Do you remember what the world was like when Nicki Minaj first made her claim to stardom? I remember being about 9 years old and initially thinking she was the first woman to ever rap on the radio. At least hip-hop's chiefly masculine lineage made it seem that way to a kid hearing her out-rap prime Kanye West on his own song.
Once seen as the First Lady of Lil Wayne's famed YMCMB imprint, Minaj has grown into international popstar status as a solo artist, completely nullifying the tokenized perception of the Female Rapper. In the wake of her 2010 debut, Pink Friday, an entire generation of wide-eyed Barbz inherited the Trinidadian's femme fatale archetype. After a decade and some change, the preteen Nicki stans of yesterday are all grown up now. Today, they're signing record deals and appearing in big print on Rolling Loud lineups.
The self-proclaimed largest-rap-festival-in-the-world's yearly homecoming is putting pop culture's newest "it girls" on full display.
At the forefront, New York City starlet Ice Spice seems to be the heir apparent to Nicki's throne. The 23-year-old combines an off-the-cuff proclivity for hit making with a pearlescent temperament and the willingness to capitalize on lavish collaborations. What rapper have you heard of who gets featured on a Taylor Swift record within a year of blowing up? It's endearing when a seemingly down-to-earth artist reaps the benefits of their acclaim in the way Ice has. Since "Munch" released last August, she's been featured on Vogue (and every other major publication), popped out at the Met Gala, collabed twice with Nicki, and most impressively, dropped a song-of-the-year contender with fellow Rolling Loud attendee, PinkPantheress.
At a Lucki concert this past April, a brigade of hyperactive teenagers lost their minds when a DJ let "Boy's a Liar Pt. 2" rip out of the speakers at Revolution Live. PinkPantheress and Ice Spice's two-minute electropop banger has embedded itself into the fabric of internet culture, and part of the track's ripple effect is the anticipation for a joint performance on the big stage in Miami. It's no coincidence that Rolling Loud has them both lined up to perform on day one Friday.
The insertion of PinkPantheress into the premier hip-hop event of the past decade goes to show that Rolling Loud is no longer confining itself to one genre. She is not a rapper. The 22-year-old British singer carved out her niche on TikTok through Auto-Tuned lilts over luscious drum 'n' bass tunes that seem to only last a second. Her 2021 full-length project, To Hell With It, clocks in at an airtight 19-minute run time across ten tracks. In a way, the fusion of brevity with alt-pop delicacy is what makes the music so addicting.
And then you have Fousheé, a genreless New Jersey-born singer-songwriter whose scope goes beyond contributing to Steve Lacy's monumental "Bad Habit." Her 2022 debut, Softcore, is an exercise in glitchy versatility, with executive production from Zach Fogarty and the increasingly prolific BNYX. From the grim, rap-adjacent textures of "Spend the Money" with Lil Uzi Vert to the concise mesh of heavy metal and folk rock on "I'm Fine," she has all the pieces for a venturous live performance.
The girlies are pushing all types of envelopes.
At its core, Rolling Loud will always be known for the sweat-inducing, head-knocking street rap made famous in the South. Miami's City Girls and Memphis' GloRilla have had this on lock for some years now, and they may very well pull some of the rowdiest crowds of the entire weekend. Between "Act Up," "Tomorrow," "Pussy Talk," "F.N.F.," "Twerkulator," and "Blessed," there's a lot of fun to be had at either set. And the best part? St. Louis' Sexyy Red is on her way to carry their torch.
The 25-year-old emcee has been going viral since dropping the rawest opening line to a song this year on her breakout hit "Pound Town." Sexyy's debut label project, Hood Hottest Princess, has seen rave reviews from fans and critics since it dropped in June, and Nicki Minaj's guest spot on "Pound Town 2" isn't the only reason why. Her knack for raunchy sing-alongs is so palpable the employees of the Walmart across from Hard Rock Stadium should expect to hear "SkeeYee" reverberating through the parking lot on the night of her set.
The new guard of female artists has so much to offer that a cover story could be written up on everyone mentioned in this article. And there's still the fiery spunk of TiaCorine ("Freaky T") and BKtherula ("TAN"), the massive pop appeal of Coi Leray ("Blick Blick") and Latto ("Put It On Da Floor"), and the singular aptitude of Babyxsosa ("Cancer Baby"). Everybody's eating.
The next step for Rolling Loud on this front would be debuting a female headliner. A simple search on social media will tell you just how popular these women are. (There isn't a single TikTok on Ice Spice's profile with less than two million views.) If it takes until next year, then so be it — but the girls are knocking on the doors of the male superstars we've grown accustomed to.
Rolling Loud. 4 p.m. Friday, July 21, through Sunday, July 23, at Hard Rock Stadium, 347 Don Shula Dr., Miami Gardens; rollingloud.com. Tickets cost $199 to $1,049 via rollingloud.frontgatetickets.com.