With the columned silhouette of Citi Field dotting the backdrop, Rolling Loud rumbled into Queens for a two-day stretch of fall-fangled fun. Billed as the “largest hip-hop festival in the world,” the event’s Fashion Nova, Dryp, and Sauce stages played host to a number of the genre’s biggest names both past and present, as well as a diverse and fiery crop of young talent looking to shine under the bright lights of The Big Apple. The first ever NYC edition was a resounding success, and it unleashed some top-tier performances on the rambunctious and starstruck throng of 60,000 that stormed through its gates.
As is the case with all festivals, set scheduling conflicts inevitably made for some tough decisions. That said, here are the 10 best sets from the weekend’s proceedings, presented in no particular order.
All photographs by Infanint James at Rolling Loud NY 2019, exclusively for HotNewHipHop.
Ghetto Lenny, everyone’s favorite bad boy, has been simmering on the cusp of the mainstream for a while now, but given the boisterous reception to tracks like “McDonalds Rich” and “I Heard You Got Too Litt Last Night” you wouldn’t have known as much. The ever-loquacious Brooklyn emcee, who’s now backed by Roc-A-Fella Records co-founder Biggs Burke, is about to embark on his “IGNORANt Forever” tour, so be on the lookout for his aptly-titled “Christian Sex Club” circus in a city near you.
Never have thrashing fits of rage been so alluring. Revved up, unhinged, and at her nastiest, Rico really was “the real deal shawty” during Saturday’s performance. She’s an emcee who does her own stunts, carving her own lane with an endless supply of TNT and lighter fluid. Her watch-the-world-burn attitude was particularly contagious during the punk prowl of “Smack a Bitch” and Doja Cat collab “Tia Tamera.” With lines like “talking shit on Instagram, that pistol make you log off,” Rico’s always ready to back up her tough talk.
The Wu’s appearance on the docket was the latest installment of their commemoration tour marking the 25th anniversary of Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers. While esteemed leader RZA was absent due to a missed flight, it was thrilling to see the Masters of Shaolin assembled on stage with the tracks of the 7 line looming above. The aforementioned album was the focus of their allotted time slot, although they also performed Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” with the help of the late great’s son Barsun Jones, AKA Young Dirty Bastard. A generation removed from the 1993 classic that is 36 Chambers, songs like “Protect Ya Neck” and “Method Man” stand as definitive proof of the group’s staying power.
La Flame’s Saturday night set put to the test the notion that The Rodeo waits for no one. While performing “Butterfly Effect,” the highly-anticipated headliner suffered a knee injury that rendered him largely immobile and thus incapable of carrying out his token theatrics. In a true testament to his character and undying devotion to his fans, he pushed through the pain and went on to play “NO BYSTANDERS,” the freshly-minted No. 1 “HIGHEST IN THE ROOM,” and “Antidote.” Even after the medical staff came out on stage to outfit him with a boot, Travis delivered an Astroworld showcase that won’t soon be forgotten.
Denzel Curry certainly delivered on his statement of intent. “We gonna treat this like an underground show,” he screamed before lowering his head into a slew of tracks from TA13OO and ZUU. Curry didn’t fumble or miss a single word during his time on stage, working himself into a visible sweat as he conducted the crowd amidst streaming rolls of toilet paper. Trunk-rattlers “RICKY” and “SPEEDBOAT” were embalmed in jet fuel, while “WISH” carried with it a decidedly more ‘90s flair that fits squarely within the confines of Curry’s Carol City playground. And what better way to top it all off than with “Ultimate,” the song that went from Vine phenomenon to breakout single.
“That ain’t the baby, that’s my baby” ushered in Charlotte’s show stopping rookie of the year candidate. Flanked by “backup dancers” wearing twin inflatable infant costumes, DaBaby shimmied his way across stage to the tune of “Suge,” rounding out his set with new records “Vibez” and “Intro” that could very well be his next big hits. What with the success of Baby on Baby and the recently released Kirk, DaBaby continues to have a year for the books. Unrelated sidenote: it must be an absolute nightmare to be a member of DaBaby’s security detail, especially when he decides to cannonball into the crowd, cuban links and all.
Swimming in his jewelry and a flamingo pink hoodie and Mets cap, Curren$y turned to the sea of swollen eyes before him: “Just roll that shit, don’t trip.” Backed by his Jet Life band (who could have played the entire set blindfolded) and the legendary Ski Beatz at the ones and twos, Spitta Andretti had the cockpit on autopilot, cruising at peak altitude through Pilot Talk and The Stoned Immaculate. There’s a reason why Curren$y’s long-standing brand of audio dope has made him a feature on every Rolling Loud lineup since the festival’s inception.
No one dispute’s King Push’s lyrical prowess or ability to break the scale with coke raps so pure they’ll leave your nose bleeding. But on Sunday night, the defining characteristic of the drug dealer extraordinaire’s performance was his steely demeanor and a wild look in his eyes that had fans reliving his famed 2010 freestyle on Funk Flex. The only thing that broke his concentration was a surprise entrance from Wale that had the G.O.O.D. Music head honcho ready to throw hands. Push may have been busy as of late penning a remix to the award-winning theme song for HBO’s Succession, but given the closing number that he previewed on Sunday, new music may be lurking just around the corner.
Megan Thee Stallion
There’s nothing even remotely covert about Megan Thee Stallion, and her music (and hip hop in general) is the better for it. Having ushered in the endless “Hot Girl Summer” with the backing of her faithful hotties, the Houston emcee now stands poised for full blown supremacy in a region that boasts some of the genre’s richest history. It’s all a lot to take in for those just tuning in, but Meg’s assertiveness in the congested rap landscape suggests that she’s more than ready for prime time. On Sunday night, she wasted little time getting the audience involved, bringing several obliging females on stage to work it out to the anthemic “Cash Shit.” Meg’s battle rap preparedness and “rich bitch” omnipotence had the feel of a highlight tape that is just beginning to scratch the surface. With the bag officially secured after years of dominating the bubbling rap circuit, it’s time for the takeover.
After parting the churning sea of bodies with “A$AP Forever,” “Praise the Lord,” and “Babushka Boi,” hometown hero Lord Pretty Flacko shut down Rolling Loud with a collection of vintage New York sights and sounds. He brought out Harlem compatriot A$AP Ferg, protégé Smooky MarGielaa, Staten Island’s G4 Boys, and the one and only 50 Cent, who rattled off “What Up Gangsta” and “I Get Money.” Rocky even solicited the women in the crowd for their undergarments as a means of introducing the Swae Lee-led “No Type.” The night was topped off with a moment of silence for Yams, at which point Rocky and the A$AP Mob launched into “Yamborghini High.”