Music Festivals

Rolling Loud Lineup Is More Inclusive of Women — But There's Work Yet to Be Done

Women are showing out for Rolling Loud this summer.
Women are showing out for Rolling Loud this summer. Photo by Sage Pacetti
Women have been killing the rap game in 2021. And, slowly, they've begun to creep their way up the ranks of performers at Rolling Loud, Miami's biggest hip-hop festival.

The festival has boosted the careers of Cardi B, Doja Cat, and City Girls, to name a few. This year, organizers seem proud to be able to boast of more than 20 female acts, ranging from established stars like Megan Thee Stallion to lesser-known acts on the come-up like Tia Corine, Bia, and Dess Dior.

It hasn't always been this way.

The first-ever Rolling Loud, staged in 2015 at Soho Studios, offered few, if any, female acts. The following year brought three female acts, Jay Hype, Rene Brown, and Leaf, all of them billed on the very bottom line. The needle didn't move much in 2017, when out of 54 artists, again, only three women — Polly A, Drizzy, and Teenear — were booked to perform.

At the time, organizers told New Times that it wasn't that they "don’t want to put women on the stage." It was that they base bookings on "what people want to see."

After fans began to take note on social media, organizers stepped up. They booked 12 female acts out of 118 performers in 2018 (although some Twitter users pointed out that less than 11 percent of the lineup is hardly something to brag about.
Also worthy of note: Cardi B's turn as a headliner for the festival's Los Angeles event that year. The rapper, who was the first female headliner of any Rolling Loud festival anywhere in the U.S., was interrupted during her set by her then-estranged husband, Offset, who attempted to rekindle their relationship as the crowd looked on.
At Rolling Loud's fifth Miami festival in 2019, Cardi B just missed the headliner spot (it was given to Migos). Saweetie, Danileigh, and others were sprinkled throughout the lineup, with little to no ratio change from the year prior.

Last year's festival, although eventually canceled owing to COVID-19, would have been the best showing for women at Rolling Loud ever in Miami, with more than 20 female rappers scheduled to take the stage.

Which brings us to 2021. Many fans continue to question whether Rolling Loud's organizers are not booking more female acts intentionally. NPR called 2020 "the year female rappers dominated," and artists like Nicki Minaj, Doja Cat, and Cardi B continue to top the Billboard Hot 100 well into 2021. 

Although the headliners were kept the same from the 2020 festival booked in toward the end of 2019, fans continue to wonder when Miami will see a woman headlining at Rolling Loud. With more and more female rappers emerging on the rap scene, it seems only fair.

Organizers have made it clear that they're well aware of the issue.
A lack of women at hip-hop festivals isn't exclusively a Rolling Loud problem. The longer-running Ultra Music Festival continues to only book a handful of female acts — with women headliners still exceedingly rare. Overall, all-male acts make up 65 percent of major U.S. music festival lineups in 2021 according to Book More Women, an online platform that probes the equity gap on a larger scale. 

Despite many on social media calling progress slow, Rolling Loud continues to grow in size and become a more welcoming space to women in hip-hop each year, providing a huge platform to up-and-coming talent. And that is to be celebrated.

Rolling Loud. Friday, July 23, through Sunday, July 25, at Hard Rock Stadium, 347 Don Shula Dr., Miami Gardens; 305-943-8000; Sold out; join the waitlist for tickets at
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Alan Halaly is a former intern at Miami New Times and a rising journalism sophomore at the University of Florida. In the past, he covered historically Black neighborhoods and city and county affairs for the Independent Florida Alligator, one of the largest student-run newspapers in the country.
Contact: Alan Halaly