, he hit them back without hesitation. At this point it was pretty clear to us and everyone watching X wasn’t there to perform anything, he just wanted to make a scene and hold up his violent reputation. Almost everyone in the audience was disappointed– many were booing, and while it was frustrating to see such a stupid performance, it was also satisfying to see someone I have such a distaste for give a universally horrible show. Keep it up, X!
In the car driving home, we discussed who we were impressed by, who we wished had given a better performance, who we under/over estimated, and who we would see again. Without any argument, we all agreed 21 Savage was 100x more impressive than we expected. Judging from the media, 21 Savage is associated with the “trashy” “mumble rap” we so often hear as an insult, but after seeing him live we all agree: whether his style is your taste or not, the dude’s got talent. Unlike some of the other performances, 21 didn’t waste any time rambling about nonsense or yelling at the crowd to make a moshpit. He came onstage prepared and energized, hitting his set off with his most recent hit off his new album Issa, “Bank Account,” on top of legit performing most of his songs acapella with the beat dropping at the right time.
“Protect Lil B at all f*cking costs, mothaf*cka (gunshot noise)” was Travis Scott’s message between each song during his whole performance, on top his performance generally being lit af. Travis Scott had the whole crowd alive as he was jumping around on his giant mechanical flying bird. The crowd was loud in response as Travis Scott gave a mind blowing and unforgettable performance. It was certainly a great way to end the night.
Day 2, Sunday 10/22:
We got to the festival grounds a little later on Sunday, arriving around 6:15, and already the second day had a different feel to it. To start off, it felt like there were at least 25% more people in attendance, and despite (or maybe because of?) the events that took place the day before, the crowd felt wilder. Generally, it seemed like people were more excited about the Sunday lineup than they were the Saturday one. We met up with UCSC photographer and film student Keanu Ramos, who gave us some cameras so we could get access to the photo pit during the performances, which made our Sunday experience unique to our Saturday one.We got exclusive media photo pit access for Young Thug, Isaiah Rashad and Lil Wayne.
The first performance we saw on Sunday was Lil Yachty, which we caught up to about 10 minutes into his set. While most of Lil Yachty’s songs are bangers (I have no shame in admitting this & if you do you’re lying to yourself) the first thing you think when you hear his music is probably not “this would be really good live.” Which is why we were pleasantly surprised when we showed up and found that he sounds just as good on stage as he does recorded. Of course, it was his classic Yachty energy that really took the show to the next level. Something I love and have always admired about Lil Yachty is his ability to radiate pure joy in everything he does, and Rolling Loud was no exception. With a big smile on his face, Yachty jumped around the stage with Lil Pump, braids going everywhere, splashing water bottle after water bottle on the excited crowd. He killed all his hits, including Peek-a-Boo, One Night, and On Me.
One place where Rolling Loud went wrong was scheduling Young Thug at the same time as Lil Wayne. Many people found it hard to choose between watching Young Thug and Lil Wayne, including ourselves so we just chose to jump back and forth throughout both sets (a pro to having the two stages ridiculously close to each other). Young Thug energized the crowd and it was surprising to us that he actually sang his entire set with no autotune and was hitting every key on point. Young Thug brought it back a couple times and played some of his songs from when he was first coming out such as: “Stoner,” “Hookah.” and “Lifestyle.” Overall, Young Thug gave an incredible performance and we really have no complaints.
Lil Wayne was the last show we saw at Rolling Loud, and it was quite the finale. As the oldest and most experienced artist on the bill by a long shot, he felt like the godfather of the festival. He entered the stage with grace and ease, and you could tell the second he took the mic he knew exactly how to work a crowd. After performing his first song, he paused for a moment to look earnestly at the audience and remind us with his hand over his heart, “I need you to remember two things: y’all ain’t shit without the man above, and I ain’t shit without all of you.” After all these years, he seemed genuinely grateful and content to be exactly where he was in that moment. The audience could feel it.
Overall, Rolling Loud Bay Area was a great experience. We saw a number of incredible shows we would have never seen any other way, and we were very pleased with the whole festival. If you ever get the chance to hit this fest, do it!
— written by RIZ aka RSD & Neroli Devaney