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Words + photography by Saury "Saucy" Hunt (@uptownsaucy)
The inaugural NYC stop for Rolling Loud festival was a highly anticipated weekend, leaving the city rumbling for weeks about pop-ups, after parties and of course crazy studio sessions.
On the Friday night leading up to Rolling Loud, NYPD announced that if a select set of rappers were caught on festival grounds— Casanova, Pop Smoke, Sheff G, Don Q and 22GZ were the unfortunate MCs — the police would shut down the show altogether. This audacious move left attendees both disheartened and unsure of what to expect, especially since majority of these artists were New York City-based. There was an infectious energy felt throughout the whole city when Saturday arrived though, leaving no doubt that people were ready to turn up all weekend. Pop Smoke blared from many local radio stations, fueling the one question still on everyone’s mind: would any of these banned artists actually show up?
The festival opened with many of the Big Apple's young local acts, including Yoshi24k, Leeky Bandz, Kemba, Chinese Kitty and SAINt JHN — each MC performed for the largest opening crowd Rolling Loud has ever seen. As the day continued, we were closing in on the starting time for Pop Smoke, one of the unfortunately banned artists. As time inched closer, the beat to "Welcome To The Party" began to play and mayhem broke out. Massive crowds began dashing towards the stage ready to witness what they thought would be a true act of defiance against the NYPD. However, disappointment ensued when everyone realized that it was not Pop Smoke starting his performance; it was a DJ who had just happened to be beginning his set!
As the PRIVILEGE Crew made our way to catch Lil Tjay’s 4PM set, the crowd around us was similar to that of what you would expect for a headliner. Showing that a new "Prince of New York Rap" had arrived, his performance was a brilliant display of not only lyrical talent but also his ability to get the crowd engaged. He was even crowned the title onstage by Tekashi69's baby mama, right before closing his set with his hit single "FN." By the time it hit 5PM, it was clear that Rolling Loud NYC was fully-packed — I haven't witnessed such a crowd that early at any other music festival!
The night portion started off with some of the new favorite artists, with names like YG, Gunna, Playboi Carti and NY OGs like Fabolous and Fat Joe set to perform. As if the night couldn’t get better, Rolling Loud made certain that it would be a memorable night by bringing out the classic lyricists: Wu-Tang Clan! Their spectacular performance was a nostalgic showcase that proved their ability to connect to all generations. The night was even topped off with a performance by current movement makers Meek Mill and Travis Scott!
With a momentous Day 1 behind us, I was unsure of what to expect for Day 2 of the festival. The day started with acts like Swoosh God, Mir Fontane, Smokey Margiela and Pi'erre Bourne. It was made even more rich with performances by some of the ladies of hip-hop: DaniLeigh, Maliibu Miitch and Meliii all got massive responses from the crowd. The day moved forward with major act after major act, then DJ Five Venom gave the city a surprise by having upcoming Brooklyn artist STVSH come out for his set.
The crowd excitedly waited to welcome home A$AP Rocky for what would be his first NYC performance since being released from a Swedish prison. Well, Juice WRLD — R.I.P to that man! — decided to take his Rolling Loud set to the next level by having upcoming Brooklyn artist FIVIO FOREIGN come out and do his major single "BIG DRIP."
As the night began to come to a close, acts like Young Thug, Pusha T, Jim Jones and Lil Uzi Vert kept the crowd energized while waiting to see Rocky make his comeback on New York soil. The "Fashion Killa" emcee did exactly that, assisted by literal "testing dummies" crowdsurfing and raging during his set. Rocky blessed the audience with a surprise performance from his brother A$AP Ferg, in addition to bringing out Queens-bred legend 50 Cent to perform classic hits for his hometown.
With such a legendary performance to cap off the festival weekend, New York’s title of being the home of hip-hop could not be questioned by anyone.
...until next year!
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