Miami's inaugural Rolling Loud Music Festival came loaded with primo stoner and underground rap talent, from Schoolboy Q to Juicy J, A$AP Ferg, Action Bronson, Curren$y, and Miami's own Denzel Curry, as well as dozens of others.
This is a city that's inundated with hip-hop fans and culture, yet it's subject to a strange dearth of accessible rap shows. Most of the good stuff goes to the expensive South Beach scene. And a touring fest like Rock the Bells hasn't come to the 305 in years.
This past weekend's Rolling Loud was Miami's attempt at "an Ultra for hip-hop." A place where fans could hang out for the day and wild out to bold-name stars while also exploring some interesting up-and-comers.
We wish the actual event was as dope as the lineup. But it was a mess.
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Simply put, it was a shitshow from the very moment that doors opened at 1 p.m., with patrons waiting in outrageously long lines in the pouring rain to pick up tickets, while the venue, Soho Studios, flooded.
A film of water covered the floor of the warehouse, causing large puddles here and there. The torrents also caused the temporary closing of the outdoor stage for hours. Acts were shifted around and bumped. The food tent's barbecue smoker was placed right outside the entrance to the warehouse, and clouds of smoke invaded the venue before the weed-, clove-, and cigar-smoking patrons had even arrived.
The Rolling Loud smokiness wasn't, like, a pleasant Woodstock-y weed aroma. Rather, it was an exhausting, humid, throat-burning fog, especially when combined with the steady flow of barbecue exhaust.
The smoke alarm started blaring early in the day, Deedeedeeeeee. But it was somehow never turned off through the entirety of the festival. Its high-frequency beeping could be heard over every act until the festival was over. (Except for the rappers on the outdoor stage, once it opened up at night.)
Staff and security wandered every nook and cranny of the venue, sucking up water with industrial machines, retrieving fainting fans, breaking up fights, and stopping people from jumping into the VIP/media section. We saw one guy vomit, trip on his own puke, and fall backward into a barrier. He was carried out.
Meanwhile, people were passed out on the bleachers in the courtyard.
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Though most of the festival's negatives, like the rain and smoke and incessant beep-beeping and the fights and the vomiting, could be seen as a charming, memorable positive if viewed from a suitably turnt and/or lit angle, the barrage of shitty sound could not. The bass was uncomfortably loud and poorly leveled, backing tracks blared over the actual rappers, and beat melodies were barely discernible. Shortened sets were also a major theme of the night.
The smaller Caspar App stage, which featured up-and-coming, local, and underground acts sounded pretty good and was actually lots of fun. The talent was young and hungry, eager to perform 15-minute sets. At the end of the night, most of the performers congregated and played together as a posse.
The outdoor stage had stage divers and massive, 30-plus member possies. At one particular moment, a security guard interfered and yelled, "I can't have all of you on stage!" We finally witnessed the moment of Schrödinger's posse, when a posse goes from enough posse to too much posse.
Denzel Curry repped Carol City at the festival.
The 305ers popped to him. He came out and received rapturous applause to a Miami anthem. But unfortunately, the fest's technical problems marred his set.
So when Curry yelled, "This is a song for people with fucked-up parents!," he ended up performing something inaudible, probably "Parents."
A little later, Curren$y came out in a Miami Dolphins hat.
He had a drummer and bassist on hand to add some upbeat funkiness to his set. We couldn't hear any of his rap. There were some nice, enjoyable jazzy riffs, though.
Action Bronson, a great lyricist and an exciting performer, was barely audible for the duration of his set. The bass covered his kush, stonery beats and you couldn't hear a lick of lyrics. We tried pretty much every angle in the house to find a good listening spot, and couldn't find one.
This ended up causing Bronson's set to seem pretty subdued, as Mr. Wonderful's songs already have more of a close-your-eyes-and-nod-your-head vibe than a turn-up vibe. Production totally screwed the pooch. This should have been more fun.
We still can't wait for his upcoming album, though.
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A$AP Ferg, the Trap Lord himself, rolled out and commanded the crowd to get ratchet. Mosh pits started.
Luckily, his ridiculous energy carried his set through the sound problems and he got people moshing to "Dump Dump." He shouted, "Do me a favor and put your guns in the air!" Everyone put their three-finger guns in the air and bounced. The crowd continued through "Shabba" and the rest of his trap set. Some of the A$AP Mob even came to help out.
"I'm not here to be a celebrity on stage, I came out here to party with y'all muthafuckas!" Ferg hollered. And he delivered. This was awesome. He stage dove and did all the rock star shit. Trap and post-rain mugginess go hand in hand.
But then he went on too long and organizers stopped his set abruptly.
Juicy J came on a half hour into his time slot.
In the 25 minutes before organizers kicked him off the stage, Juicy threw chains and money ($5,000 according to his Twitter) and got Rolling Loud's crowd suitably turnt for the brief set of Academy Award-winning rap that he was able to perform.
But after a few tracks, he announced to the crowd, "They say I gotta get off stage because I'm performing too much!" Sigh.
Schoolboy Q was set to perform the headline set. And he didn't come on until 45 minutes after his scheduled set time.
People intermittently yelled "Q!," desperate for a performer to take the stage. At this point in the night, the outdoor stage had closed, and the local stage was wrapping up too. People left in droves. Some booed.
Finally, Q, the king of the bucket hat, stepped out, took the mic, and said: "I don't know what's going on with production, but they crushing my whole vibe."
His performance crew consisted of a DJ, a keyboardist, a bassist, and a drummer. "If we don't get this shit fixed, we about to go straight to DJ," he warned. "I'm sorry to all the people that bought tickets and came out to see Schoolboy Q tonight. This has never happened at one of my shows."
Q wondered what to do, and said, "I should just come out and slap hands." He went into the crowd and gave people fives and chatted with fans.
Finally, the heavens opened, the rap gods smiled upon us, and Schoolboy blasted "Gangsta." The band took a sec to gel, as Schoolboy instructed his drummer to pound on the rhythm of "Knock, knock, knock, knock, knock," and everything finally came together.
While the crowd capacity had thinned, the energy had not. Schoolboy had us in the palm of his hand, and worked to make up for lost time. He went right into "Hands on the Wheel." And his 45-minute long set consisted of pretty much all his good 'uns, ending with "Man of the Year."
As pure spectacle, Rolling Loud was an incredible success. And just the inception of an all-day hip-hop festival in Miami is a fantastic start.
But a music festival that sounds good, stays on schedule, and isn't horribly organized can be dope too.
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