Rolling Loud Festival At Nos Events Center, San Bernardino, Sunday December 17th 2017
On Sunday, I pursued my attempt to overcome my hip hop miseducation, and I certainly must have a degree by now, after seeing close to 25 bands in two days at Rolling Loud.
There are still many unknown though, many unanswered questions: What is this giant appeal of hip hop? I don’t know how many people attended the San Bernardino version, but 120,000 people went to the event in Miami! What is this revolt? Is this even a revolt? I am not making this up, Revolt TV was having a livestreaming of the festival all weekend long, but all I could see was a large agitation fueled by weed.
Many of rappers arrived in stage after a sort of movie trailer projected in the back of the stage, it may have been one of their videos but this had the look and the sound of a Hollywood blockbuster, making the ground vibrate, putting the giant screen in flames. There were a few loud explosions, a lot of fog was fired through the series of canons at the edge of the stage, and even water was dropped on our heads… I sometimes thought I was inside one of these Universal Studios attractions, and naturally the crowd loved this non-stop stimulation of all senses and reacted each time with more powerful cheering: people were here to be entertained, there was not a dull moment, and time slots between artists were once again filled with DJ sets, exciting the crowd with hip hop sing-alongs.
Rappers are like kings or princes, they come with a big entourage, it’s true for any artist, but it’s even more true for them. As a result, the pit rapidly filled up with hundreds of people with VIP or guests passes, hanging around in the pit for a long time. At one point, it became so crowded that they limited the access to photographers! I failed to enter the pit for Post Malone, I had no idea he was so big, but I heard him saying his album was number one in the hip hop category. For me, he sounded like another mellow emo R&B-hip hop act ,with a gravelling and heavily auto-tuned voice, and an impressive physique. Was he wearing a Black Flag t-shirt? … I failed to get the appeal but he was apparently a big deal.
I was also clueless about XXXTentacion when I heard the crowd screaming ‘free xxxTentacion’ (or whatever they were screaming) encouraged by a few people on stage but I couldn’t understand what was going on exactly. It turns out that the 19-year-old rapper was arrested and recently jailed ‘on seven new felonies stemming from his domestic violence case’ (he had apparently beaten his pregnant girlfriend). In this case, why were people on his side? Wasn’t he a bad guy? Why was he still on the schedule of the festival? People (of his group???) were filling in his time slot, and at a time when powerful men lose their job every day for sexual harassment, this guy was acclaimed by a large crowd like a hero. The hip hop world bizarrely lives on its own planet and ignores the outside world’s rules.
Artists on the Loud and Dab stages alternated between solo acts (Young Dolphn, 21 Savage), duos (Rae Sremmurd or Rich the Kid) or gang-like group hanging out around the main rapper (PnB Rock), while smoking a lot of weed. And talking about weed, Lil Pump smoke the most gigantesque joint I had ever seen, and he got him a lot of cheering. He looked young and fragile, almost feminine, and if emo was not a word I was not ready to use in this context, it seemed very relevant to describe this new generation of hip hop artists daring pink hair, facial tattoos and funny clothes.
For Rae Sremmurd, the pit got out of capacity once again, because of another big entourage and as I was talking to the security guards and showing my press credential, a pretty blonde girl was standing next to me, begging them to let her in, and saying ‘But my boyfriend is on stage!!’ I finally could enter the pit, a few minutes after the girlfriend, and it would have been a shame to miss the duo’s dynamic choreography that I actually enjoyed! They were leaping all over the place in front of a screen reading ‘Black Beatles’… as for the music, it was all bounce and youthful scream, with a hard partying attitude, the hands constantly on the crotch.
From Young Thug and his out of the ordinary way to rap, hanging on his mic like an old man, to Future and his more classic rap delivery and colorful hoodie jacket, Rolling Loud was like exploring a new planet for me, from Gangster to Prince, from Lil to Fat, from Young to King, from Post to Future, there was a whole world to discover. Sure, there were plenty of toned and agile bodies, plenty of colors and sounds (although it tended to be very repetitive), but at the end I was wondering where was the revolt? It wasn’t really one, it was just a fun party to watch.