The Rolling Loud Festival At Citi Field, Saturday And Sunday, October 12th and 13th, 2019, Reviewed
Back in October 2016, I went to see the Meadows Festivals starring Pusha T, Chance The Rapper, and Kanye West at Citi Field’s parking lot (here) and if it taught me one thing, that was don’t go to a music festival at a Citi Field’s parking lot. Very busy and super aggressive, with nowhere to sit and few places to stand, I had shelled out for VIP tickets so it wasn’t a complete nightmare but it was very oppressive.
So, I seriously eyeballed the incredible list of rappers appearing at the national hip hop festival Rolling Loud (Alyson Camus reviewed the 2017 fest at San Bernardino here), and seriously, seriously considered making the pilgrimage. In the end, I knew what to expect and instead decided to stream the event at home. Yes, I want to see A$AP Rocky, Travis Scott, Wu Tang Clan, Lil Uzi Vert and much more, but I have seen them all before and I just knew it was gonna be tough getting in, tough getting out, tough being there. In effect, I couldn’t deal with 100, 000 mostly teen to college white boys getting their wild old. Watching the inaugural NYC edition of hip hop festival Rolling Loud over two days, it takes a special sort of abandonment to embrace the brutal conditions at Citi Field. The reality is, if you are not willing to give up hour after hour to guard your place you ain’t seeing a damn thing.
So off to streaming service Be-At I went and I’ll tell you who I saw but first I’ll tell you who I didn’t see: Lil Uzi Vert . His management wouldn’t allow him to be streamed. That would be Roc Nation, owned by Jay Z, whose Tidal X fifth anniversary finds the programmers completely fucked, warming down to room temperature as they went from headliners like Jay Z and Bey, Nicki Minaj, Stevie Wonder, on and on, to Alicia Keys (who had just performed at Global Citizen: big get). Obviously, everyone had just played Rolling Loud and Tidal X was fucked -unless you’re in the market for French Montana. Tickets are going begging for the October 21st gig. The other problem is Tidal X ends at 1am, Rolling Loud at 10pm.
The vibe on Saturday was confusion, the stream went in and out all day long, I couldn’t find quite a few acts I wanted to, though I managed to catch Playboy Carti three times. Fortunately, I love the Fashionista so who am I to kick, right? Sometimes, before Gunna for one, the surging crowds felt dangerous, not violent, but the pushing and shoving of thousands upon thousands received stern rebukes as the barriers at the front of the stage tettered! The long shots were impressive, what a work of art is man, stuff. It was all settled by Sunday.
Some truths are self evident: no backing bands, and everybody singing and rapping along to their own voices with backing tapes. In other words, what was once unimaginable is now the norm: the performance is not musical as such, it is more like a tense release of energy to tapes where the audience crests right along with it. DMX was a no show (he is in rehab) and five rappers were taken off the schedule because the NYPD warned of potential violence (I assume from gangbangers) if they performed.
I saw (in alphabetical order):
A$AP Rocky – A big one for Rocky, his second show since his release from prison, but he had nothing much going on, I saw him three years ago at Theatre at MSG and he was great and here it didn’t click -C+
DaBaby – The hottest young rapper in the world today, is handsome, tough looking, brutally on the money and more than willing to stage dive into the audience – B
Fat Joe – The 90s superstar was just fine , sniping about when he last had a hit is irrelevant – B
Gunna – The audience went crazy over Gunna and it is easy to hear why. I’d never given Gunna much time, all that “drip” stuff hit me as stupid, but I was wrong. Exemplary flow, wonderful timbre to his voice, and hooks aplenty without being like anyone else. His performance is the usual jumping and pumping though he doesn’t look like it – A-
Juice Wrld – emo rap! He isn’t exciting enough for this audience, and a singalong to “Lucid World,” ending the set, was the one moment – C+
Kash Doll – I missed Megan Thee Stallion, but Kash Doll absolutely cemented her reputation as the female rapper to watch, sexy and sexual and the boys freaked – B
Lil Tjay – Nerdie and by the numbers, he is still a soul guy and a New Yorker – B-
Playboy Carti – Probably the coolest rapper in the world today (remember him on SNL with Nicki Minaj?), he gave an energetic all in show – B
Rico Nasty – better than at Playstation’s XXL gig earlier this year, she popped out and took over from her DJ – B
Ski Mask The Slump God – finally has a handle on live performance, not that he was good but he wasn’t lousy – C+
Travis Scott – Headlining on Saturday night, Travis has seldom been better (only the November 2018 MSG show), the man had more energy than anybody, anywhere, jumping through the stem of the T shaped stage, and just killing it till… he jumped wrong, busted his knee, wrapped it with a bandana, and hopped through to the end. They brought out a throne for him to sit on, which he ignored – A-
Young Thug – A hit machine and one of the biggest names, jumping around as written – B-
Wale – I am getting over my Wale aversion, the r&b cat has a good album and was on money on a strong set – B
YG – A highlight? The “Fuck Donald Trump” chant – B-