Rolling Loud Festival At Nos Events Center, San Bernardino, Saturday December 16th 2017
Can you imagine me, a middle-age white woman, in the middle of an all hip hop festival? Surrounded by thousands of exited kids partying at the flow of artists like Lil Yachty, Migos, SobxRbe, Smokepurpp, Trippie Redd, Ski Mask the Slump God, Lil Uzi Vert, Playboi Carti, and Kodak Black? You have to love these crazy names, but beside Gucci Mane, none of them was even ringing a bell for me. I like my hip hop at little doses, here and there during a festival or mixed with other elements in a song, but an entire day of hip hop with more artists (performing on three stages) than I can name here, this was quite the experience.
Rolling Loud, the all hip hop festival currently happening in San Bernardino, is the proof that the genre reigns supreme among the next generation. They love it, can’t get enough of it and they are ready to get crushed and squeezed front row to have the best view. Talking about supreme, Supreme® has to be the official brand of the festival, it’s everywhere, on all the kids hoodies and proudly worn by the rap stars.
I went there around 4 pm, hanged out at the Sauce stage, Loud Stage and Dab stage (by far the craziest and wildest one) listened to more rap than I will ever be able to listen to till I am dead, inhaled way too much weed, took a thousand of photos of rappers, and enjoyed the experience for what it was, a trip into a world I honestly never visit, a scene which is not mine… I must have been the only woman of my age?
Hip hop at this level – 78 bands playing in two days — takes another meaning, it is not simply about music, it’s a full sub culture which is taking over San Bernardino’s Nos Events Center, the only culture which matters to the kids of today. I can tell you by personal experience that kids do not listen to anything else than hop hop. They are aware of classic rock, they got the music from their parents, so they are aware of the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac, but they have completely skipped the rest. Most of the teenagers ignore the indie rock scene I usually frequent, in their mind there are the Beatles and Gucci Mane and pretty much nothing in the middle, and, contrarily to me, they certainly know everything about the 78 bands which were playing this weekend.
That’s why a festival like Rolling Loud is appealing to this generation and tons of kids had filled up the place on Saturday for its first installation in San Bernardino. However, Rolling Loud is a brand, the brainchild of founders Tariq Cherif and Matthew Zingler, created in Miami in 2010, and on a mission to take over the country or the world, with editions now booked around America, in London, and even in China and Japan! You won’t see old acts at Rolling Loud, no Snoop Doggy Dog there, and if I appreciate some old school rap, this had nothing to do with a nostalgia trip, this was about the new wave of hip hop artist, the new generation, a completely different story, an endless stream of hip hop acts acting wilder than the next, smoking weed, wearing the most colorful outfit and crazy hair, showing off the most outrageous jewelry.
I am the most under qualified person to write about hip hop, I don’t know shit about it and can never makes sense of the lyrics when I hear a song live. Does the lyrics matter? Does the meaning matter? Or is it just about the rhythm? All the kids knew the lyrics for sure, singing along while raising arms and fists, and even the security guards were totally into it… But do the rappers talk about something else beside sex and being high? I know, what else it there…
Each act was propelled to the stage by a DJ’s long warm up, loudly exciting the crowd, which really didn’t need to be. While the security guards were trying to extract the few girls who were getting squeezed a bit too much in the front rows, the DJs were repeatedly telling us to ‘make some motherfucking noise’, teasing us a thousand times with the name of the next hip hop artist. They sure had a sense of drama, and knew how to build up anticipation, with the repetitive help of a lot of machines spitting fog like power guns. This was this same intense build-up over and over, with the crowd reaching chaos every time, while the rapper was finally arriving on stage, spouting his flow of lyrics in front of a hysterical sea of people.
There were basically two types of acts, the wild ones who brought anarchy on stage, they were rolling in weed, bringing with them a million people on stage, whereas these people just seemed to be there to look at their phones, smoke a joint or show off their Supreme clothes. The rappers were young and bouncy, agile like cats and jumping everywhere, while their songs could have been summed up by violent and loud outbursts of rap verses… I never understood when they started or finished, all this sounded like a series of bipolar episodes, and I couldn’t tell where all this was going. The fog guns were firing their fumes all the time and this wild scene was mostly happening on the Dab Stage with acts like Trippie Redd, Ski Mask The Slump God, Kodak Black, Playboi Carti. Then, there were the more mellow ones like Curren$y (who brought the only real guitarist and drummer on stage I have seen during the entire day), Gucci Mane (who brought his wife on stage), Migos and their large bling, and headliner Schoolboy Q. Mellow in the action, not that mellow in the message, as there was a lot of ‘show me the middle finger’, ‘fuck the police’ and other gangster rap attitude during the day.
Jason Smith could have been in a category by himself with his aggressive rap, telling us at one point of his set, ‘if I can do it, you can do it too!’ It was a weird thing to hear from him, isn’t he the son of 2 famous Hollywood actors? In any case, there wasn’t too much talking (the conversation was happening during the songs of course) and if the rappers were haranguing the crowd with slogans all the time, they kept the long talking to the minimum, since, at any moment, it was about the party, the giant party which was going on from noon to midnight.
As for the women, I have not seen a single one on stage! I should correct that, there were a few women hanging around, but basically doing nothing, beside being a curvy hot sidekick, or another bling item holding a phone on stage. New or old, the hip hop scene seems to be as misogynist as it ever was, and the women in the crowd were not different, reinforcing the hot item cliché, while walking around in tight low-cut shorts and bras in the middle of December.
Rappers have big personalities, and whether you like it or not, whether you know them or not, they are the rock stars of the moment. Rolling Loud is apparently a very successful event, not too different from any other festival, the kids seemed to have a great time smoking weed and getting drunk, while listening to their favorite artists, for a ticket price ranging from $109 to $349,… weed not included.